The 3 Things This Week, 25th January 2018

Hey,

How are you doing?

I am happy to bring this week’s edition of “The 3 Things This Week” to you.

As you know, “The 3 Things This Week” is a free, short, curated list of useful articles, tools and other resources for building startup businesses. These 3 things would deal, in a random way, with different aspects of startup building – validation, traction, growth, funding, team, founders.

Here are this week’s 3 things!

Thing # 1:  95 Ways to find your first customers for customer development or your first sale  by Jason Evanish

8You can have the best idea in the world, but until you find someone besides yourself that wants it, it’s not really a business.  To find those people, here are 95 ways to find your first set of users, as listed by Jason Evanish. All of us have been using most of these tactical options, you may be surprised to note a few new ideas on that list too.

Thing # 2:  “Turn The Ship Around”    by Jason Fried

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Turn the Ship Around! is the true story of how the Santa Fe skyrocketed from worst to first in the fleet by challenging the U.S. Navy’s traditional leader-follower approach. Struggling against his own instincts to take control, he instead achieved the vastly more powerful model of giving control. Before long, each member of Marquet’s crew became a leader and assumed responsibility for everything he did, from clerical tasks to crucial combat decisions. The crew became fully engaged, contributing their full intellectual capacity every day, and the Santa Fe started winning awards and promoting a highly disproportionate number of officers to submarine command.

An inspiring reading that turns our understanding on a “Leadership” upside down – there is a new meaning to “leadership”, as a way to give control rather than t0aking control and creating leaders rather than forging followers.

“A must” reading if you are building your startup team.

Thing # 3:  What’s Working Now in Internet Marketing (2018 Edition) by Marisa Murgatroyd

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Whether you have an online business, a service business, a coaching business, or an offline business that uses the internet to get new customers, the rules of the game are changing… and they’re changing FAST. Savvy customers are demanding a greater level of market sophistication, accountability and high-touch support. While some of the trends talked about in this article may seem discouraging on the surface, others are setting the stage for significant growth in 2018.  Get those insights from Marisa Murgatroyd if you want to be a super boss in 2018 when it comes to your online business.

 

I would love to hear your feedback on 3 Things This Week.

Hope you enjoy, and thanks again for the privilege of emailing you!

Wishing you lots of happy reading,

Shashank

P.S. – If you think of anyone who might enjoy this email, you can share this with a friend or co-worker.

 

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Jumping the curve

jumpcurve-cover

The changes happening around would be the most challenging thing for an existing business.

The only thing that is constant is “change”. The changes are all pervasive and no business is immunized against them.

In today’s fast-paced world, success often depends on how quickly your business can adapt to changing conditions. How well versed are you ready to pivot when the market changes?

jump2

In the world of innovation, an S-curve explains the common evolution of a successful new technology or product. At first, early adopters provide the momentum behind uptake. A steep ascent follows, as the masses swiftly catch up. Finally, the curve levels off sharply, as the adoption approaches saturation.

High performance is defined by companies that execute repeated climbs and jumps of the S-curve.

Origins

“Jumping the curve” is a saying that has been around for a few decades. It is traced back to the Irish philosopher and management futurist Charles Handy who said that companies need to become aware of the sigmoid curve.

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The sigmoid curve (or S Curve) is the naturally occurring sloping line that Handy used to show that “companies will come to a natural end if they don’t re-create themselves during good times

What does it take to jump the curve?

You jump to the next curve by breaking old patterns of thinking and behaving. If you keep doing what you have been doing, you’ll keep getting what you have been getting.” So, to get different outcomes, you need to do differently.

Guy Kawasaki, while discussing “The Art of Innovation” at TEDxBerkeley, advises startup founders about the matter of perspective, when it comes to new opportunities. He says, “The perspective is to jump curves and not to stay on the same stupid curve that you’re on while trying to do things 10% better.” A classic example he elaborates is that of the ice business. In this example, he points out how ice making business transformed over past century from being ice harvesters to ice factory and then to refrigerators. The very interesting story about all of these curves is that none of the organizations that were ice harvesters became ice factories and ice factories did not become refrigerator companies because most companies define themselves in terms of what they do, not the benefits they provide. If you define yourself as we cut blocks of ice out of lakes, you remain an ice harvester. If you define yourself as we freeze water centrally, you remain an ice factory. If you define yourself as we make a mechanical gadget called a refrigerator, then you stay on the refrigerator curve. The way to jump the curve is to define your self from the point of view of benefits that your users get, as opposed to what you currently do.

