Product market Fit

Innovators-in-Residence Program comes to McMaster University

mcmasterThe SearchLite had the privilege of being invited to McMaster University to conduct an Innovators-in-Residence Workshop on March 3rd, 2016.   The invitation was extended by the Graduate Student Life Team, part of the School of Graduate Studies.   This event was made possible by a connection between Scott Phillips from The SearchLite and Catherine Maybrey from McMaster University back in 2014 when Catherine hosted a “CV to Resume Webinar” on behalf of The SearchLite.

maybreyCatherine began her career with dreams of the tenure track, and along the way discovered something much better – the ability to take the best of what she loves about academia and to apply it in practice helping others. Her approach to career development is grounded in labour market research, hiring practices, and innovative use of technology to make service available to all graduate students on their timetable.  She previously served as the Alumni Career Coach, where she advanced services for graduate students including workshops and videos on Transforming Your CV to a Resume, The Academic Job Search, The Non-Academic Job Search, Transferable Skills, and Graduate Student Boot Camp.

IMG_0984The Innovators-in Residence (IIR) program is a community-based learning platform. The IIR program provides a unique opportunity for Ph.D. graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from all academic disciplines to gain experience in innovation commercialization, acquire insights into market risk assessment and build relationships with leaders in industry while trying to solve real-world problems.

ThIMG_0987e McMaster University Graduate Students who participated in the workshop learned about the principles of Product-Market Fit and Value Proposition Design through live engagement in case studies which represent real Market Discovery Challenges recently completed by The SearchLite. Value Proposition Design is one of the 2016-03-03 10.41.01most critical skill sets needed to be a successful inventor or entrepreneur and a key element of the Lean Startup Process and Business Model Generation. Understanding Value Proposition Design will also be a valuable skill for academics in transition to industry with interest in various aspects of Corporate R&D, Engineering, Product Management or Marketing.

IMG_0988Students broke down into teams and were assigned a case study. Their assignment was to  identify the best -Product-Market Fit given the Value Proposition for a particular invention.  Inventions included (1) Portable Ammonemia Detector (Stanford University) – A low cost, portable, simple-to-use device designed to rapidly detect elevated ammonia in a drop of blood; (2) Rapid Decoupling & 2016-03-03 11.04.39Isolation (Oakland University) – Concept with ability to sense a sudden event and rapidly decouple load-bearing, structural joints in order to isolate occupants from the shock of the event; (3) Mobile Power Generation (Diversified Solar) – Hybrid solar system for mobile stand alone and grid-tied solar-based power generation and other inventions.

The teams all did an amazing job.  With no background on the principles of lean startup and only one hour to study their inventions, they all presented to a mock group of venture capitalists at the conclusion.  It was amazing how they were all able leverage the individual strengths, skills and experiences of their individual team members.  After the presentations, Scott had a chance to have lunch and visit with the students to learn more about their future plans and answer questions about The SearchLite and the Innovators-in-Residence Program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Customer Development for Start-Ups … “Where am I?”

Over the last year, The SearchLite has conducted over 40 Market Discovery Challenges for university technology transfer offices (TTOs), Angel Investors and Business Incubators on behalf of inventors and startups. Market Discovery Challenges are designed to help identify “Who Cares and Why” about a new technology or solution. The idea is to use 62519cab-9630-487d-8f73-26e09dcbd419.jpgCustomer Discovery Interviews and other tools to validate or invalidate key hypothesis about Value Propositions, Customer Segments, Product-Market Fit and other key aspects of the business model that a new venture is pursuing.

The primary framework, which serves as the foundation for The SearchLite’s Market Discovery Challenge, is “Lean Startup” and, more specifically, the Customer Development Process. The four primary disciples of Lean Startup over recent history are Geoffrey Moore, Steve Blank, Eric Ries and Alex Osterwalder.   While there are many other thought leaders on the Lean Startup Subject, these four have laid the primary foundation with hbrCrossing the Chasm (Geoffrey Moore), Customer Development (Steve Blank), Agile Development (Eric Ries) and Business Model Generation/Value Proposition Design (Alex Osterwalder). The HBR article from May, 2013 by Steve Blank – “Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything”, is a good place to start for those unfamiliar with these concepts.

 

custdevFor The SearchLite, one of biggest challenges we encounter on almost every Market Discovery Challenge is understanding “Where the Start-up Is” as a starting point.   Inevitably, each inventor or entrepreneur tends to believe his or her technology, solution or startup is further along the Customer Development Process than it really is.   Two of the key outcomes of the early phases of Customer Development are “Problem-Solution Fit” (Customer Discovery) and Product-Market Fit (Customer Validation). Almost without exception, Start-Ups are trying to execute Customer Creation or Company Building without ever having achieved Product-Market Fit.  They may be trying to do Company Building when they should be focused on Customer Creation. Start-Ups focused on Customer Creation often should step back one or two steps back to Customer Discover or Customer Validation.

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In one example, The SearchLite recently worked with a university spinout that had developed wireless monitoring and control technology which was early stage in development and broad in terms of potential market application.   This situation was most suited for Customer Discovery, but the Start-Up Team felt that they already had identified their best-fit customer and wanted to focus on Customer Validation. As a result, the Market Discovery Challenge was focused narrowly on validating interest in the technology only from Plant Managers at OEM Stamping Plants in the Automotive Industry. The results of the Customer Discovery Interviews indicated that the industry, application and customer type were all overly constrained and that there was little interest from this customer in this technology. This was a classic case of confirmation bias on the part of the Start-Up Team.

