Entrepreneurship == Lewd Jokes + Product/Market Fit?

Saumil Mehta is the Founder of LocBox, in addition to being a Housekeeper, Frequent Complainer, Occasional Janitor and Producer of Egregious Software Engineering Bugs. He has never been referred to as a visionary founder internally or externally and is rather miffed about the same. He tried to bribe fellow partners in crime to refer to him as “Dear Leader” but experiment was safely declared unsuccessful.


I am a freshly minted entrepreneur. I am also a failed stand-up comedian. Much to my surprise, my year of telling lewd jokes on stage under lights – a financially unrewarding activity if ever there was one (unless you’re on Comedy Central or HBO) – has proved invaluable as I go from employee to entrepreneur. Today I’m here to tell you why.

Standup, you see, is as much about scratching a personal itch as anything else, self-preservation be damned. After all, what rational person would agree to spend 10 minutes on stage talking at a bunch of strangers swilling watered-down drinks? Would anyone sitting around calculating expected value of success of effort wait to do 3 minutes of standup at 12:30am on a Wednesday at Rudy’s in Palo Alto? It’s about as foolish as trading a great job and a cushy salary to understand the microeconomics of Brazilian Blowouts (guys, Google that first; it’s not what the Anthony Weiner-esque part of your mind thinks it is).

To put it simply, I’m doing LocBox because I can’t not do LocBox. I’m not successful (yet) but I don’t give a rat’s ass about the standard trappings of success (yet); any dimwit with half a brain can drive a BMW in Silicon Valley. But convincing a hair salon about the virtues of algorithmic ad optimization and campaign fill rates? It’s about the same as being heckled at Rudy’s.

Speaking of heckling and pushing through the brick wall – what matters in the end in standup is the same thing that matters in startups. Sheer, dogged, bring-me-to-tears-but-not-to-quit persistence. Now, I realize that as someone who has made Sand Hill Road a grand total of zero dollars and zero cents, I’m mostly unqualified to pontificate. But in a short span of six months I’ve had folks change their minds on joining me, gone down to 5k in the corporate bank account with payroll, come mentally unhinged after my first idea failed, had an investor bail on me after stringing me along for weeks. But complaining about such small potatoes feels like pulling a Paris Hilton on reality tv; let’s face it, guys like Tim Westergren, Joe Kraus and Vinod Khosla and countless others have seen worse and come out intact on the other side.

The same applies to comedy. You know that guy Jerry Seinfeld? The guy who built the most successful sitcom of all time? He once walked through a snowstorm to do a show that had gotten canceled unbeknownst to him. In the 1970s, Seinfeld worked the comedy club circuit (it’s not Darfur, but it’s not far off) for eighteen *months* straight without a single day off. Five minute set, five times a night, night after night. To this day, when young comedians come up to Seinfeld for advice, he dispenses two simple words: “Just Work”. No more, no less. Just Work.

But the most interesting and unexpected parallel to me has been the natural kinship that entrepreneurial and comedic circles share. Both pursuits are brutally hard and there’s a visceral tendency to pay it forward. The night I spent 3 minutes on stage at Rudy’s at 12:30am on a Wednesday, the audience was already gone. The bar was shutting down and the bartender was changing garbage bags with a giant flopping racket of polythene whipping through the air. The MC had taken off 30 minutes ago. I considered quitting several times through the night as the crowd thinned. But there is no bigger douchenozzle than the n00b comic that quits just because they failed to score a good spot in the lineup. So I stayed. And as my three minutes pure hell commenced, I saw 3 bleary-eyed experienced comics fake-laughing in the second row, off to the side. I didn’t even know their names but I will never forget them.

And so it is with entrepreneurs. I’ve kept a running list in Excel and I’m up to over 20 fellow entrepreneurs – some wildly wealthy, others hand-to-mouth like me – that spent hours with me when I had nothing more than a half-baked idea. No cash or equity ever changed hands with these individuals. The 500Startups and AngelPad email lists are a microcosm of this very idea. Apart from the occasional hilarious troll email comparing Outlook to GMail, the lists are a fount of information from busy people that are under no obligation to answer random questions. But they do, and in excruciating detail. It blows my mind every single time. It also produces exquisite lines like this: “X gives you leverage, it doesn’t do the work…any more than simply putting up a profile on a dating site gets you laid.”

