Arguably the #1 customer discovery how-to guide is the book Talking To Humans. Here is a jem:
One aspiring entrepreneur wanted to target mothers of young children. She had heard stories about talking to people in a coffee shop, but felt like it was too unfocused. So she tried hanging around school pickup zones, but the moms were too busy and refused to speak to her. Next, she tried the playground, where she figured moms would be bored watching their kids play. This worked reasonably well, but she was only able to get a few minutes of anyone’s time. So instead, she started organizing evening events for moms at a local spa where she bought them pedicures and wine. The time of day worked because the moms could leave the kids at home with their partner. The attendees had a great time and were happy to talk while they were getting their nails done. —
At this year’s Grinspoon, Garvey & Young [Collegiate] Entrepreneurship Conference hundreds of students participated in an “Idea Madness” event to motivate them to Get Started. Imagine a room with row upon row of circular tables, each one has a student pitching their table-mates as a giant countdown clock ticked down. When the time was up the next person at the table pitched. The air in the room was charged with excitement and nervousness as everyone at every table had pitched. Prizes were handed out, but most importantly, everyone got some public speaking experience, learned that coming up with ideas isn’t the hard part, and maybe got a jolt to check out this entrepreneurship thing :).
The whole event was made possible because of the leadership of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the incredible help of the faculty at all 14 colleges in the Pioneer Valley. The region is incredibly fortunate to have so many people passionate about helping the entrepreneurs of tomorrow!
Some more photos are below. You can see all the photos the foundation kindly paid for here.
This summer I had the pleasure of facilitating the 2019 Energy (CleanTech) cohort for the AccelVT accelerator in Burlington, VT. At last week’s graduation they showed one of the critical differentiators between their accelerator and most others: funded pilots with utilities.
Most CleanTech companies need to interface with local utilities in order to deliver their innovations to the world. Utilities are usually extremely cautious, deliberate, and methodical – great things for organizations dealing with high voltage safely! However, that same culture is usually far too slow for startup-paced innovation.
AccelVT built a network of utilities and similar entities that didn’t only write checks and show up to share advice… no, they did the hard work to figure out how to run real pilots to put the startup’s innovations to work making VT’s climate greener and safer. The graduates had tried working with utilities (elsewhere) before and left frustrated. But in this program they were “blown away at how ready AccelVT’s sponsors were to find ways to Make It Work.”
The Burlington Electric Department and Green Mountain Power provided four funded pilots at graduation. My conversations with the graduating startups showed that by the end of graduation night almost all of them had serious prospects at getting their own funded pilots with one or more of the many sponsors who attended the event.
I’ve never seen anything like it. AccelVT and their sponsors are making Vermont one of the best places in the country for CleanTech innovation. If you have a CleanTech startup, keep an eye on AccelVT and consider making a pilgrimage to beautiful Burlington to see if you can do business there. I’d be happy to introduce you.
Here are details on the fantastic startups I had the delight of teaching these past three months.
DCC is a hardware company supporting residential electric vehicle charging installations that are otherwise unattainable because of a limited power supply. With our device, EV owners now have a reliable solution if their panels are at full capacity or if they reside in a multi-unit dwelling. dccelectric.comQuebec
EVmatch is a mobile platform that allows EV drivers to find and reserve charging stations anywhere they go by enabling increased access to private charging stations. EVmatch reduces the stress in locating an available charger and immediately grows EV charging options by making private charging stations available to the public. www.evmatch.com/California
Go Together is a SaaS platform for people to get where they need to go through their trusted networks using apps to do end to end trip planning to meet, collaborate and schedule carpools, biking, walking, transit, and more. Go Together leverages technology and the power of trusted communities to innovate the way people get where they need and want to go whether it’s to and from school, to practice, a game or to vote. gotogether.today/home/ Washington, D.C.
iSun Energy develops robust, esthetic, smart and easy to install solar carport and canopy systems with proprietary hardware and software systems. iSun offers an attractive structure delivering shading and protection, while also feeding the local grid with renewable solar energy, and the ability to mate with smart energy management systems, such as EV charging. isunenergy.com/en/Quebec
Onboard Data is in the business of helping people make buildings better. We provide analytics software to service providers and facility managers that maintain our most frequented spaces: such as our offices, hospitals, and schools. Instead of chasing energy, maintenance and comfort problems, our customers can turn to our software to uncover issues before they turn into emergencies. Maintenance personnel can now save time and money while delighting their building owners and tenants. www.onboarddata.io/ Massachusetts
SomEV provides charging solutions for micro-mobility applications (e-scooters, e-bicyles, e-mopeds) by providing a network of Battery Swap Kiosks, that charge, store, and monitor battery packs. Using our proprietary kiosks, riders of micro-mobility have access to a swap-&-go battery system, thus providing a convenient and reliable way www.som-ev.com/Massachusetts
UAT developed a robust clamp for electrical wire management that reduces weight, improves safety, and simplifies maintenance through the use of Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. This patent pending ICC is unique because it avoids metallic installation hardware while greatly simplifying installation complexity, reducing installer fatigue, and minimizing associated repetitive strain injury. www.uairtek.com/ New York
I often talk about how startups are the ones out there saving the world. This summer I have the delight of facilitating the newest cohort of the AccelVT Accelerator. This accelerator focuses on “startup and/or seed stage ventures who offer new technologies, or novel applications of existing technologies, aimed at reducing fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions in the heating and/or transportation sector.”
It will be an honor to help these entrepreneurs as they boldly work to solve crazy-hard problems that could literally help save the world.
My thanks to my first mentor, Joseph Steig, for bringing me into this program!
This is an invite-only event for active & accredited investors to hear pitches from startups with a connection to Western Massachusetts. Startups get an optimized way to meet a room full of different investors, many with a strong interest in companies connected to the region. Investors get a first look at the startups, meet the founders, and network with other investors.
If you want to raise money now or in the near future, Western MA Demo Day puts you in a room full of people with money, who actively invest in companies like you, and who are keen to be helpful. And… there is no fee to apply or participate!
1) Segment to find your supporters and paint a picture of your high-expectation customers.
As an early-stage team, you could just narrow the market with preconceived notions of who you think the product is for, but that won’t teach you anything new. If you instead use the “very disappointed” group of survey respondents as a lens to narrow the market, the data can speak for itself — and you may even uncover different markets where your product resonates very strongly.
2) Analyze feedback to convert on-the-fence users into fanatics.
This batch of not disappointed users should not impact your product strategy in any way. They’ll request distracting features, present ill-fitting use cases and probably be very vocal, all before they churn out and leave you with a mangled, muddled roadmap. As surprising or painful as it may seem, don’t act on their feedback — it will lead you astray on your quest for product/market fit.
3) Build your roadmap by doubling down on what users love and addressing what holds others back.
To increase your product/market fit score, spend half your time doubling down on what users already love and the other half on addressing what’s holding others back.
4) Repeat the process and make the product/market fit score the most important metric.
The percent of users who answered “very disappointed” quickly became our most important number. It was our most highly visible metric, and we tracked it on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. To make this easier to measure over time, we built some custom tooling to constantly survey new users and update our aggregate numbers for each timeframe. We also refocused the product team, creating an OKR where the only key result was the very disappointed percentage so we could ensure that we continually increased our product/market fit.
Read the whole article and consider it an instruction manual. We certainly are at Launch413. My thanks to Rahul Vohra for taking the time to document this process and share it with the world.