Alex Zapesochny of iCardiac and the HTRLaunchPad Advisory Board (and an Innovocracy partner) surfaced this must-read blog post from a Brooklyn seed investor, entrepreneur and blogger. It details how startups this year may not need investments to grow. Several of our teams may fit this model.
Early in our program the teams all seemed to trying to solve multiple problems for multiple customer segments. This multi-sided approach is very difficult execute on because your focus is all over the place and customers sense this. And they are certain to ask themselves if you’re serious about their problem. The challenge during the first half of your discovery process is to find the one problem you should be tackling and focus your resources on it. But it has to be the right problem. Fortunately the goal of the LaunchPad process is to help you find that ‘one’ problem. Let’s try and define it:
- It is a big enough pain or pleasure point that it is directly in front of the customer (there are emotions involved!)
- The need is immediate, as in ‘I want it now!’
- A lot of people have the problem
- It needs to be solved on a frequent basis for multiple users
- You can make money solving it, and it is clear how and when
- It is possible to (easily) reach those in pain or seeking this pleasure
- You can actually solve it, in a cost effective manner
Your canvas is really a worksheet for finding this one problem and determining if there is a business you can build around it. As I mentioned in another post, this is why the canvas starts out messy and busy. However, as you refine and learn, you’re also eliminating until a real, marketable problem emerges. When your canvas has clarity, you are nearing a scalable, profitable business model. And you should be able to simply articulate it to others.
During weeks 4 and 5 of the HTRLaunchPad program we saw confusion reigning with several of our software teams. Two completely changed course and others executed pivots to more defined markets and more focused solutions. During the last two sessions, weeks 7 and 8, things began to noticeably tighten up, in a good way. Minimum Viable Products become much more focused, the value propositions had much clearer value and we started to see the business model canvas worksheets become less complex and more understandable. Progress!
But we also noticed a direct correlation between the number of customer contacts being made and the amount of progress. Simply put, more contacts means faster progress and a much higher likelihood of success. You can understand all the principles of the launchpad methodology, make lots of educated guesses and fill out a canvas but it is all a meaningless exercise if you don’t get out and talk to people, lots of people. It is, to a high degree, a numbers game.
I have contended since my first introduction to this methodology that if any business or organization spoke with 120-180 customers over a three month period (10-15 contacts per week) and made sure at least two people were in on each conversation, they would experience a huge change in their understanding of their business. When you add in the methodology for getting the most out of these conversations, they become even more valuable.
Market research and surveys are great tools but live conversation reveals much more, including what you don’t know, how decisions are made and what people will pay for viable solutions. They will also tell you when your assumptions are wrong, before you invest time and money into them. This is why launchpad stresses that failures are a form of success: They keep you from exhausting resources on dead-end projects.
The message is clear: talk to more people every day.
*Image courtesy of free images.co.uk
“You know, one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90% of the work. And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then of course they can go off and make it happen.
And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it. And you also find there are tremendous tradeoffs that you have to make. There are just certain things you can’t make electrons do. There are certain things you can’t make plastic do. Or glass do. Or factories do. Or robots do.
Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.
And it’s that process that is the magic.”
– Steve Jobs