The crisis test

Do customers flood you with support calls when your service is down? Or is it more or less quiet?

If it’s the latter, you have a problem. Because then all indications are that your product doesn’t really mean much to your customers; they can easily do without it. Maybe they don’t even realize it’s not there anymore.

If on the other hand it’s the first, congratulations. Not on having issues but in having created something important enough for customers to register when it’s not there anymore and even complain about.

It is probably one of the best indications that you have achieved Product-Market Fit.

Of course you can’t rest on the laurels when you’re in a situation, where you product is not performing as it should. But while your struggling to get it back up and working again at least take some comfort from the fact that you have achieved something:

You have created something that matters to someone outside your immediate circle of family and friends.

Congratulations.

And now get it back up and working again.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Your idea is not about you

One of the hardest things to do when you’re trying out an idea for a new venture is to separate your own feelings from the data.

After all, you probably came up with the idea because you thought it was great – perhaps even the greatest since sliced bread. And now you’re bringing it doubt and jeopardy by subjecting it to some sort of validation in the actual real world.

Frightening.

But fear not. Because chances are that not everything is wasted.

Your idea might still be great. But the present application of it is not the optimal one. Wouldn’t it then be rather nice to get that insight through data, so you can change the application and move towards the iteration that gives both you and your future customers most ‘bang for the buck’?

Of course it would.

But still; the idea of finding out that your initial idea wasn’t the optimal solution for your customers can hurt and sting. Just make sure you realize that that’s ok; it is all part of the plan.

After all it is about the application of the idea – not you as a person.

If you think it’s too much to deal with, and – more importantly – you’re in danger of closing your eyes to the data and just venture on with what you originally had in mind, consider getting some sort of outside help or perspective. Someone with a clean slate and a fresh pair of eyes, who can help put it to you more gently – but nonetheless put it to you.

It might prove to be one of the best investments, you can make.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Celebrate invalidation

There is one thing we often forget when we talk about validating ideas and business models for startups (or any other entity for that matter);

That it is also an accomplishment to invalidate something.

Usually we have a tendency to see things that didn’t work out as extremely wasteful from which only fractions can be saved for later use. If we’re lucky, that is.

Nothing could be more wrong.

Not only do we get immense learning when something doesn’t go according to plan. Here everything is only lost if we forget to put those learnings to good use the next time we venture into something new.

We also save precious time. Especially if we manage to get to the invalidation of an idea or a business model relatively quickly.

Why?

Because if we conclude that something is not worth doing, it’s better to get to that point sooner rather than later, so you don’t spend to much on something that is going nowhere.

Simple really.

Add to all of the above that one of the hardest things is to work diligently to try to destroy your own idea, before it gets to far, and the picture of invalidation as something to be celebrated every bit as much as successes are become that much clearer.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The daunting 1st prototype

The last week or so I have been busy building the first simple prototype of our upcoming app – a pre-MVP – for the MedTech startup, we’re working on getting off the ground. We will be getting it out there to get early feedback just after Christmas.

It is a daunting process.

Not only is it daunting to try to find the different pieces that when stitched together could form a somewhat crude but credible first go at what we will initially be trying to bring to market to create value for patients.

No, the most daunting part is that youre airing your idea(s) and inviting feedback from real potential users. And doing so full knowing that they can throw whatever they want in the form of feedback and criticism against you.

The prospects of getting feedback from people – or worse yet; hearing nothing at all because no-one will try it out – is so excruciating it can be a real challenge to push that ‘Publish’ button and get it out there.

But there is just no way around it;

If you never launch anything – not even a very crude, embarrasing prototype – you will by definition have failed completely.

So, reversely, by just getting something out there for people to provide feedback on is infinitely better and an infinitely greater step towards any kind of potential future success.

So just do it.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

R.I.P. Quibi

A mere 6 months after launch and after burning through a good portion of the 1,75B USD it had raised from investors, the short form streaming platform Quibi is closing it’s doors.

