Templatizing Expertise

Tech startups competing with GSuite have billions in valuations because they package their expertise into template libraries

In the news.

Airtable ​just raised 100 million at a billion-dollar valuation. Notion just raised money at a 2 billion-dollar valuation.​ Salesforce just bought Quip for 750 million. And Coda has raised 140 million.

What’s going on here? It’s not casino closures pushing gamblers towards NASDAQ speculation; only Salesforce is public. ​So what do these startup unicorns have in common?

To start, they all compete with Google GSuite and Microsoft 360 or Office 365 or whatever it’s called now. If MS Office was the first generation business software for your computer, and Gsuite the second, these startups are the third generation. You can put Canva (3.2 billion-dollar valuation) in this category too.

They each offer slightly better twists on GSuite’s spreadsheets, document editors, and slideshow creation products. Functionality-wise, though, they’re about the same. They have slightly better privacy – although cloud software is cloud software. And they’re more pleasing to look at. 
But they’re not that much better GSuite.
How is that possible – why are investors betting on cloud office software that’s only marginally better than Google/Microsoft gold standard?
That sounds anti-climactic, doesn’t it?  How do templates add collective billions in value to Airtable, Quip, Notion, Canva, and Coda
And by the way, didn’t Microsoft have templates for MS Office back in the 90s? They did, who can forget such aesthetic abominations. And GSuite has “Addons”. So templates aren’t new. So what’s creating all the new value?
Engaging experts to design and curate a customer-focused template library.
This is design thinking in action.
These startups provide templates as if their businesses depended on it. And they do depend on it.
Because people are increasingly intolerant of (a) ugly things and (b) repetitive tasks. They don’t want to make something from scratch, read the manual, or hire someone else to do so.
Maybe that’s why one of the core duties of Canva’s head of design, Andrew Green, is to lead a “Template Design” practice.

Productizing/Templatizing Expertise 

Andrew and his product design team at Canva are experts, like their counterparts at Quip, Airtable, Notion, and the rest. They’re executing design thinking strategy.
Templates are part of the product, just as transactional emails are an (overlooked) part of any SaaS product. Or part of any business experience. When your clients purchase one of your productized services, they don’t get a stock confirmation email; they get an email that you put time and thought into. It tells them what’s important to know, like what to do next, and it (hopefully) improves their total engagement experience. 
And here I want to highlight the adjective “customer-focused” from the point I made above.
Engaging experts to design and curate a customer-focused template library.
In team-consulting, we often say, “let’s templatize this”. Raise your hand if you’ve participated in templatizing an SOW or a proposal. But that’s just the thing, we have a bad habit of only templatizing internal things, instead of things our customers can use.
So maybe the question to ask is, what templates can we make for our clients that will help them do things quickly, correctly, and without repetition? Part of the answer lies in design.
Have a great weekend,