Startup Secrets Sandbox
Startup Secrets Sandbox
DEFINE the Problem or Opportunity

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BLAC and White

The BLAC and White framework is an analytical tool used in the B2B technology sector to categorize business problems and identify market opportunities. 'BLAC' stands for Blatant, Latent, Aspirational, and Critical problems, ranging from urgent and obvious to unrecognized and non-essential. 'White' signifies ‘white space’ in the market, indicating areas ripe for innovation. The framework also emphasizes that products can transition between categories over time due to market and technology changes. Successful implementation hinges on the entrepreneur's vision and execution, with a caution against creating products without market demand. Two exercises are provided to apply the framework: categorizing familiar products and evaluating a chosen application's position within the BLAC and White matrix. The text includes a personal note on the importance of balancing vision with execution and the value of focusing on customer needs over competition.
See the definition in the, summarized below:
The BLAC and White framework is a critical tool for qualifying problems in business, particularly in B2B technology markets. The framework is an acronym where 'BLAC' stands for Blatant, Latent, Aspirational, and Critical.
'Blatant' and 'Critical' problems are acute, often standing in the way of business operations, and thereby pose substantial risks to careers and reputations. 'Latent' problems, on the other hand, are often unacknowledged and require significant effort to elucidate and resolve, often leading to costly missionary selling. Lastly, 'Aspirational' problems are seen as optional, often the most challenging for a B2B startup to sell, because they tend to be non-essential improvements or aspirations for the business or user.
The 'White' in the framework refers to the concept of 'white space' in the market - an area of potential opportunity that is currently unaddressed or under-served. By identifying and addressing such 'white space', businesses can capitalize on open areas of opportunity and create unique, innovative solutions.
It is worth noting that many successful B2C products expose latent, aspirational needs, operating on a different axis of the framework. A notable example of this is Facebook, which tapped into latent, aspirational social needs to achieve success. This often aligns with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where social needs drive the success of certain products or services.
Subtext: I recently got a question about what kinds of things fit in the less obvious quadrants, 2 and 4. Here are two examples:
2 - Blatant Aspirational : Luxury fashion items - people aspire to look and feel good and some people find it blatantly obvious that they must wear the latest fashion or even sport the latest gear.
4- Latent Critical: Insurance - we all know it's critical for many things, but it's often latent until disaster strikes, then it becomes blatantly obvious we should have had it!

Importantly products can move through the BLAC framework over time. That may be because of market forces or technical advances or a combination of factors. For example initially cell phones were huge, expensive and specialist tools that both because of innovation and cost have of course become blatantly critical now in so much of our lives.
Equally important is how you as an entrepreneur enable this through a combination of your Vision and Execution. Steve Jobs is famous for this quote:
"Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, 'If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page."

One of the reasons this is both an art and a science is that market needs change, and at the same time, technology advances so that at some point what it becomes possible to meet new needs with new technology, such as was the case for the first huge bulky cell phones with brick sized batteries and a basic keypad interface that could only handle voice. Those became pocketable smart phones with touch interfaces that can handle voice and data simultaneously and at high enough speeds to handle multitasking Apps. Quite the evolution!

Startup Secret: At the intersection of changing market needs and advancing technology lies the roadmap for successful products.
This speaks to my favorite relevant quote:
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” - Alan Kay
But be careful you don’t fall into the trap of inventing something that the market never wants just because you want it or it’s technically possible. And even if you have a perfect vision for the market, remember in the end it’s down to how you execute.
The difference between vision and hallucination is execution.*
For example if you have a vision for a new way to track nutrition, that could just be a latent aspirational need for people who want to loose weight. Or it could be a blatant critical need for people who are diabetic or who have medical conditions that are food sensitive or intolerant. Or at the extreme for those who have deathly allergies to certain ingredients. So the segmentation, targeting and GTM execution are what could take it from addressing latent and aspirational desires to meeting blatant and critical needs.

Exercise 1

Place some products we’ll all be familiar in one of the four quadrants below
Contact lenses
Google glass
Snapchat glass
Apple Vision Pro
Fitness/Health products
Apple watch
Oura ring








Exercise 2

Pick an application you’re using, and speak to where you think it fits on the BLAC and White matrix.
Or consider Coda (the application you’re using now) and its value proposition. The company is building “a new doc that brings words, data, and teams together.” From to planning marketing campaigns to making information accessible, Coda makes it easy for teams to collaborate, get organized, and get work done. Where does it fit in the BLAC and WHITE framework?
Share your answer below
Coda BLAC and WHITE?
Is it Blatant or Latent?
Why B/L?
Is it Aspirational or Critical?
Why A/C?
Where is the WHITE space for the product in the market
There are no rows in this table

*Personal note: I spent my life as an entrepreneur balancing vision and execution and whenever I failed it was usually because one or the other was out of balance. My mantra became simply:
Listen and lead
EG Actively question and listen closely to your customer’s evolving needs and then look ahead to how technology is changing and what will become possible and lead just enough to stay ahead of the evolving problem set.
Incidentally product leaders often pay far too much attention to the competition. Don’t assume they’ve listened closely to the customer when they change their product. Trust your own ears and eyes and if you pay closer attention consistently and out execute them on all other aspects of your business, you can win in the market.
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