The Fable of Corn & Radishes
Imagine you’re a farmer who just moved to a new state.
Your humble little plot of land lies amongst hundreds of the vast megafarms who dominate the area. Thousands of acres each, these farms have been here for generations and have an almost unimaginable capability to produce the state’s favorite crop; corn.
Your first year in the state, you work your butt off growing corn.
You fertilize the soil, irrigate the fields, ward off pests and harvest at the right time. Your corn is beautiful; thick and sweet.
Excited at the prospect of the return your beautiful corn will bring, you haul your harvest to the state’s market.
When you arrive, you’re disheartened to find that the megafarms have grown corn that is just as thick and sweet as yours and, with their vast resources, have taken all the best booths at the market.
You’re banished to the back, left with only the hope that lost shoppers will stumble upon your booth by mistake.
Dejected and having sold very little, you take your leftover harvest head back to your little farm. After a few bottles of corn beer (it’s gross and the only kind available in the area) you have a crazy idea.
What if I grew radishes instead?
You’ve never seen radishes in the area but remember tasting one as a kid. They were pretty good. Maybe it’s the corn beer talking but who knows, maybe others would think the same.
So the next year, you work your butt off growing radishes.
When the harvest comes, you have full, thick, dark red radishes. They’re so savory you could almost be fooled into thinking they were a kind of meat.
You haul your harvest of radishes to the market where you’re disappointed to find that you’re again banished to the back.
Having never sold a radish before, you mentally prepare yourself for the day to be a disaster. Perhaps you won’t sell a single radish.
An hour into the market, a lost shopper happens to pass by your booth.
What are these, they ask.
Radishes, you say.
It’s strange you’re not selling corn, the shopper says, but I’m feeling adventurous so I’ll try one.
The shoppers eyes light up with delight as they bite into the meaty radish.
Oh my, the shopper says, and runs off.
Minutes later, the shopper returns with two others.
You must try these, the shopper says to the others. The others try the radishes and can’t believe what they’re tasting. It’s like nothing they’ve ever had before.
I’ll take ten, they all say.
By the time the market closes, you’ve completely sold out of radishes.
The next year you grow ten times as many radishes and sell out again. The following year, ten times more again, and sell out.
It’s at this point the megafarms have started to take notice of your radish operation. With your success, you had fully expected them to start to grow radishes themselves.
So you’re shocked when one morning when you open the paper, you see the headline “RADISHES NOW BANNED IN THE STATE”.
You learn that the megafarms had used their influence to push through the state-wide ban. They want you to go back to growing corn.
That night you crack your last bottle of radish beer (it was becoming very popular) and start to think.
Eight years ago I helped start an e-commerce company.
At first, all we knew how to do was compete directly with the megafarms of our industry. Selling our corn against theirs. And we got crushed.
We eventually got tired of being crushed, so we tried what was a novel strategy of selling at the time; our radishes.
This strategy has allowed our fledgling company to grow into a modest, multi-million dollars operation.
But last year, our strategy got the attention of the megafarms. Who, instead of trying their hand at growing radishes, decided to use their influence to ban them.
And that’s where we are now. Our novel strategy – our radishes – are banned.
Where you currently find me is sipping the last of my final radish beer. Thinking.
I’m tempted to be bitter, angry. But what would that accomplish?
Would that help me find the next radish? No, it would not.
The only thing to do is get out onto the farm and get back to work. Maybe we’ll have to sell corn and get crushed for a while.
But one thing has been made very obvious; the megafarms only care about protecting their corn. They’re not looking to innovate and create. They defend what they have.
This is a tremendous opportunity.
Because while they’re worried about their corn, I’ve started experimenting with growing eggplants.
I remember tasting one as a kid. They were pretty good.