No one can predict the future, but Jack Uldrich can help you prepare for it. Jack Uldrich is a futurist, who helps organizations gain the critical foresight they need to create a successful future. His work is based on the transformational principles of unlearning – or freeing yourself from obsolete knowledge and assumptions – as a strategy to survive and thrive in an era of unparalleled change.

In a short video here, he talks about the importance for entrepreneurs to understand the concept of Jumping the Curve.  He says, if anything is growing exponentially, and if there are nine technologies growing exponentially, you cant just go by the early trends, you have to follow it up with conclusions. The future does not increase linearly, but it grows exponentially.

Great opportunities ion occurs when you jump to the next curve.

When do you jump the curve?

If we view the first curve as a technology beginning to die out, and the second curve as a

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newer and more promising alternative, their first point of intersection shows continued improvements to the old system alongside the short-term upstart costs of investing in new methodologies. The best time to change is therefore when there is no immediate benefit to doing so, whereas sticking with successful practices eventually ensures their failure.

Lessons for startups

In today’s environment, there are rapid changes happening everywhere – markets, technologies and that continues to build big challenge for a startup founder.

As a founder, the most critical skill that you probably need today, irrespective of the startup stage, is to be able to jump your curve, generate a huge number of ideas,  run efficient experiments to test assumptions underlying those ideas and launch new businesses as quickly as possible.

This can happen by seeing and pursuing the “big enough” market insights that can take a startup business to the top of an industry and by creating strategy “from the edge”  to find and capture the next winning business idea.

Jumping the curve is not just relevant for the startups already in business but also for wannabe founders who are looking for the next business idea!

This skill is a core of entrepreneurship today.

Transition – from college project to startup

transition

(Based on an answer to this question “Is it a good idea to start up based on a college project when 4-5 companies are ready to pay for the product?” on Quora)

“Is it a good idea to start up based on a college project when 4-5 companies are ready to pay for the product?”

What the hell – why not?  This is an immediate thought that flashes your mind when you come across this question.

If you have someone who is willing to pay for what you are making, what the hell is stopping you from starting up?

But, the answer is much more complex than what you think.

If you’re a student, turning a side project into a startup is one of the most important steps in your journey as a founder. Done well, this transition builds the determination and commitment that’s necessary to overcome the challenges of a startup that lie ahead.  Done half-heartedly, the transition can be toxic for both the fledgling startup and the rest of your commitments.

More ever, the transition is not like an overnight makeover of the situation.

Transition Stages

When it comes to how you relate to the project (or startup), there are several stages. Some of them are tough on your mind and some of them are a hell of a good time.

transition phases

The “This is just a hobby” Stage

The first stage of your project is the hobby stage. You have something that you are really passionate about and that is how, in most of the situations, the college projects ideas would originate.

The “Oh snap! I can make money doing this?” Stage

The second stage of transition is when you realize you manage to reach some progress on your project and you feel you can actually make money out of it.

Before you know it, your mind is spinning with possibilities. You start putting in a crazy amount of time learning everything you can about how to make money from this project and implementing as much of the knowledge as you can into your efforts.

The “My study is getting in the way!” Stage

Once you start treating your project as an important work, you quickly enter the third stage of transition. This is the stage where your study starts getting in the way of your dream work. No matter how difficult it may be, it starts to look extremely appealing.

This is a stage where you take a considered decision about what is more important to you.

The Hustling Stage

Definition of hustle is to move or work in a quick and energetic way and to play with a lot of energy and effort. Hustling is simply taking next step, whatever it might be. Its not about standing still. Its about making moves.  The act of hustle is more important than wherever you are planning to go. This is the phase where you start getting real insights from the real world.

