The Answers Are Not In The Building
I recently answered a question on Quora regarding a startup that was looking for early adopters and people to test their newly built product.
I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while, so this question was push for me to write this post.
As you’ve probably read in some of my previous blog posts, I spend a lot of time talking to people. Over the coarse of this year, I have literally talked to over 300 people with respect to what problem we are trying to solve, who we think has the problem and what value we provide in solving that problem.
Now, 300 people might sound like a lot, but let’s break it down a bit. When we originally conceived of Skyence, I talked to roughly 50 people about the issues in cloud storage and what challenges they faced. I walked into those meetings with a hypothesis of what the problems were, who would buy the product and what features they needed to successfully solve those problems.
I was wrong.
Out of those first 50 interviews, I found solid pain points. We validated the problems existed, but more importantly, through the course of those interviews, we found out that our target buyer, IT, didn’t prioritize those problems. So, while they thought the problems were real, they weren’t enough of a pain point for them to want to pay for it. If we had built our product without this insight, we would now have a product, but no buyers.
Out of the ashes of those interviews, however, we made course corrections, shifting our idea to be more end user focused. After modifying our hypothesis, we hit the streets again, finding those in our new target audience, testing our new assumptions and asking new questions.
Rinse and Repeat.
I’d like to say that we nailed it on the second iteration, but we didn’t. We continued to find problems, problems that we could solve, but none that had a high enough value proposition that people were willing to buy the solution. Like the first set of interviews, we could have stopped at the end, assumed we knew where we went wrong and built what we thought the new, correct answer was. And just like the first time, we would have a product that solves a problem, but not one that people would buy.
By the time we got to 200 in person interviews we had a lot of data and a lot of insights into a bigger picture. We understood at a macro level how people used cloud storage, WHY they used cloud storage, how they shared, how the bought services, which services they used and what issues they had. We came up with a modified hypothesis and tried again.
This time? We got it right. We’ve talked to 50 people in the last month. We’ve found a problem, solution and value statement that is dead on. We’ve found people that enthusiastically want our product and are willing to pilot it in their companies. We’ve had pricing discussions and get head nods, “yes, I’d buy that product.”
Building a product is easy. Building the right product is time consuming and difficult. The answers you seek are not in the building, they’re out there, locked in day to day trials and tribulations of your potential customers. Don’t try to talk to 5 people, try to talk to 50 or 500.
Step away from the computer and what you think you know. The answers are out there, you just have to work to get to them.