Roughly 15 years ago, my mother walked through the front door of our house with a shopping bag and a huge smile on her face.
She told us how excited she was for us to all try out these new “shoes” she found at the store.
She was so excited in fact, she bought all of us a pair.
Our reaction once she pulled them out of the bag was… not exactly the same.
They were the first generation of Crocs, the insanely popular rubber style shoe that seemed to take over the entire world in the 2000’s.
The ones she bought weren’t called Crocs. In fact they didn’t have any visible branding on them at all.
In fact, I think these are one of the original pairs of these foam shoes from the original creators of the design, a Canadian company called “Foam Creations” which the founders of Crocs licensed the design from.
I can prove it… I still have them.
They don’t even have the back part that keeps them on your feet, so these are like a weird hybrid of shoe/slipper/flip flop.
Today, I call them my “garbage shoes” because I wear them specifically to take the garbage out to the curb early in the morning.
My brother gave them another name which quickly caught on in our family….
Short for… yes… fucking ugly.
Because yes… Crocs are ugly ass shoes… and if you’re wearing Crocs right now to your office job (or any job for that matter) it might be time to reevaluate your life.
Oh stop. You’ve known it this whole time. Keep reading though, this article is to help you Croc wearers in denial.
So that’s the question… if Crocs are so ugly, and usually met with playful jabs from friends if worn out in public… Then why are they so popular?
Well… Crocs ARE comfortable, functional footwear. They’re easy to clean, they’re waterproof, they’re comfortable, they provide low level protection, and they’re extremely durable.
They have a TON of good qualities about them.
Enough though many people ignore the fact that they’re ugly as f#$%, and gleefully throw on a pair of white tube socks, slide on their bad boy bright orange Crocs and strut off to Wal-Mart to pick up some more Pizza Bagels.
Regardless of opinions of fashion, you can’t argue that Crocs were a success.
They clearly did something right, and consumers loved them, even with all the memes, all the jokes, and all the ugly colors.
And as with every successful product, knock offs aren’t far behind.
Consider this is literally a shoe that is printed from a mold and you squirt liquid rubber into, it wasn’t long before you could get a pair of Croc style shoes ANYWHERE for less than $5.
But there’s one thing these opportunistic people didn’t do… they didn’t change anything about them.
They just literally printed the same shoe.
I distinctly remember thinking to myself… if you have the machine to build a Croc, why the hell would you make it look the same?
Well, about 4 months ago, that exact thought would come rushing back to me while I was visiting New York City with my fiance and a few friends.
She had recently seen a pair of shoes her friend had bought and she desperately needed a pair as well.
So we quickly popped into a nearby shoes store to see if they had her size.
Surprisingly, they were out of the shoes she was looking for.
We tried the store across the street… they were also out.
And so was the next store, and the next.
Keep in mind, these were all stores that listed that they stocked these shoes on their website.
What was going on?!?!
In the end, we weren’t able to find a pair of these magic shoes anywhere, and when she finally showed me the website, I was shocked.
“These are the shoes you’re trying to find!?!?” I asked her in sheer disbelief.
The shoes are called Natives. And… if you didn’t guess it yet… they are essentially just fashionable looking Crocs.
Someone finally did it. They made a Croc that’s cool to wear.
Although I can’t believe it took this long, someone took the benefits of Crocs (comfortable, durable, easy to clean, waterproof) and squirted them into a mold that looked like an already existing stylish shoe.
They looked at an already successful product, and fixed the part that sucked.
It’s a strategy that is so overlooked and almost forgotten, especially in the world of startups.
Every day I see people posting things like…
“I have this NEW idea, there is NO ONE ELSE doing what we’re going to do…”
They think that new means world domination.
In reality, new means risk, it means unproven, and more often than not, it means failure.
Improving an already successful product means you can spend less time trying to validate not only your idea, but also the entire industry.
Most startups fail because people build something no one wants.
When you’re improving an already existing, successful product, you’re lowering the chances of building something no one wants.
In the case of Native Shoes, it’s almost embarrassingly simple.
You take Crocs which are durable but ugly. And you take Converse All Stars (or this popular style) which are super popular but get dirty, fall apart, and aren’t waterproof.
Add them together, and you get a new product which solves both of the problems the originals had.
You get a successful product.
Cue inner voice: WHY THE HECK DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?!
The point is, the best ideas are the simplest ideas. Where most people go wrong is when they attempt to think of a shiny, new, complicated idea.
At the core of a good product, is a solution to a real problem that exists.
Crocs solved a problem with footwear. Natives solved a problem with Crocs.
Kwilia, the startup I co-founded, started by solving a problem users had with Buffer.
Buffer had a feature called “Suggestions” which they later dropped. People were upset and angry that they dropped it. I was one of those people.
I created Kwilia to solve the problems of those angry people, and those people became users.
Keep this in mind not only if you’re starting a new venture, but also when expanding or pivoting your current one.
Research your competitors, interview their users, pinpoint the problems with their product, and solve it with yours.
You might have the next big idea sitting right in front of you.
Follow these 10 steps:
If you actually get through all those steps, PLEASE leave a comment and send me an email.
I’d love to feature your landing page on the blog.
PS – This was not a promotional product for Native Shoes. I have no affiliation to the brand aside from also being Canadian. Sorry.