Lastly, a note about failure. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I failed as a comedian. I failed because I discovered I like humor better than I like comedy (not the same, kids) and I like writing comedy better than the repetitive monotony of performance. I hope to not fail at my first startup. But regardless of outcome, my journey is already far more interesting than all those who read TechCrunch obsessively but are too chickenshit to try to build their own. I used to be one of those people. No more.

So that’s all I have folks, thanks for reading. And if you are in the market for a Brazilian Blowout retention special from a friendly local merchant, you know where to call. Until next time, I’ll be here. Just Working.

 

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The New Food Chain: Investing in Food Startups

Are you really what you eat?  As people move out of the traditional healthcare delivery system in search of healthier lifestyles and a more holistic approach to interventions, food is becoming the new designer drug.  Food isn’t just about the healthier choice anymore; it is also about the culture and community that it breeds. Whether it’s organic, gluten-free, low carbs, low sodium or if it’s highly social or tweetable, there is a new food economy emerging today.

CultureKitchen class in action

Inspired by insights from our last event, “Design a Healthy Startup: Prevent Burnout,” we decided to take a look at the world of food and technology and what kinds of investment opportunities there are today. Join us on August 10th from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at 500 Startups for an event entitled, “The New Food Chain: Investing in Food Startups.” Learn more about the event and reserve your spot here.

We will hear from investors and representatives from green and sustainable food brands and explore the new appetite for food apps and how social media and user-generated rating sites are changing the way we think about buying and consuming food.  Our distinguished panel of investors, include:

  • Ilya Fushman, Principal, Vinod Khosla Ventures

  • Tom Cole, Former investor, Trinity Ventures

  • Dave McClure, Founding Partner, 500 Startups

  • Aki Sano, Founder of Cookpad & Investor

Attendees will get a taste of where the new food market is right now and where it may lead us. They will also hear from our very own 500 Startups including SpoonDate, CultureKitchen, and FoodSpotting. We will also see how food plays a part in corporate wellness programs and the culture of new startups.  Other notable speakers include:

  • Andrew Pederson, Global Chocolate Sustainability Manager, Mars

  • Scott Gambiastiani, Quentin Topping, and Olivia Wu, Executive Chefs at Google

  • Jeff Miller, Punchfork Founder and Investor

  • Nitzan Waisberg, Design School (d.school), Stanford University

  • Mark Cerqueira, Senior Food Officer, Smule

  • Emily Dellas, Cooking Teacher, First Class Cooking

Check out additional food startups that have been asked to demo like E La Carte, Shopwell, and GogoMongo.  A special shout out to our sponsors: Calafia, SanFranola Granola, Coupa Cafe, Curry Village Foods and Equator Coffee who are leaders in the organic and healthy food movement and will be providing dinner for the evening.

If you are a foodie, a food lover, or just trying to understand how food plays a role in the world of technology today, this is an event you won’t want to miss.­­­­­­­

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Necessity is the Mother of Invention

 

 

 

A true visionary, Leah Busque (@labusque) is the founder and CEO of TaskRabbit.com, the pioneer in “service networking.” Now an industry-wide concept, service networking describes the productive power of a web-based, social-networked community. Since it’s founding in 2009, Leah has grown the company to more than 20 employees and has expanded the service to Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County and soon New York, Seattle, Chicago and beyond. Prior to founding TaskRabbit, Leah was a Software Engineer at IBM, working in the Messaging and Collaboration Software Development group. Leah graduated magna cum laude from Sweet Briar College, earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics and Computer Science.

It was a cold night in Boston in February 2008.  My husband, Kevin and I were getting ready to go out to dinner and had just called a cab when we realized we were out of dog food for our yellow lab.  At 100 lb, Kobe doesn’t miss many meals so we were in dire need of some food. We thought of our options – have the cab stop on the way home to pick up dog food, run to the store real quick before dinner. But, none was very appealing.