The Tipping Point Stage

Once you’ve been hustling for some time, you’ll reach a tipping point.  A tipping point is “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, and the boiling point”.  It is the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place – both, inside your mind and outside in the market. You are pretty sure you want to do this.

The “Holy crap! I am in it!” Stage

The last stage in transition is when you realize you’re actually doing it. Not only are you doing it, but it’s easier than ever. The struggle is so very much less.

For some student entrepreneurs, this transition happens fairly smooth, while for many others it’s a bumpy ride.

Bumpy ride

We are talking about 3 critical bumps that will need to get negotiated well:

transition - bumps

Leaving the bliss of project  – Side projects are fun because you get to work on something in a blissful vacuum–no negative feedback or responsibilities. Going from a side project to a startup, however, means going from building something that interests you to building something people want.

The intensity of work – The way projects are measured is mostly based on the distance between the starting point and where you are now. If someone has achieved more, they should get a good grade. But customers will judge you from the other direction: the distance remaining between where you are now and what solves their pain. The market doesn’t care how hard you worked. Users just want your product to do what they need, and if it doesn’t, you get a zero. There is no reward for putting in a good effort.

Committing huge amounts of time – If you’re like most busy students, you’re probably spending about 90% of your time on some combination of academics, athletics, extracurricular, and social activities, leaving 10% for your side project. But for your side project to even have a chance of becoming a successful startup, you’ll have to flip that ratio and spend almost all of your time on it.

“Be a real student and not start a startup or start a real startup and not be a student”

Paul Graham , Y Combinator, in “How to Start a Startup”

How do you know if you are ready for a transition?

There is one sure shot way to know if you are prepared to work on these bumps – take a ride and check it out!

But, if you’re not certain, you should wait. It’s not as if all the opportunities to start companies are going to be gone if you don’t do it now. Maybe the window will close on some idea you’re working on, but that won’t be the last idea you’ll have. For every idea that times out, new ones become feasible.

Strong opinions, weakly held

balance

When building something, we need to balance between what we feel strongly about and getting users to validate it. How do we balance our act?

We do it with strong opinions, held weekly.

Bob Sutton describes the origin and power of this phrase “Strong opinions, weakly held” in more detail:

”Perhaps the best description I’ve ever seen of how wise people act comes from the amazing folks at Palo Alto’s Institute for the Future. A couple years ago, I was talking the Institute’s Bob Johansen about wisdom, and he explained that – to deal with an uncertain future and still move forward – they advise people to have ‘strong opinions, which are weakly held’. . . .

Bob explained that weak opinions are problematic because people aren’t inspired to develop the best arguments possible for them or to put forth the energy required to test them. Bob explained that it was just as important, however, to not be too attached to what you believe because, otherwise, it undermines your ability to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ evidence that clashes with your opinions. This is what psychologists sometimes call the problem of ‘confirmation bias.’”

– Bob Sutton, Strong Opinions, Weakly Held

When dealing with the complex new product development in an uncertain and changing environment, wise founders keep their strong opinions, weakly held.

Strong opinions

Let’s begin by exploring the idea of strong opinions. Strong opinions are not fundamental truths. Rather opinions are a working hypothesis used to guide your thinking, decisions, and actions. Dictionary definition of an opinion –

 An opinion  is:

“a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty.”

A strong opinion is one based on the current best available information and knowledge. It’s a belief for which you have some evidence and one that you’re prepared to defend. Strong opinions are supported by strong arguments that validate your point of view.

Consider the alternative – weak opinions. When you have weak opinions:

You don’t develop robust arguments to support weak opinions.

Weak opinions don’t challenge people to debate and test the validity of the supporting argument.

Weak opinions don’t inspire the confidence necessary for you to take action, commit resources and accept the risk.

Weakly held

Holding an opinion weakly means:

You’ll listen to contradictory views and opinions.

You’re looking for evidence that may contradict your strong opinion.

You’re open changing your mind and your actions.

The strong opinions you hold today are based on your past experience. While strong opinions encourage you to develop strong arguments if your opinions are too strongly held you are much less likely to consider contradictory evidence and new information.

