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Showing posts from July, 2015

Opt for Scope Rather Than Quality

Given deadlines, budgets, and other limitations, entrepreneurs should opt to trim the scope of a product/ feature list over sacrificing quality. Of course, if entrepreneurs are truly building an MVP, there won’t be too much room to trim.
In cases I’ve alluded to in my previous posts, many startups and wantrepreneurs make the mistake of jam-packing version 1.0 with several features without giving much attention to quality.
Having started a development shop recently with a couple previous partners, we must manage expectations. Many clients ask for feature-filled products from the get-go. We’ll provide them our thoughts on a more lean approach, but also give them what they asked for. Unsurprisingly, many companies and wantrepreneurs are sticker-shocked… some naivety to the technology and development world, many believe coding/ programming is simple and can be done cheaply.
With a budget half of our estimate, many still ask to fit all the features in believing they can sacrifice some …

Funding + Contractors = Unrealistic Expectations = Cutting Corners?

Working with several startups over the last couple years, I’ve noticed a recurring theme with well-funded companies using third-party contractors – that is, many sacrifice quality in favor of urgency to deliver a more feature-rich product oftentimes by cutting corners.
That is, startups aim for seemingly arbitrary dates to deliver a product, forgoing things like customer discovery or shifting responsibilities to contractors. In some cases, contractors have not worked in the startup environment or are bought into the business to make the best decisions. I believe the “business” should define what the user flow (experience) should look like with input by a UI/ UX designer. Except in one project, the business shifted user flows to the UI/ UX designer. Being an outside resource without the experience of the business, the designer was left to insert his own vision. So when designs were up for approval, the business owners threw up all over them. Why? Because the designs didn’t match their …

We Built an Awesome Feature No One Ever Got Use

I wish we had tracked user engagement better with Body Boss; though, I knew where coaches were getting stuck and why they weren’t experiencing the value of what we built. I have a list of 85 schools who trialed Body Boss within 14 months, but only converted 16%. To boost conversion, we added features… Whoops!
We built several features that did lead to conversions and got us closer to product-market fit. That is, we built critical workout features that coaches needed. However, we also added features that didn’t lead to conversions like Pods – ability to track multiple player workouts with a single device vs. a one player, one device before. Coaches were really impressed with Pods and it led to several trials, but not to conversions.


Why didn’t Pods or other great features not lead to conversions? Simple – the coaches never got to the point to use Pods.
What we built and why we built, is what entrepreneur Joshua Porter calls the "Next Feature Fallacy" (see: The Next Feature …

Downward Trends of MVPs

At Body Boss, we built features on feedback that coaches would buy and be more engaged, but we didn’t see upticks in conversions once features were built. Instead, sometimes, the best customer discovery occurs when you’re actually testing an MVP – minimum viable product.
I’ve been working with several startups since Body Boss and each claim to be building an “MVP”. But instead, they’ve overbuilt their products adding complexity in features and user experience. From these “MVPs”, I’ve noticed common trends leading to poor adoption and significant rework: Developing an MVP in silo. By nature, entrepreneurs believe they know the “right way” to address a problem, so they starting building their vision. However, the right way may only address the problem for a few versus a mass market. Building an MVP alongside customer-partners from the beginning mitigates risks of missing bigger opportunities or building unwanted features.Inability to adapt hypotheses and approach. Entrepreneurs can be e…

After Zombification, I Had to Tell Our Customers We Were Shutting Down

Recently, I had the displeasure of telling our Body Boss customers we were shutting down August 31st. I’ve been dreading these calls since we zombified Body Boss as of April last year – see 21 Lessons from Failure and Moving On.
Thoughts on zombification and the calls… Zombification allowed the team to showcase as a portfolio piece for other opportunities. Though not a “success” like Facebook or Uber, Body Boss was a success in many other ways. Don Pottinger and Darren Pottinger are leading amazing startups today while Andrew Reifman is growing an impressive client portfolio with beautiful UI/ UX.Zombification delays the inevitable. When you are no longer working on your product or business, the market will let you go like you did.Little issues become big annoyances. During zombification, we all transitioned to other opportunities. However when bugs came up, they took time to reorient ourselves back to the code.Be honest. My voice was noticeably trembling on every call. But given our …

