As some of you may know, TaskRabbit launched a new business model on April 1st, 2012: Puppies-as-a-Service
Although they chose not to continue down that path, I think it’s a fabulous idea and it’ll make a great example to use with our new Business Model Canvas.
(Note: For those not familiar with US traditions, April 1st is also known as April Fools’ Day and it generally involves a lot of silliness.)
(UPDATE: Truth is stranger than fiction and there are no new ideas, Suzanne McElwee points out there there is a pet rental service in New York.)
Puppies are highly social and adorable animals, a leading source of uncontrollable joy and delight, with a cuddle presence on all seven continents.
I couldn’t agree more. While I’d love to have a dog, it’s a lot of effort and I don’t have room in my tiny San Francisco box apartment. If I could just rent a puppy for rainy days I’d probably be much less of a jerk and the world would be a better place.
But how can I make this vision come true? Let me start by laying it out with the Business Model Canvas.
(Note: The Business Model Canvas I use here is my own variation that I’ve even adjusted since some valid criticism last week by Erich von Hauske in the comments. But this example will still work with the original Business Model Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder. So use whatever you’re comfortable with.)
Find a Wall
First thing I need to do is prep my workspace.
I’m 6’4″ and I like UX so I’m going to do what any UX person would do and break out the masking tape and sticky notes so I can work in a highly visible way with an information radiator. My goal is that any new employee working to make the awesomeness of puppies available to everyone will be able to walk into my office and understand the business model at a glance.
So I’ve picked a nice big chunk of wall and sketched the Business Model Canvas with masking tape:
(Note: I work directly on the wall with sticky notes, but since I’m photography challenged the following illustrations are digitally manufactured.)
Now I’ve got the skeleton up and I’m ready to put my grand vision down.
Looking at my canvas from left to right I’m reminded that I need to start with the…
Obviously everyone in the world will want to rent a puppy, but that’s not going to help me get my first customer. I need to focus on a customer persona. Specifically, I want to know, “Who will camp out overnight to be the first person in line to rent a puppy?”
The first person in line is an early adopter and evangelist. Mine looks like this:
If you haven’t seen this before and you’d like a complete breakdown on how (and why) to make one, click here to tweet @ me.
A few things to note:
First, Zeek has a name! That will serve as a verbal shorthand so that when I’m talking with my team I can talk about Zeek and not just “a user” where we all mean different things by “user.”
Second, Zeek has a face. The picture will serve a mnemonic so everyone in my team can remember who he is.
Third, Zeek is not a great guy. He does heroin to unwind and kicks kittens.
You may not think this is a great early adopter for Puppies-as-a-Service, but I think the world will be a better place if Zeek gets in touch with his inner cuddle monster and gives up heroin in favor of a puppy time out. So I’m sticking with him for my early adopter.
I’ve gone straight back to my LUXr training here and done 6-Ups Uses using the prompt, “What can Zeek do with Puppies-as-a-Service?” This took about five minutes and I have six ideas on what value Zeek might get out of PaaS.
After doing a quick consensus vote with my team (ego, id, and super-ego) I’ve decided to focus on just three critical issues for Zeek.
My two big ones are pretty similar, “be happy” and “stop being angry.” Although they’re slightly different flavors in terms of emotive resonance, they’re a bit too broad, so I’m going to eliminate those.
A more concrete value proposition is that Zeek really needs to get off heroin and that’s top of my priorities. After all, I’m in this puppy business to help people and make the world a better place!If I don’t have respect and sympathy for my customer, I deserve to fail.
However, since Zeek is an addict, he doesn’t want to kick heroin. That means although I think Zeek has a serious problem, so far as Zeek is concerned, that problem doesn’t exist. Zeek does however have a real desire to get laid. So that’ll be Use #1.When Zeek knows he has a problem, it’s much easier value proposition to communicate and a cheaper marketing campaign to run.
Next, I’m going to include “No poop!” because Zeek just can’t deal with it. (I concur.)
Finally I’m going to keep “Stop hating kittens” because Zeek’s cat kicking habit is going to put off a lot of the ladies that Zeek wants to attract with his rented puppy.