Wise founders act, whilst being open to change

Founders with strongly held opinions invest too much time and energy, supporting their existing beliefs. They fail to consider new information and ignore contradictory feedback.  As a result, they continue to make decisions and take action based on outdated ideas.

Wise founders are willing to be wrong. Rather than defending their ideas and opinions until death, they understand that being wrong makes room for change.

Wise founders take action as a way to gain the feedback necessary to validate their ideas.

Take action “as if” your strong opinions are true.

Acting “as if” reminds you that you’re taking action on the best available information.

Acting “as if” reminds you that you may be wrong.

Acting “as if” keeps you open to learning and changing direction.

Instead of seeking to find the right answers, acting “as if” means you focus on chipping away at the various ways that you may be wrong, resulting in you becoming more right over time.

Balancing act

The fastest way of moving into the future is through defining and validating a series of hypotheses. Formulate a hypothesis based on the best available information – adopt a strong opinion. Then act, seeking feedback, adjusting as you go – weakly held.

The 3 Things This Week, 18th January 2018

Hey,

This is Thursday again,  I am happy to bring these 3 exciting things in today’s edition of “The 3 Things This Week” to you.

As you know, “The 3 Things This Week” is a free, short, curated list of useful articles, tools and other resources for building startup businesses. These 3 things would deal, in a random way, with different aspects of startup building – validation, traction, growth, funding, team, founders.

Here are this week’s 3 things!

Thing # 1:  How to Take a Better Break  by Nir Eyal

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A new research suggests there are good ways and not-so-good ways to spend our break time. While some breaks can leave us refreshed and reenergized, others tend to leave us depleted and drained. In their book “The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World” Dr. Gazzaley, a neuroscientist, and Dr. Rosen, a psychologist, explains that good breaks can reduce mental fatigue, boost brain function, and keep us on-task for longer periods. But Gazzaley and Rosen forewarn that taking the wrong sort of breaks might make us more susceptible to boredom and may actually backfire by making us want to take breaks more often.

You don’t need anyone to tell you that running a startup is hard. Startups take over your life. You think about it 24x7x365. In a startup, things seem great one moment and hopeless the next. It’s a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs.  Burnout is just a possibility and you need to learn the right ways of taking a break to beat it.

Thing # 2:  Empathy Maps: A Complete Guide to Crawling Inside Your Customer’s Head  by Demian Farnworth

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We all need to know our customers in order to create products they’ll actually buy. This is why the minimum viable audience idea is so powerful. It doesn’t start with the product. It starts with the customer.  That means the media you create — the daily podcast, weekly Hangouts, the monthly downloads — all contribute to attracting an audience. As that audience grows, you learn their needs, wants, hopes, and fears. That information allows you to build a worldview of your customer. And when you confirm that worldview in your media, it allows you to sell products they actually want to buy.  Empathy maps are useful in building that worldview of your customers.

Thing # 3:  Required Reading for Early Business Hires  by Nick deWilde

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When an early business like you hires your first business development employee, you are hiring a potential right hand of the founder.  These new recruits need to be effective at understanding the way a startup lives than the tactics. This reading list will get your new recruits to speed on important sales and marketing frameworks in the context of a startup. This will get them to firmly understand the foundational relationship between startups and their customers.  A useful resource if you are hiring your first few key team members.

 

I  would love to hear your feedback on 3 Things This Week.

Hope you enjoy, and thanks again for the privilege of emailing you!

Wishing you lots of happy reading,

 

Shashank

 

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7 Essential parts of Minimum Viable Prowess (MVP) to start up

starting up skills.jpg

Dictionary meaning of the word “prowess” is “skill or expertise in a particular activity or field”.

What would you include as a minimum set of prowess as a starting up founder?

If you google “skills required for an entrepreneur”  or “skills required for starting up”, you will see more than 50 articles, not only telling you what skills are needed but many of them telling you how to go about acquiring those skills.

Sounds good?

Not so much. Because a majority of these skills recommended are not really relevant for starting up.

