Reverse Customer Development a.k.a. Thank God for Early Adopters

This week I was incredibly excited to be ambushed at Startup Waffles by a couple of users who told me how many things we needed to fix in order to make the site usable. All of the points were right on.

What thrilled me about the conversation with Ron and Eugene was that they were passionate enough about the concept of startupSQUARE to put up with all the problems and open enough to talk to me about it. I can’t stress enough how important the feedback we keep receiving is. Our site needs a commitment to feedback and constant improvement in order to be a great resource for entrepreneurs.

Alpha is better than Beta

Our alpha users are valuable. Without them, we’d spend months building features no one really wants based on nothing more than our own wild assumptions. The best thing we could have done for our site is to release it to as many early adopters as possible to get a broad range of feedback.

Choose Your Customers Wisely

By “as many as possible”, I don’t mean to just anyone.

I know that there are many advocates for having an open site as early as possible. In many cases that’s probably correct, particularly if you have a consumer product. We don’t.

Our customers are entrepreneurs and we’re not too interested in maybepreneurs.

A maybepreneur is an entrepreneur who might start a company if only they had more time. He/she could clearly strike it rich if he/she just had funding. A maybepreneur is someone who specializes in excuses rather than action.

It remains our mission is to increase the success rate of entrepreneurship, and we’d like to do that for everyone. Everyone out there can start a business and be successful. But that starts with the entrepreneur and their commitment to the process.

We can’t force people to become entrepreneurs.

As a result, anyone who comes off in our application as a tourist just looking around has to go to the back of the line for a while. Sorry!

We’ll open it up eventually to everyone, but right now we’re looking for dedicated entrepreneurs willing to share their ideas and their advice, not only with us, but with other users. We’re looking to build a community. That means sharing.

Selection Bias

This is going to give us a selection bias in our feedback. That’s clear. It’s a fine line between honing our demographic and only hearing what we want to hear. So we have to be very careful about not discarding negative feedback and claiming that it came from someone outside our target market.

We’re fortunate that our early adopters are the ones who are passionate enough to grab us by the collar if necessary and get us moving in the right direction when we go astray.

So thank you to Ron and Eugene for putting me in my place!

So…what should I post next? Tweet to tell me what to write:

Show me how to test product market fit!

or

How can I do lean startup in my friggin' huge company?

3 comments

  1. Interesting post Tristan, could not agree more on getting feedback early.

    We were thinking about this problem earlier with HandyElephant – as personal CRM, it is targeted to a certain group (Business Professionals), but as their individual solution. We finally went for diversity in users trying our tool, and also got very diverese feedback on where we should head.

    I found people from a similar group use a tool similarly and therefore focus on features into a similar direction – but one user, who has something completely different in mind, can open your horizon, point out much broader (or better) opportunities and so forth.

    At the end, we tried not to be too selective, but there is no direct interaction between people, so diversity does not interfere with our user experience (through our backend, it can actually enhance the experience).

    Look forward to see more from you guys, you are solving a big problem.

    Ben

  2. Great point Ben,

    Being open to new ideas without being overwhelmed by non-targeted noise seems to be key.

    Thanks for the encouragement! We’re making small steps every day.

    Cheers,
    Tristan

    P.S.: Looking at HandyElephant now, interesting idea. If it syncs with my address book I’m sold.

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