A roadmap of experiments

Currently, one of the things I am trying to do on our new MedTech venture is to build a roadmap of experiments to run before we get to the MVP itself.

Why am I doing that, you may want to ask?

Because I think it is super important to do whatever it takes to make sure that we can deliver some sort of tangible value from day 1 with our MVP. Nonetheless so because we’re in MedTech and because we’re dealing with a serious medical issue. We simply need to get it right.

But also because I think it makes overall sense as an approach. In fact I think it might even make better sense than to work on a more regular product roadmap at this stage.

Why?

Simply because at the stage we’re currently at there are so many unknowns and associated assumptions about where we might take this that the most robust roadmap, we can have, is the one articulating what we don’t know and thus need to find out more about.

But does that make it easier to do a roadmap of experiments than a more normal product roadmap?

Definitely not.

After all there are a ton of different experiments, you can run at any given point in time, and the trick is to figure out – or at the very least have an idea – which ones are going to give you most bang for the buck at any given moment in time. And where you take it from there – depending on how the experiment goes.

It’s a super interesting exercise in doing a blueprint for your activities while trying to make sure that you get to that ultimate goal of the experiment series; feeling pretty confident – on a data based basis – what should go into the MVP and hopefully set you off on a good trajectory for startup success.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Cakes, laptops…and news

Despite every intention otherwise, I keep returning to commenting on the industry, where I got my education and served a significant part of my career:

The media industry.

I just can’t escape the fact that I get almost emotional every time someone within the industry makes an argument that only serves to prolong the suicidal pain, the industry is putting on itself by not squarely facing up to the real market realities they exist within.

Latest example? Paywalls. Or rather; the customers lack of love for them.

Whenever a new survey comes out indicating that customers don’t want articles behind paywalls, you will hear a version of this argument from the industry:

“Oh, but this and this industry also has expectations that you pay for what they are offering”.

I have seen a lot of analogies for this with laptop-resellers and bakeries being just the latest. So let’s latch onto those and just briefly examine why this analogy is both flawed and – ultimately – downright stupid:

No matter if you went into a computerstore or bakery back in the 80’s or even today, there has always been a constant: The merchandise was sitting on the shelves with a nice price tag onto them, and the ONLY way you could get to walk out of the store with something in your hands was by forking up the cash to pay the price on the tag (or haggle yourself to a slight discount, but that’s beside the point here).

How about in the media industry?

Through 20 years the media industry have said to people coming to their ‘store’, aka news websites: “Look, everything here is free. Just feast yourself to your own delight.”

That advertisers paid for the privilege of offering the product to customers for free was a point lost on the consumers. To them it was just great that they could get something without paying directly. Who doesn’t like that idea?

Fast forward to today. Media entities are now busy putting (much needed and long overdue) paywalls up.

Now, naturally when you start demanding something from your customers in the way of payment rather than just offering it for free, a chunk of your customers will object to it. After all the feeling is that you’re talking something away from them.

But trying to reason that argument by comparing it to other industries, where you ALWAYS had to pay out of pocket is just misplaced. It’s like comparing apples to cheese.

And where it IMHO gets downright stupid is that as long as media people insist on blaming the customers that they just won’t all accept the change, the more time it will take for these same media people to focus on the things they need to do from their end to get out of the misery they’re in:

Developing the product into something customers find it natural to pay for, because it has that value to them.

As hard as it is in reality, as basic straightforward solution it is.

It is the only way this industry will ever be able to move out of this quagmire they’re in. And if blatantly stating when they are misusing their time on worthless arguments can help push things in the right direction that alone is a reason to keep on bringing it up and commenting on it.

Only trouble with that is that I am not confident they will ever really understand, let alone accept, it. Which probably also means that this won’t be the last time I feel the strong urge to comment on it…

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Always create value

One of the hardest things when building new products and services is to deliver real value to your customers.

I know, it sounds stupid. But it’s true. And there are two reasons for it:

First of all, you’re not the judge of what brings value to your customers.

They are.

That’s a frightening prospect, because in essence customers may choose to vote that what you’re doing – your whole idea – isn’t valuable at all to them.

If that happens, you have no value. Period.

Second, it is super hard to deliver value to customers and NOT necessarily pursue your original idea.

Why?

Because every time you put your idea out there with users and potential customers, their feedback is going to be somewhat different to what you had hoped and/or expected. And while it’s super important – and immensely valuable in itself – to get that feedback before you build, it is still SUPER hard do divert or abstract from your idea to wherever customers may seem suggest there is real value to be found.

The challenge is no less for founders who are most often driven by an original idea and feel very passionate about following through on it.

Having them – or being able to yourself, if you’re the founder – understand that your idea matters far less than the value your customers are looking to get, may be the single biggest factor deciding whether you will be successful or not.

(Photo: Pexels.com)

Destroy the problem

During the summer I have become involved in a couple of product management communities in order to built network and get insights and inspiration for tools and methods that we can use in our new MedTech startup.