This is because of two reasons:

  • Most of the articles or books that have been written on the subject are based on what one observes and analyses established businessmen in a retrospect, extending the imagination to what led to their success. As such, there are hardly any stories about how it is in the first days or one month or first 6 months from the time you write your first lean canvas.
  • Traditionally, “business” and “starting up” were considered two faces of the same coin. But, there have been a lot of changes in the way starting up happen today. There is a distinctive phase of “starting up” where you do many different things than when you are past it, for a given business idea.

Defining a startup

Lets just back up a little bit and define what a startup is, so we are on the same page.

The growth of a successful new business usually has three phases:

  • There’s an initial period of slow or no growth while the new business tries to figure out what it’s doing.
  • As the new business figures out how to make something lots of people want and how to reach those people, there’s a period of rapid growth.
  • Eventually, a successful new business will grow into a big company. Growth will slow, partly due to internal limits and partly because the company is starting to bump up against the limits of the markets it serves.

Here, we are defining an entrepreneur as someone who is in a start-up stage, i.e. someone who is in the first phase.

A startup- stage is the process of turning a business idea into an established real company and a ‘start-up’ is a company that is confused about — what its product is? Who its customers are? How to make money?

So, what you do in this phase is unique.

“This is something similar to what used to happen in a situation of cranks that car engines had before.  Once the engine was going, it would keep going, but there was a separate and laborious process to get it going.”

– Paul Graham, Y Combinator

Things that you as an entrepreneur do change substantially as you grow into 2nd and 3rd phase, in respect of a given business idea and so do the skills needed therein.

Traditionally believed skills not relevant to startup

As a result, a host of skills that are traditionally prescribed for you if you want to be an entrepreneur is no more critical skills for you to start up.

Skills Why are they not so relevant
Leadership, Team building, Resiliency,

Motivator, Public speaking, Negotiating, Selling

  • In the beginning, you are probably working on your own or best with another buddy.
  • You are not required to do much public speaking or negotiations.
  • You definitely are not selling, even your idea, as your main focus in this phase, is learning about your customer pain point.
Decision-making There is no major critical decisions to be made In this phase that are too complicated.
Risk taking,

Seeing the big picture,

Courage

  • If you are following lean startup process, essentially you are trying to de-risk your business idea through MVP (minimum viable product experiments).
  • If your startup is unsure of what it would be doing a few weeks later, the concept of the big pic is not practical.
Self-reliance There are a host of resources and help in terms of mentors, courses, boot camps etc. for you to draw support from.
Creative thinking At this stage, the importance is knowing your customers and their pain point and less on how creative you can get to build a product.

New Minimum Viable Prowess needed

The way to succeed in a startup is not to be an expert on startups, but to be an expert on your users and the problem you’re solving for them.

So, essentially, the Minimum Viable Prowess (MVP) is a bundle of skills to enable you an expert about your users or customers.

Why Minimum? – You can have more skills, but these are the minimum skills that you need for starting up.

Why Viable? – If you have them, you have a much more viable engagement with the process of starting up that leads to some productive outcomes.

Why Prowess – These are all simple skills, yet when you combine them, you have a power equivalent of all the founders of big successful startups that you see.

7 parts of Minimum Viable Prowess

Enquiring mind

 You need to be passionate about inquiry and develop an ability to frequently challenge the status quo.  The way to do this is to turn off autopilot and to be aware of what’s going on around you. Inefficiencies in the world and problems you and your friends face daily are potential opportunities. Most people hit these obstacles, groan internally, and move on. They don’t think about why these obstacles exist and whether they can be solved.

Ability to connect dots 

We take ideas from other people, from people we’ve learned from, from people we run into in the coffee shop, and we stitch them together into new forms and we create something new. That’s really where innovation happens. And that means that we have to change some of our models of what innovation and deep thinking really looks like. In a chaotic environment, ideas are likely to come together, where people were likely to have new, interesting, unpredictable collisions — people from different backgrounds.  You need to have an ability to connect seemingly unrelated fields, problems, or ideas.

Observing

You need to be intense observers. Watch the world around you —including customers, products, services, technologies, and companies—and the observations help you gain insights into and ideas for new ways of doing things.