Why? Because even if they were almost too big to fail they still managed to hit the one big pole, other entrepreneurs work their butts of to avoid ever getting into an infight with:

No market need.

Well done.

Quibi founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman even kind of admit so in their open farewell letter on Medium:

Quibi was a big idea and there was no one who wanted to make a success of it more than we did.

An open letter from Quibi. to the employees…

Exactly, you were pretty alone in thinking this would be a spectacular hit.

Ouch.

Quibi was an exercise in hybris. It was an exercise in the power of the idea alone; that if you build it, they will come.

Again from the open letter:

Although the circumstances were not right for Quibi to succeed as a standalone company, our team achieved much of what we set out to accomplish, and we are tremendously proud of the award-winning and innovative work that we have produced, both in terms of original content and the underlying technology platform. 

An open letter from Quibi. to the employees…

Customers never really came. And those that did ran away as soon as they were asked to pay for it.

It is easy to poke fun of a grand idea flawfully executed. But you could also feel enraged;

That while aspiring entrepreneurs with truly great ideas looking to solve real problems, investors throw money at something that is…well, you get it.

This is what happens when people who don’t “get it” think they can become successful entrepreneurs if they just throw enough money at it.

This is what happens when the smartest people in the room decide to show the world just how smart they really are.

As such Quibi should be a lesson to all with no respect for the grind of trying to build on an idea and achieve product-market fit while at the same time be conscious about ressources spend.

It won’t be. It will happen again. And again.

Because Quibi will be forgotten soon.

That’s how ‘big’ an idea it was.

(Photo: Screenshot)

Show your ugliness

When you try to do something completely new, the only way you will know whether customers like it or reject it is if you show it to them.

This is precisely the argument for why you should be running experiments again and again, as you try to move forward from idea to a product or a service; you need to take stock of your customers to see, if you are essentially on the same page as they are. It not, redo, retool, relaunch or just stop.

Show your ugliness. Give your idea a spin. A little time and money invested in the right experiments go a long way into guiding the big product decisions that are truly costly.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Hypothetical strategy

The most common problems with strategy is that (a) it can be extremely poorly based on actual insight and data about market and customers and (b) it tends to become antique the moment, you have dotted the last i and crossed the last t in the grand plan.

When I recently tought a group of students at Aarhus Erhvervsakademi and Dansk Markedsføring about digital strategy and business development one of my main messages was that strategy today is not a plan. It is a set of hypothesis about market, customers and bets, we can make that we set ourselves goals towards trying to achieve. And remain flexible towards revisiting when needed. Not in terms of overall vision and goals but on the road towards that goal.

Strategy today is a fluent thing and with all the unknowns out there and the constant changing landscape, you need to be prepared to have your core hypothesis invalidated at any point in time. You need to be able to adapt, and you need to do so by defining new hypothesis that you can design your evolving strategy and market approach around. Everything else is – at best – wishful thinking.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

No idea is that dumb*

Some ideas intuitively makes sense. Other ideas seem just about the most stupid thing, you have ever heard of. Yet, while the former can go on and become a viable idea, the dumb idea more often than not end up making a killing.

Andrew Chen calls it “The Dumb Idea Paradox”. I would just suffice to say it is a pointed reminder of one of the core guiding principles I have; you just can’t sit at your desk and expect to figure out the next big thing. You need to go out there, be curious and – as part of that process – challenge your own assumptions.

For some people betting on dumb ideas is the thing that they do. Maybe they just do it once, but it will be all that matters, once the idea takes off. For the rest of us, we need to tell ourselves that “no idea is that dumb” again and again while giving it enough benefit of the doubt to at least experiment and play with. Because, more often than not, no idea really is that dumb.

*: Of course there are really dumb ideas out there, and most of us intuitively know what they are. So there are exceptions to the rule, but expect the rule to be the rule.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)