Seth Godin recently said it’s more important to be a little fish in the right pond than the biggest fish in a small pond. When it comes to innovation, we all need to ask ourselves, “Am I solving a big problem or just offering a big solution?”

When we heard from Mike Burgiss of COX Automotive at the Enterprise Entrepreneurship Series in Atlanta, he outlined the approach he took with MakeMyDeal – an internal COX startup creating an online negotiating platform for car-buyers and dealerships. He wanted to prove that people would be willing to buy a car online, and he knew it couldn’t be done through incrementally reducing the pain of a negotiation.

“We didn’t want to make it slightly better for people to buy cars, we wanted to make it easy for people to buy cars.”

It’s difficult for an enterprise to gamble on its ability to solve a problem that big, so Mike started with a single question: can I make people click a button to start an online negotiation? He built a lightweight product that focused on delivering that single metric to convince executives that MakeMyDeal wasn’t just a product – it was a business that solved a massive pain point for dealerships and car-buyers.

Every industry generates massive amounts of data and research that show the roadblocks and pain points of their customers. It’s an innovator’s job to fix the core problem – no matter how small – causing that pain, not simply making that pain slightly more tolerable. It’s OK if you’re not the biggest fish in the pond, as long as you’re swimming in the right waters.

Sometimes, innovation isn’t about disrupting an entire industry or claiming a spot on top of the mountain. It often just means solving the right problem for the right people.


Geoff is a true entrepreneur. He’s passionate about helping companies find, build and grow their next big idea. He launched his first venture at age 16, when he started a computer store in a shopping mall in Sarasota, Florida. Since then, he’s built eight more companies.