Experimenting

You need to be constantly trying out new experiences and piloting new ideas. Experimenters unceasingly explore the world intellectually and experientially, holding convictions at bay and testing hypotheses along the way. They visit new places, try new things, seek new information, and experiment to learn new things.

Abilities to have lots of ideas

The famous inventor Thomas Edison said that his “real measure of success” was “the number of experiments” he could crowd into one day. Rather than focusing on coming up with the “perfect idea” or invention, he produced and produced. Failed and iterated.  Waiting for inspiration can be the death of a projects’ momentum. Start with quantity, then curate.

Relationship building

In order to gain insights about your users and customers, you need to be genuine, confident, humble, trustworthy and positive with them.  One of the most profound experiences we have when we connect with others. This is something you need to know how.

Empathy

Empathy is one of the most important skills that you need to acquire. Empathy includes compassion but is a result of understanding where another person is coming from.  Strongly developed empathy skills begin with great listening skills. In order to truly listen, however, you have to engage in active listening.

 

If you have MVP, the minimum viable prowess, you are good to go.

All are not born with natural abilities in respect of MVP. These are skills like any other that can be learned and mastered if one recognizes the need and takes the time and some effort to develop them.

Why do you want to give shit about value proposition at an idea stage?

val prop

When a new wannabe founder is excitedly sharing his new business idea and how it is going to revolutionise the world, all goes well right through when he is talking about the problems his startup aims to solve.  Technology, product, target audience, and growth plans.

Then I hit the wall when he is asked a question: “What’s your value proposition for this target audience?”

And, he gives a blank look.

He either starts describing the pain point of the audience or starts listing out a few features of the product offering, as a response.

These things are not your value proposition.

Many founders don’t comprehend the exact meaning of value propositions, and their crucial importance to startups, particularly early stage ones.

What is a value proposition?

Essentially, the value proposition is the #1 thing that determines whether people will bother to invest more time and energy to know more about your product or hit the back button. In the early stage of a start-up when you are not yet known popularly, it becomes even more critical that you have a better value proposition.

“Unique Value Proposition: A single, clear compelling message that states why you are different and worth buying.”

– Steve Blank, The Four Steps to the Epiphany

Value proposition & lean canvas

If you are familiar with lean business model canvas by Ash Maurya, the value proposition is one of the 9 blocks of a business model that you sketch when you get started to put your idea onto a paper.  It is one of the most important elements of the business model and therefore critical for start-ups to get it right, or at least note what your hunch is about the value proposition is, right from the time you write your first canvas.

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The good news is you don’t have to get this perfect right away. Like everything on the business model canvas, you start with the best guess and then iterate from there.  The point is, you cant ford to put it blank for a long time and you better know sooner what you want to fill it with.

Why does it matter to you?

There are several benefits of (or reasons as to why) as to why you should give a shit to the articulated value proposition, right when you are working on your first few lean canvases and here are some, not necessarily in the order of importance.

An idea in your head alone is not great!

As an entrepreneur, one of the most important tasks you are required to perform in the early days is getting your idea(s) out from your head into a tangible format so that you can communicate that with others.  What will your startup do? Who will it serve, and how will you be different or unique? You need to answer these are questions clearly, effectively and quickly. If not, target audiences (prospects, partners, investors, and media) move on because they’re time-strapped.

It is the core of your business model

Your value proposition is like the CORE of your business. It defines to the customer, exactly what solution you can provide for the problem they have, what makes your solution better than other available options and what value do they get out of this product from you.  At its core, it is the reason for your startup’s existence.  If this is so the core of what you intend to do, it is critical that you have as much clarity about is as possible, sooner than later.

Reason for charging what you get paid by customers

A more scientific description is that value proposition is ‘the promise of value that will be delivered to your customer’. A value proposition defines the benefits your company’s products and services offer to the customer. This short statement, based on your business concept statement, should express the essence of your business in a way that compels the customer to buy.

Clarity to yourself

It helps you because it keeps you, the entrepreneur, in check, so that you always keep in mind exactly what goals you hope to achieve while making your product offering. And hence you don’t veer off your course and you easily your targets.  Value propositions can also serve as the basis for your product development strategy.

