Articles on Business Start-up
The popular customer validation mantra, “Get out of the building” that is coined by Steve Blank, is the most fundamental and core process to discover and validate a great product idea, as well as to find your early adopters. Although talking to customers and getting their feedback sound like an easy feat, but do it effectively so that we maximize our learning objectives takes a lot of practice. Most entrepreneurs fall into the trap of pitching their solution to the customers prematurely. In a pitch, you do most of the talking, and you learn very little about the customer behavior. It’s also very easy for them to agree with you. (Or they pretend to be agreeable.) The flaw in starting your customer validation with a pitch is that you assume you have the “right” solution for them. For that, you have to understand the “right” customer problem first, which is the first phase of customer validation interview. (Or problem interview to be exact.) Asking the right questions is key to make sure you have problem worth solving before investing months or years of effort into building a solution.
I wrote the Part 1 of this article last year and a lot of people was requesting me to write a step-by-step guide for planning and designing Minimum-Viable-Product (MVP). I also notice there are still some people who are confused on the concept of MVP. Some of the common misconceptions are, “MVP is the final product with some features taken out,” “MVP is a smaller or cheaper version of the final product.” To clarify once again, MVP is not about quickly putting together some interesting features over the weekend and release it, see what happens, and then see if you wish to proceed. MVP is all about validated learning. The goal of building MVP is validated learning about your product-market fit.
This article is specifically for business owners of non-tech companies. Start-ups are commonly perceived as young companies that build and sell new gadgets and other cool technological products, where they are often seen as operating in its own world (tech industry) and irrelevant to the non-tech companies. This is a big misconception, and if you understand that innovation is not only for tech companies, then what I am going to share here can probably inspire you on how you can work with start-ups for accelerating your company’s innovation, growth, and talent acquisition. Otherwise, I suggest you to read this article first, “Seven myths and realities of innovation.” (Just to be honest and give you a fair perspective, there are some uncreative organizations survive and even do well.)
There are a lot of buzz on the “lean methodology” lately, such as Lean Startup, Customer Development, Agile Development approach, etc. Every now and then you will hear startups discussing about their first Minimum-Viable-Product (MVP) they are building. You had probably asked around what is actually an MVP, and heard many interesting variations on the definition of MVP. Some define it as “the product with the smallest imaginable features set,” some said “product with the minimum features required for it to function as intended,” or “cheapest way to develop your product,” etc. There is nothing wrong with these definitions. The problem lies in the challenges to interpret it correctly.
I enjoy mingle with visionary people. I like their constant flow of great ideas and energy. But more often, when they see me with new ideas, they will ask, “Thomas, I think I have a great idea. Can you help me to develop it?” My standard response to them is usually, “Yes sir, I can.” I will pause momentarily and continue, “But do we really have to develop it?” Most of the time, they will respond to me, “Why not?” Though I know you may feel that this sounds a little vague when I said, “Have you thought of perhaps there are other shortcuts to do it?” My objective is at least trying to get their attention to listen and avoid the common misconception of “build and they will come” experienced by most entrepreneurs. Especially those with the technical skills (like me), we tend to take our capabilities for granted, where it is always seems counterintuitive why we shouldn’t just do it.
The importance of software and technology in the course of business operations can never be put aside today. Technologies can make tasks easier and done more efficiently if implemented properly. However, hiring a software consultant can be a daunting task for many small and medium business owners, especially if they are not very familiar with technology or for those who do not have technical background.
It has been exciting time for engineers and technologist, where we have been witnessing mushrooming numbers of young potential technology companies that are founded by engineers in these recent decades. Equipped with cutting edge technical know‐how, they are preparing to create the next big innovation with the dream of turning them into “Entrepreneur of the Year” or “Most Promising Start-Up of the Year” featured in BusinessWeek in the next 6 months. Little that they realize some personalities or “traits” that they possessed or are trained over the years as good engineers might put their business at stake.