Both my husband and I are in technology, so we tend to have some geeky conversations over dinner.  That night it turned into, “wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place online where we could go, say we needed dog food, and name the price we were willing to pay. We were certain there was someone in our neighborhood willing to help us out.”  At that time (2008), Facebook was becoming really popular, Twitter was up and coming, and the location-based platforms, like Foursquare or Gowalla did not yet exist (at least they weren’t on my radar).  In that moment of inspiration (or desperation), TaskRabbit was born. Little did I realize that my life would take a dramatic turn.

Before that fateful night, I spent 7 years working as a software engineer at IBM, building enterprise software.   I loved my job and I really enjoyed the people I worked with at IBM. But, that flash of inspiration had taken a hold of me; I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I had more to offer and more skills to develop and share beyond programming.

I spent the next four months talking to anyone who would listen about the TaskRabbit concept.  One of the people I met was Scott Griffith, the CEO of Zipcar.  I didn’t know Scott before, but a friend of a friend introduced us.  I spent 30 minutes describing my vision for TaskRabbit and at the end of the conversation he said, “I think you are onto something here. I think you should see how far you can take it.”  In fact, this response “see how far you can take it” was a common theme with the people that I met.  Thankfully, no one said, “you are insane, this is an awful idea!” So four months later, in June of 2008, I decided to quit my job at IBM and build the first version of the TaskRabbit website.  I cashed out my IBM pension to float us for the next six month, hoping that would be enough time to see where I could take my idea.

I holed myself up for 10 weeks in the summer of 2008 and coded the first version of TaskRabbit.  It was a rough “MVP,” but it was enough to determine if there was any interest from the market.  I figured if I could launch TaskRabbit in one Boston neighborhood, I could measure the interest in the overall market.  In the fall of 2008, I launched TaskRabbit in Charlestown, the small Boston neighborhood where we lived.  It took off and grew very organically.  Soon people from all over Boston were posting jobs. Clearly, I wasn’t alone – many folks seemed to have experienced the same predicament I did that cold night in Boston.

Around that time I pinged Scott Griffith and said, “remember when you told me to see how far I could take TaskRabbit, well I left IBM and have the website launched in one Boston neighborhood.”   He immediately came on board as my first Advisor and mentor, which was an incredible milestone for me.  From there, Scott introduced me to two early investors in Zipcar, who decided to lead a seed round of investment in TaskRabbit.  This was nine months after I left IBM, three months longer than my original six-month plan.  Those last three months were difficult, but I knew I was close.  Scott also encouraged me to apply to the fbFund Incubator program that was running in the summer of 2009.

The fbFund program was such a tremendous opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs, investors, and advisors.  One of those advisors was Tim Ferriss, who visited us at fbFund about mid-way through the program.  I had read Tim’s book, The Four Hour Work Week, and loved his perspective on living efficiently, understanding what your time is worth, and outsourcing your life.  It was perfect synergy with TaskRabbit.  After meeting with Tim for 15 minutes, he loved the idea of TaskRabbit!  He came on as an advisor one week later and introduced me to some of the top seed fund investors in Silicon Valley.

One of his first introductions was to Ann Miura-Ko of FLOODGATE Fund.  We met over breakfast one morning in Palo Alto and she immediately saw TaskRabbit’s potential.  At the time, I was the still the only person on the team, but that didn’t stop Ann from leading our seed round to help build out the team and really prove out the model.  Baseline Capital and First Round Capital also participated and we ended up raising $1.8 million dollars.

From there, I hired my first full-time employee, Brian Leonard, who joined as our VP of Engineering.  We then decided to move the team from Boston to San Francisco, where we established TaskRabbit’s second market.

Once we felt confident in the model we’d established in Boston and San Francisco, we knew we were ready to take TaskRabbit to the next level open additional markets.  To do that, we needed the next round of capital.  So, we took to the road (Sandhill Road, that is) to raise our Series A financing.

We met many investors along the way and were lucky enough to receive warm introductions from our original powerhouse investors.  When we met the partners at Shasta Ventures, we knew they would be the best fit.  With their focus and passion for consumer Internet brands, they understood the tremendous opportunity we were building and wanted to help.

Fast forward to today- we have also expanded the service geographically and are now live in LA and Orange County. We have 10-xed our growth over the last 12 months and we hope to be in all major US markets by the end of the year.