Two Top Lessons from an Entrepreneur Whose Startup Is On a Tear

I met one of the co-founders of a Chattanooga-based startup recently whose company is on a growth TEAR. The company launched two years ago, and have grown to 65 full-timers and 30 part-timers with annual revenues approaching $10MM. Two years… yowza!
With such fast growth, I was curious what were his top lessons and tips he’s learned. Naturally, I asked… Treat supply and demand the same. The startup follows a model more recently popularized by Uber – that is, they hire providers to perform a service, and they sell the service to customers. Thus, the startup actually has two markets to address. Most people understand that brands must focus on customer experience, but with their model (and like Uber’s), they must also focus on the service providers. The service providers are an extension of their brand, and thus, it’s important to ensure the service providers are taken care of and heard from.Clearly establish roles at the beginning (amongst the founders). I surmise there might have been …

Customer Discovery -- Verbal vs. Digital Survey

I received a question in response to last week’s post on Customer Discovery Surveys. @TheDLu What's your thought on split of digital vs verbal? There's a LOT of value in in-person, but difficult to scale — David Vandegrift (@DavidVandegrift) July 3, 2015 Fantastic question. My response:
@DavidVandegrift Great question! One I should tackle the next post, but in short, I'd say, "It depends". #consultantAnswer. It's about... — Daryl Lu (@TheDLu) July 3, 2015 Digital surveys (SurveyMonkey, Google Apps, etc.) can be easily scaled and sent to a wide-range of audiences. Whereas, verbal surveys can be time intensive and expensive to scale – scheduling, logistics, etc.


As Don Pottinger, CTO of Kevy, points out, however: “[actual] conversations tend to go unexpected places and reap unexpected insights...something that is harder to do [with] digital.”

Assuming you get in front of the audience, thoughts on digital vs. verbal:
Depends on Phase of Customer Discovery. At the b…

I'm Tired of Faking It, But I Want This War

I wanted to write a post today about a question I received on Twitter in regards to Friday's post on Customer Discovery surveys. However, it'll take a bit more energy, and to be honest, I'm exhausted. I have no topic in mind, but it's 8:46AM and I want to be consistent in pushing out a blog post today. So, this will likely be more of a "personal" post.

I've been chasing this entrepreneurial dream for several years now, pivoting on ideas, starting new ones, meeting boatloads of people, and I really start to realize how this is all part of a marathon of sprints.

I'm exhausted to the point where I'm so tired I'm actually dry-heaving. Yet, I push myself to get up after a few hours of "sleep" to get to the gym. Maybe I could delay that trip, but to me, it's the challenge. Perhaps because certain people expect me to be there anyways. Perhaps because I expect myself to be there despite it all. But it's all good to get some exercise …

Customer Discovery Surveys… Get Your Objectives Right and Flow On

When I do customer discovery with surveys, I cover a wide range of topics. Oftentimes, I don’t have the luxury of going back to survey respondents. However, even with many objectives, I must be concise lest respondents abandon the survey.
Some objectives and flow of a survey: #1 objective: test hypotheses/ idea. Be focused on the idea and how ancillary questions are related. Don't bake into the survey multiple ideas.Know the customer or find out who they are. If I don't have background info of the respondents available, I ask about their backgrounds (occupation, responsibilities, etc.).Understand the customer --> plan the product roadmap. At the beginning, I don't say anything about the idea. Instead, I broadly ask for the respondent’s processes and pain points. If the initial hypothesis is false, then the user may share the real problem (first pivot!). I progressively get more specific to the pain point.Any existing solutions today? That is, are respondents using a kn…