Direct connect with customers

Value proposition enables prospects to see what you are up to and if it resonates well with their life situation and pains or aspirations, they connect with you. They get that you empathise with them and care about them. They are willing to think that you can possibly build something that will solve their problem if you understand their pain so well.

Allows customers to choose you against other alternatives

It gives a reason to be chosen over your competitors. It creates a strong differentiation between you and your competitors.  Your value proposition delivers a synopsis of what you are offering to customers and why they should choose it.

You are able to attract right customers

It increases not only the probability of quantity and also the quality of prospective leads. If your value proposition is clear and strong it would attract the right profile of customers so you are able to derive relevant learning from your experiments when you test the value proposition.

More conviction

The biggest benefit you get from understanding your value proposition is a strengthened belief in your own offering.  If you truly understand the value you bring to customers from a business perspective, you’ll work harder.

Presentations to investors

Whenever you have an opportunity to tell your potential investors about your start-up, your value proposition is an essential part of the package that you will have to explain the whole game plan quickly and clearly.

Attract partners

This will come into play when you want to get partners and attract key employees.  The sooner you have clarity on your value proposition (or a hunch about it), the easier it would be for you to visualise what kind of partnerships you want to target.

Summing up

Value propositions play an integral role in defining your startup’s purpose and validating ideas among your target audience. Directly correlating with the business plan, they quantify the intended market position of your startup and demonstrate the fundamental value of your product offerings in the mind of your target audience.

The inability to communicate your purpose and value to your target audience, in a clear and concise manner, is a death sentence for even the best ideas. Often times, it is one of the root causes in the failure startups.

Ensure you are not one of them and give a shit to value proposition from today!

6 Reasons you didn’t cross paths with early adopter by choice

hard.jpg

 

While it is fairly straightforward that you need early adopters to build a new product successfully, it’s also usually true that founders find it hard to seek them and work with them.

Existence of problem

Before we get into that, let’s just recap few things and set a context to understand the situation in which a start-up founder is when he or she is building a new product.

Start-up is a stage in the process of turning a business idea into an established real company and a ‘start-up’ is a company that is confused about – what its product is? Who its customers are? How to make money?

We start with assumptions about everything, to begin with.

The more early you start to get a sense for theories against reality, the safer you are.

With an incredible fit between you and your early adopters, they play a crucial role in speeding up this process of clarity before your resources are exhausted.

Early adopters optimise your efforts.

If you want to build a new business, you need to cross the paths with your early adopters, not by chance but by choice.

And yet, in practice, we see many founders do not do this.

Why?

There are 6 reasons for this.

Reason # 1 – Better mousetrap fallacy

Even founders who believe in lean startup methods tend to fall into it. The “better mousetrap fallacy” is the mistaken belief that a superior product will automatically generate customers. It is easy for start-up founders to get blinded by their new product as they are working hard to build.

And, it is this fallacy that some founders tend to not give much attention to working on getting early adopters.

Reason # 2 – Trying to scale early

Premature scaling is “spending money beyond the essentials on growing the business before nailing the product/market fit.”  Or, spending resources on mass marketing much before you know what solution might work for sure.

Why does this happen?

  • We like the very idea of a big number of users.
  • We don’t like engaging with users individually because it’s hard and demoralizing to be rejected.
  • We are shy and feel lazy to recruit users individually,

Most of the successful startups started from a handful number of users or early adopters and in the beginning, did many things that don’t scale.

Reason # 3 – Mistaken identity

Some users sign up for a variety of reasons (other than the consideration of their pain point), though they may not be having an urgency to solve the problem that you are trying to solve. And, for the reasons that they signed up early, you mistake them for being early adopters.

What is the problem with this?

  • If the users who signed up are not desperate to find solutions, there is less likelihood of an active usage of your product or them buying it.
  • And until users start using your product actively, you will not get any feedback about its usefulness.

Reason # 4 – At loss with them

We don’t know where to find them and we don’t know how to reach out to them. We don’t know how to get them on board. We don’t know how to engage with them.

It is not a rocket science that you cannot learn.  The key to doing it right is to treat each individual user as a human and not as something that adds to the numbers.

