Everyone knows what RPA or robotic process automation is at this point but what about robotic industrial process automation? What is that, and did someone make it up because I’ve never heard of it?
Believe it or not, phrases such as “crypto”, “creator economy”, and even “electric vehicles” were once just buzzwords that many were unfamiliar with. This act of simply labeling something gives it tremendous power, but in this industry we identify that as a category.
The creator of a category is typically the market leader; meaning that the person likely created a product divergent from the ‘market normal’ due to a disconnection from the existing category (i.e. cars vs electric cars). That was a mouthful but essentially, when we put a battery in a car and called it Tesla, we couldn’t just call it a car anymore. It was so much more.
Why does the creation of a category matter?
The new product/company is a massive value generator for its customers. It will be the default market leader in the new category, meaning the company will very likely own a significantly larger share of the market than any competitors.
Competitors like to hop on the bandwagon once they see what the category creators have achieved. Once the value is being created and easy to see competitors begin to copy. Timing will be their issue, being behind will already have lost them significant market share causing them to prove to the market why they are better than the now popular category leader.
While we all know there are other electric cars than Tesla, do any of us really care that much? The majority of us still think of Tesla when we think of electric cars.
Becoming a category creator
First, it is important to make something that creates value for customers. Then make sure it is unique enough from existing classifications of goods or services that when explaining to potential customers and using the existing category name, it doesn’t quite make sense. For example, the car is electric, making it not just a car anymore. The electric car is more than that, creating the category of electric car.
Two excellent books on this topic are “Play Bigger” by Al Ramadanf and “Category Creation” by Anthony Kennada. They both elaborate on the concept and focus on building companies that are category creators. As for Crux OCM, we were running into the issue that describing our technology was starting to feel like the following:
Potential Customer: “Let’s talk about advanced process control packages”
Crux: “We’re not yet, quite but we used some APC technology”
Potential Customer: “So a DCS or SCADA system?”
Crux: “ Still no not quite, we are a layer on top”
Potential Customer: “So it’s like RPA but for the control room operators”
Crux: “well yes but it also includes other technologies otherwise it won’t work”
It is apparent that humans like to categorize things based on background knowledge- a psychological labeling phenomenon to enable us to log information for later use.
Simultaneously, I was often encountering these conversations with potential customers. One of our investors, Kane Hsieh from Root VC, educated me on category creation and recommended the aforementioned two books. Category creation then became a board meeting topic of discussion, until Gil Dibner from Angular Ventures contacted me about Robotic Industrial Process Automation. He described it as the intersection between traditional RPA and all of the technologies required to make the concept of RPA work in a heavy industrial control room setting.
This all made perfect sense, so CruxOCM immediately started using it in marketing and sales material. Some customers immediately understand and others don’t quite understand, especially engineers that are very familiar with existing technologies in the control room space. It takes time to build a category and the RIPA category is still in its early days. Competitors have popped up, which is fantastic as we feel it both validates the market and the category. We are a few years ahead of them so stay tuned to see who leads the category.