Why do you want to differentiate yourself? And before we write this off as a marketing theory that's done to death, we want to share the perspective Dr. Pasqual bought to the term differentiate He .drove the idea that differentiation is essentially the mastery of one's chosen area to such an extent that it completely sets you apart from the competition. Dr. Pasqual's chosen medium of diving deep into his expertise was research, and he shared how research set him apart from the competition. 
To put in a startup perspective, there are three types of startups:

  • Disruptively Simple Solution i.e being able to book a cab through your phone (hmmm... does the idea ring a bell?) 
  • Just want to be another solution among many via performance i.e the macbook compared to a generic laptop 
  • Well Defined Solution ?¢?? Differentiate through specifications - As nVidea with its processors
When it comes to innovation and being disruptive, everyone has an opinion (and there are thousands of self-help books, blogs and youtube videos on the subject), but Dr. Pasqual's unique perspective stuck in our minds. This is what he had to share;
  1. Learn to listen: Everybody can talk, but not a lot of people can listen. Listening to your customer/users and their problems will be the make or break for your venture. 
  2. Dive Deep: Be an expert in your area. Its not about parroting literature in your sphere, and sharing or posting content that someone else has developed, but rather diving deep into your area till you know something that no one else does. This is what it means to be an expert, someone who not only knows what's happening around her, but also is able to bring new knowledge to the knowledge pool. 
  3. Simple ideas. Innovation is not rocket science (but rocket science is very innovative). If you have a simple idea no one has done, try to have some foothold in key markets. This could mean filing a patent, or as simple as buying a web domain.
  4. Remember cultural differences: What is second nature to somebody in the United States or Europe, might not be relevant to someone in Asia. The trick is to take an idea that works, and tweak it to work for the people you're trying to serve. 
  5. Work in cycles, not balance sheet dates. If the focus is on product development, don't expect quick returns. Product development cycles can take time. A business that has been around for a few years can measure itself with standard financial periods. But a product dev business has to understand what to expect in each cycle of development, and make sure it meets the goals for that cycle.
  6. No shortcuts, go deep instead. If certain technologies are key to your product, master those. there are no shortcuts. And if with this depth, you are able to differentiate yourself, your company and its products too will be inherently differentiated. 

Research is differentiation. Developing new products that people cannot copy overnight is what will set Sri Lanka apart from the rest of the world, and place us in a favourable economic position. So, the next time you're thinking of putting together a start-up, think, have you gone deep enough to set yourself apart from the competition? Food for thought.