Reason # 5 – Pitching urge

In an early product building phase, learning is more critical than pitching.  But many times, we give a miss to this.

Why?

  • We come under pressure from targets.
  • It is very hard to resist the temptation to pitch or sell our product or idea and in the process, we tend to forget “learning” as the core objective of customer discovery.
  • We tend to not care to learn about prospects; it’s just so much easy to focus on product and technology instead.

When you are in a “pitching” mode, you are looking for as many sale opportunities as possible and when you are in a “learning” mode, you are looking for conversation opportunity.

Reason # 6 – Avoiding unsexy stuff

There is a hard work involved in locating prospects to be approached for customer discovery and at times it is hard to reach out to them and convince them to spare time for us.

The whole process is time-consuming. It would take the focus away from product development, design and sales.

If you don’t do what is needed to reach your early adopters, you will never be able to reach them.

The double benefit of seeking them

  • You acquire active users

  • You define your product

The inaction is doubly dangerous

  • You fail to grow.

  • You remain in denial about your product’s lameness.

You make a choice!

 

Take away from this article

  1. How much ever it may sound hard, it is important to overcome all those reasons that you find keeping you away from early adopters.
  2. And the good news is that all of those reasons can be worked upon and overcome if you want to.
  3. Life is too short to build something that no one wants. Find your early adopters today!

 

Christopher Columbus and his business plan

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Christopher Columbus’s entrepreneurial journey offers lessons for anyone trying to innovate today. Let’s just have a look at his story from an entrepreneurial perspective.

At the end of the 15th century, it was nearly impossible to reach Asia from Europe by land. The route was long and arduous, and encounters with hostile armies were difficult to avoid. Portuguese explorers solved this problem by taking to the sea: They sailed south along the West African coast and around the Cape of Good Hope.

But Columbus had a different idea: Why not sail west across the Atlantic instead of around the massive African continent?

220px-Portrait_of_a_Man,_Said_to_be_Christopher_Columbus

Columbus approached many officials in Portugal and England with his business plan for some time, and eventually in 1491 that he found a willing investor: Spanish monarchs Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile.

Just like most entrepreneurs, Columbus’s business plan underestimated the length of the voyage. He thought the long trip was 3,700 km, when it was twice that. And costs and dangers weren’t linear as the problem was food supply.

He also didn’t find a better route to India, as was a part of his business plan nor any spices. But he did find America.

The crux of the story: Don’t be that Christopher Columbus when it comes to creating a business plan.

Because, your business plan will not sail, when you set out into the unknown waters.

Business plan, a traditional tool that is used for business planning when a new business is conceived, is no more relevant.

What’s wrong with a business plan?

No current situation

A business plan typically includes a past data on the market to justify the market opportunity. And it includes a 5 year forecast on how things are assumed to go once you launch your business. But, there is no focus on current situation.

Makes you believe in your hunches

When you write a big business plan, the whole process starts you to get into believing in what you write there as truth. You lose sight of the fact that most of the things you write there are your hunches and not absolute data. This has two effects – one, you tend to follow an incorrect path and two, you lose a perspective on risk factors in your plans.

All fiction

A start-up is a stage in the process of turning a business idea into an established real company and a ‘start-up’ is a company that is confused about — what its product is? Who its customers are? How to make money? We start with assumptions about almost everything, to begin with. The questions “where will you be in 5 years?’ don’t have any meaning, because, in the early days, there is very little certainty about where a startup is going. A business plan dwelling upon a 5 year forecast is a fiction story.

No business plan survives first contact with the real world

You spend 4 months writing a 60-page plan with 12 pages of spreadsheets. You collect information that justified your assumptions about the problem, opportunity, market size, solution and competitors and more. You make a 5-year sales forecast with assumptions about their revenue model, pricing, sales, marketing, customer acquisition cost, etc. The problem is that when you get out of the building talking to potential customers and users, you realize that at least 1/2 of their key assumptions in their wonderfully well-crafted business plan were wrong.

So, what’s the message you get here?

If you are starting up, and when your business idea is essentially a bundle of hunches that you have about the customers, solution, price, and most of everything else; writing a business plan is a waste of your time.