2ndstageRecently, The SearchLite has been working with some post-revenue, Second-Stage Companies in addition to Start-Ups. In many cases, the introduction has come from digital marketing agencies who have been brought in to help the Second-Stage Company to grow sales via marketing automation platforms. In the context of Steve Blank’s Customer Development Process, Marketing Automation is synonymous with Customer Creation. Marketing Automation is a fast growing software category with players such as Hubspot, SharpSpring, Infusionsoft, Marketo and Act-On. In the course of investigating the Second-Stage Company’s current marketing tactics including their website analytics, the digital marketing agency often finds that the Second-Stage Company, while able to sustain a minimal level of sale, is not able to scale because they never truly understood the best-fit beachhead customer, their persona, jobs-to-be-done or pains & gains in enough granularity to automate the sales funnel.

customer-development-funnel3-1024x605In their recent publication – “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development”, Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits discuss the application of a Proposed Funnel during Customer Discovery and a Sales & Marketing Roadmap during Customer Validation. A funnel represents each step a prospect goes through, from blissful ignorance to happy customer, or from Internet “Googler” to satisfied user.   The main point is that it is never too early in the Customer Development Process to begin to not only identify the target beachhead customer, but also to use the Customer Discovery Interview Process to identify their buying process. This helps to get in front of Customer Creation when it is time to activate marketing automation platforms.

searchliteAs a result of this insight, The SearchLite has modified our Customer Discovery Interview Guide and other elements of our toolkit to help our inventor or Start-Up clients get ready to scale even as they conduct their early stage customer discovery and business model validation. If you would like more information about The SearchLite or our Market Discovery Challenges, please visit TheSearchLite.com or contact Scott Phillips at sphillips@thesearchlite.com / (734) 787-7509.

I-Corps 2015 – Next Energy and University of Michigan Team Up

I-Corps-Web-HeaderLast week, Visha Krishnan and Scott Phillips from The SearchLite had the opportunity to participate as Industry Mentors to a startup team at the I-Corps Energy & Transportation Training Program held at Next Energy in Detroit, MI.  This is the second year of this event.  Due to it’s success, this year the program was sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), Clean Eenrgy Trust, Midwest Energ Accelerator and Pure Michigan.   The program is based on evidence-based entrepreneurship which is the same principles which The SearchLite’s Market Discovery Challenges.

I-Corps™ Energy and Transportation is a customized curriculum to help teams of participating researchers discover the commercial potential of their technology, build a business model, and garner insights from leaders in the energy and transportation industries.  This is the second year in a row that Next Energy has teamed up with the CFE I-Corps Program, a program offered by the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship.  CFE I-Corps is a region-wide program designed to foster, grow and nurture an innovation ecosystem. Through partnerships between the National Science Foundation (NSF), Michigan universities, Midwestern universities, Michigan SmartZones, and venture capital and entrepreneurial communities, the program has created an opportunity for teams throughout the state and region to turn technology into commercial opportunities.

 

I-Corps 1Jonathan Fay,  Clay Phillips and Dan Radomski led the Trasportation Track of the I-Corps Program.  As the primary instructors, they gave constant feedback to the teams regarding their value propositions, target customers and other aspects of their business model hypothesis.


logoVisha, Scott and the The SearchLite had the privilege of working with Alternative Fuel Containers, LLC (AFC).  AFC
is developing Natural Gas storage tanks for a range of motor vehicles that will minimize refuelling time and maximize miles driven per tank. The AFC tank design uses MOF (metal organic framework) adsorbent to capture Natural Gas at the molecular level. This means an AFC tank will store an amount of fuel comparable to CNG technology but without the I-Corps 2limitations of tank shape, compression costs and safety concerns.  Visha and Scott enjoyed working closely with Dillon Fuerth and Joong Lee.  Dillon is the Business Unit Manager, is responsible for guiding the company from proof-of-concept to commercialization.  Joong is the Development Manager, is creating alternative natural gas tank systems using technologies developed by framergy Inc. and Texas A&M University.

 

 

 

Growth Hacking 101: Product Market Fit

Apostle Mengouis does a good job of connecting Product Market Fit Metrics with early stage Customer Discovery and the implications for cash burn.

He emphasizes the importance of keeping burn rate as low as possible while iterating towards achieving Product Market Fit. Some level of preliminary value proposition iteration and sign up flow optimization is necessary to establish some early traffic but then the focus should quickly shift towards measuring product/market fit before anything else. You typically know when you achieve product/market fit but metrics help you measure and hopefully get you there faster. Now that my preliminary value proposition, sign up flow, MVP, and early traffic channels are *mostly* in place, the next step will be optimizing for user gratification and putting metrics in place to measure product/market fit.

This is the 2nd part of the Growth Hacking 101 series. This article emphasizes on tools, techniques and hacks that Growth Hacking Marketers use excessively.

Source: growthrocks.com

December, 2014 – Newsletter

Headlines

  • MUST READ – Value Proposition Design
  • A “Purple Cow” in Fort Wayne – The Northeast Indian Innovation Center
  • New Innovators-in-Residence Join The SearchLite Community

Read more

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