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The Oregonian: Portland State University professor assesses Made in USA startup's prospects
Author: Allan Brettman, The Oregonian
Posted: February 26, 2014

Read the original story here in The Oregonian.

With its Made in USA plan, limited production runs and distinctive designs, Wild Outdoor Apparel of Portland has "a really good chance to rise above the noise and have loyal followers spread the noise to others," says a Portland State University professor who specializes in entrepreneurship.

Melissa Appleyard, Ames Professor in the Management of Innovation and Technology at PSU's School of Business, commented on Dan Tiegs' Wild, which is profiled on the Wednesday business page of The Oregonian and at OregonLive. Appleyard, who is quoted in the story, spoke more extensively Wednesday about Wild.

Appleyard said Wild's challenge is common to any lean startup, those fledgling companies that produce the minimum viable product for a small number of users with the hope that those customers' feedback will feed future design and demand.

"It's an art," Appleyard said, helped along by frequent social media mentions, posted photos of products in the field and mentions on influential blogs.

"Anticipate your users," she said, "keep them excited and really engaged, looking forward to your next campaign."

On Tuesday, Appleyard assessed Wild's challenges in an email:

The key to WILD's success will be to foster a resilient following.  The company is pursuing a 'lean startup' philosophy merged with a Kickstarter-like funding mechanism by putting their jackets in front of the user--even before they are made.  Crowd-sourced apparel has been proven out by companies such as Threadless, but maintaining the momentum behind community-reliant products can be tough.  WILD faces two layers of community development: directly from the evangelists of the brand when they deliver the promised user experience, and indirectly by attracting participants who love to be a part of the crowd on sites like Crowd Supply.  Crowd Supply does for products what Groupon and Living Social have done for services: allow entrepreneurs to reach the consumer by pre-selling.  It can be exhausting to keep the crowd coming, so working on both layers of the community will be essential for WILD's longevity.  As Wikipedia has demonstrated (not to mention MySpace), a looming issue for most 'Open Strategy' projects is perpetuating momentum.      


Relying on external eyes, brains and hands is at the heart of what my colleague, Henry Chesbrough, and I have termed 'Open Strategy.'  Open Strategy often entails morphing your business model to figure out what portions of the value chain you can open up.  IBM brilliantly did this by opening up software development through contributions to Linux, for example, in order to sell more services. P&G has opened up their R&D function through their Connect + Develop program where they post needs and invite fresh ideas.  Real value is being created through these community-based mechanisms and instead of relying on sole ownership of ideas (read 'patents') to capture value, money is made through alternative approaches such as complementary services, a dominant distribution channel, or powerful brand-building.

-- Allan Brettman