Sifting through a couple of discussions in the forums, I came across a discussion on attitudes towards building and developing products that had one key term that I really fell in love with:

“It is all about destroying the problem.”

– Quote from discussion in Product Management forum

I love the phrasing because it totally spells out not only what needs to be done but also emphasizes the general why;

When we’re building products and taking them to market we’re doing so first and foremost to help people – our users and customers – solve their problem(s).

We can look at this as simply trying to solve the problem and then think that maybe we will succeed or maybe we don’t. Or we can look at the problem as a problem that needs to get destroyed.

What happens when we look at a problem as something to destroy:

(1) We become super determined.

(2) We have a crystal clear focus.

(3) We’re willing to do whatever it takes.

(4) We won’t be soft about it.

(5) We’re gunning for total victory.

(6) We also understand that we’re acting on behalf of others; those in need of our help.

(7) We won’t quit in our pursuit unless we’re absolutely dead.

In sum, we’re not (just) doing it for the fun of it and the thrill of the ride. We’re doing it because it is essential to do. It’s do or die.

Add to all of the above that I sincerely feel that having an ‘all in’ attitude to destroying the problem will serve you super well in both getting investors, team and customers on board.

Why?

Because you’re giving it your all.

I love it.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Cakes, taxes and value

I come from a small town in the Western part of Jutland and aside from red sausages (don’t ask) I was brought up on really good, traditional bakers bread (and it showed).

For the same reason, I have always found Lagkagehuset to be almost a profanity.

I mean: How can someone set up a chain of bakeries in the greater Copenhagen area (and later beyond) offering pretty poor bread at absolut premium prices – and be successful at it?

Lagkagehuset have since been sold to VC funds, moved to a tax haven and are now in the papers for reaching out to get financial aid from the Covid-19 help packages, even though they make their best efforts to not pay tax in Denmark.

As a result people are starting to revolt; not wanting to keep supporting a company who privatizes profit but socializes loses.

Ok.

But shouldn’t you have revolted in the first place due to substandard experiences from over priced products?

I mean: Evading taxes should not have been the real killer in the first place (and quite honestly, I don’t think it will be once the current controversy has died).

Lack of connection between value proposition, quality and price however should.

Lagkagehuset offers a opportunity to study what it really means to have a value proposition and fulfilling a job for the customer. What may be on the face value is not necessarily the real driver.

Obviously, the bread and the prices didn’t matter to customers. If they did, Lagkagehuset would never have become such a success. Maybe behaving responsible does matter? It makes for a funny business and Business Model Canvas, I’ll grant you that.

But maybe it will give some added perspective and perhaps even some pause to how we think about what really drives behaviour and what a great value proposition actually is. It’s clearly not what’s stated in the public Powerpoint deck or on that fancy poster in the shop.

It is both harder, more complex and more irrational than that. Understanding them takes real work.

NB: The cakes on the picture bears no resemblance to those served by Lagkagehuset.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

What’s your Easter Egg?

Easter is upon us (if you subscribe to that religious belief) and with that also the hunt for Easter eggs.

If you have got any time off, now may be a good time to spend some time away from it all and contemplate what the Easter egg of your business is; that hidden gem that – when exposed – delights and fascinates your customers.

What do you have buried somewhere that you can surface just about now and put your business into another gear after Easter. A gear that will help you get through all of this?

Since you’re not going to any Easter celebrations in these lockdown times anyway, spending time pondering and getting clear on that is time very well spent.

Happy Easter!

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Corona thoughts, Part 4

After the corona pandemic is behind us (and no one knows how long that is going to take, ed.), I am wondering if we will see the emergence of a new set of unmet customer demands born by the pandemic – and the withering of others, we thought we needed until this new reality hit us all?

The pandemic is a giant reality check on what is truly important on our lives, and what we can live without. Some are already suggesting that society will be changed forever, when we reemerge on the other side. Personally, I am not so sure. But if it is, it will lead to a change in priorities and, with that, spending.

For some startups it will mean staying in a death spiral. For others it will be their big opportunity. Spotting and betting on the right ones will potentially be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for investors, while others will be left to reflect on their losses.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Deliver on the dream

I often talk about the need to meet with customers and understand what their needs are. But I also often struggle in getting through with the message of what the real potential of doing so is. So let me try it a slightly different way.

When we sit down with potential customers, or we visit them in their natural environment, we get a chance to ask questions and – most importantly – listen. And when we listen, we get an opportunity to uncover the dreams of our customers.

Dreams are funny. They are for many people characterized by three things: First of all it is something we would really like (to happen), second the acknowledgement that I am not there yet and it is out of reach and third a lingering idea that maybe it will stay a dream forever.

Tuning into the dream will give you the same three things to innovation on: A clear desire, an opportunity to be relevant and – following from that – a chance of creating an epiphany moment for them that they will reward by not only buying, what you have created, but also staying loyal to it. What’s not to like?

(Photo: Pixabay.com)