If you need a more detailed post on 6 Ups, click here to tweet @ me.
Now I’ve finally got something to start filling in my Business Model Canvas. We’ll put the visual mnemonic from the persona and my three uses onto sticky notes and put them in their rightful places:
Next I should really think about how I’m going to get my first feedback from the customer so I need to fill in…
What if puppy nappers (that is to say, people who steal puppies, not puppies who are inclined to snoozing) steal the pup? What if a puppy springs a leak? How will Zeek get support for his puppy?
First thing to do is a 30 second brain dump using my favorite UX tool, the sticky note! Now I’ve got four ideas about how I could start with my customer Relationship and provide Customer Support.
Osterwalder notes that I can give the customer a self-service relationship which would greatly reduce my long term costs. That’s my preference for this business model, but I don’t need to sketch out that whole vision here.
The Think-Make-Check (or Build-Measure-Learn if you prefer) cycle (along with the left to right nature of reading) reminds me that the customer relationship is value that the customer provides to my business.
I desperately need feedback from the customer.
While I’m absolutely certain that everyone in the world is going to want to rent a puppy and that I’ll be bigger than Facebook, I should remain skeptical. I need to believe in my vision but question my strategy and tactics at every step.
Feedback from the customer will allow me to understand if my value proposition has hit the mark or if my customer persona is really accurate, so I’m going to scrap the self-service option for the moment. Customer forums seem like a whole lot to build right now and pet stores will be expensive (and distance me from the customer) so I’m going to have a direct phone number to a support desk for instant puppy support.
Next up, how am I going to get my puppies to Zeek? Another quick 30 second brain dump is in order.
Now I’ve got 6 possibilities with a clear winner: Pet stores!
Why pet stores? From my customer persona I can see that Zeek “pushes face against pet store glass.”
So a pet store is probably a great sales channel for me. When I see Zeek (or someone who is close enough) with his nose up against the glass I can try and rent them a puppy.
Unfortunately, some quick customer development with the pet store reveals that pet store owners think that puppy rentals will cannibalize their puppy sales. So this is out of the question. Fortunately, Leah’s original TaskRabbit post is the key inspiration here:
TaskRabbit’s new fleet of pedicabs… have been retrofitted as puppy delivery vehicles
Great! I’m going to use my fleet of pedicabs to loiter outside pet stores and directly rent my puppies to Zeek. That way when the store owner comes out with a baseball bat, the superior speed of the pedicab will allow me and my sales force to beat a hasty retreat.
Now with the primary product / market fit quadrant filled out, my canvas looks like this…
Minimum Viable Product
I’m not done with the canvas, but I’ve already got a pretty good idea of what to build for my MVP. The three Uses in my Value Proposition will drive the bulk of what I need to build.
Clearly I’m going to have to get a puppy to Zeek so he can pick up girls outside somewhere. That’s one feature and I’m only going to need one puppy to start with. With a little luck, I can borrow one to get going. Worst case scenario, I’ll head to the pound.
Feature #2 is going to have to be some sort of poop management service. I can probably concierge test this and run after Zeek with a pooper scooper if it’s an issue.
My last Use isn’t going to generate any more features because my guess/hypothesis is that when Zeek gets to the park with his rent-a-pup he’s not going to have to worry about stray cats in need of a swift kick. Cats don’t really hang out in the park and my hope is that Zeek will also be distracted by all the new lady attention. So that’s a bonus.
That’s not all though. A Minimum Viable Product without a channel to reach the customer is a Maximum Waste of Time.
In addition, I’ll need the Relationship to provide Support and for me to complete the Think-Make-Check (or Build-Measure-Learn) cycle so I’ll also rent one pedicab to do my first direct sales from the back. I’ll keep my mobile phone number on the puppy collar for the support desk so that Zeek can call and the pedicab can rush me to an “emergency cleanup.”
There’s a lot more to do, but after that rigorous 30 minutes of work (in BMC time, not writing time) I’m ready to take a break. When you’re ready…read on to part two of the Business Model Canvas for Puppies-as-a-Service.
So…what should I post next? Tweet to tell me what to write:Show me how to test product market fit!
orHow can I do lean startup in my friggin' huge company?