It’s been a tremendous ride these last couple of years and I am so grateful for the tremendous mentors, advisors, and investors who have helped us along the way.  Making the leap from an engineer to an entrepreneur hasn’t been easy, but I remember my defining moment when I literally thought…”Wouldn’t it be great if I could find someone in my own community who would be willing to help me out in a bind.” It’s amazing how creative and thoughtful you can be when you are trying to solve your own problem.  But that’s when powerful and great ideas are born – out of necessity.

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We are 500. (No, really… we’re gonna be 500… as in 500.CO)

People often ask me if 500 Startups is a name or a goal. Although we don’t plan to get to 500 investments in our first fund, at 165 companies and counting we are already scaling up faster than any other investor on the planet. You may call us crazy — hopefully, crazy like a fox — but you sure as hell can’t call us lazy. And in the long run, we plan to grow far past 500 companies. 

But beyond the simple number of companies, there are many aspects to 500 we find appealing. My fascination with the number 500 originally came about because I’m a fan of Dr. Seuss, author of the book “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins”. Previously I used “500 Hats” as my DBA when i was doing consulting, and 500 Hats was also great short-hand for all the hats that entrepreneurs wear while getting a startup off the ground. As I was launching our new fund, I wanted to keep the number 500 to reflect our intention to invest in a large number of companies, but also to represent the large number of founders, mentors, and operators that we now have in our family (yes, we really do think of ourselves as a family of crazy geeks and entrepreneurs).

500 Startups is now almost a year old, and the 500 brand has grown stronger and stronger. We have even started using the hashtag #500STRONG in our tweets to emphasize the grass-roots network effect our founders and mentors have in support of each other. We aren’t just a VC fund, we aren’t just an accelerator / incubator — we are a village, we are a tribe… WE ARE 500.

So in that spirit, later this fall 500 Startups is going all-in on 500 — 500.CO, to be exact. Our brand will still be 500 Startups, but our domain name will be changing from 500Startups.com to the short and simple 500.CO. This might seem a little odd at first, but then again we’ve never been scared of being different.

.CO is quickly becoming the hot new geeky TLD in Silicon Valley. We have watched closely as other folks we respect like AngelList.com moved to Angel.CO, and Twitter started using T.CO for their URL shortener, and now we’re ready to jump in ourselves. At 500 Startups, we focus on doing things faster, making cycle time shorter, and simplifying brand.. we know no one cares about your product if it’s not fast, easy-to-use, and memorable. We want to OWN the brand 500, and 500.CO helps us get there.

The .CO domain launched to the public about a year ago. At the time, I was skeptical whether a new TLD could succeed in becoming a credible alternative to .com — why would .CO be any different than the many other odd .biz, .info, or .mobi TLDs that came before it? But now just twelve months later, .CO has attracted over a million registrations in more than 200 countries, including big internet brands like Twitter and Amazon – and it’s also made it easier for hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs around the globe to get a simple, short domain without having to deal with squatters or nosebleed prices. And today, amidst all the chatter about Google+ and their new social tools, even the big G has decided to go .CO, announcing its acquisition of G.CO to serve as the official URL shortcut to Google products and services. So with Twitter, Amazon, and now Google, we think we’re in pretty good company with .CO.

When it comes to web addresses, the old adage is true – shorter is sweeter.  On a personal note, I’ve been short my whole life so I’m glad that innovation is finally catching up.

-Dave

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Cohort Metrics For Startups Revealed – Part II: Aged Groups

500 Startups Mentor Dan Martell (@danmartell) continues with Part 2 of “Cohort Metrics for Startups Revealed.” Catch up on Part 1 here.

Vale D'Algares 2008

Authors note: This post was written in collaboration with Assaf Arkin, Flowtown’s lead engineer and the creator of Vanity – a ruby framework for experiment driven development (EDD).

In part one we reviewed segmenting customers into cohorts, understanding what channel they were acquired through and then looked at their behavior over time. That was the easy part. The cohort analysis that throws a curve ball for most people is the one dealing with age groups. And no, we’re not talking about the biological age of your customers, but how long they’ve been a customer.

Weekly cohorts

Let’s say we have a service, BackToPlain, that undoes any filters applied to Instagram photos. We’re interested in looking at active customers. Active customers engage in some behavior that correlates with value to them, in our case, uploading and un-filtering images.

So the first and easiest number we can tackle is the number of active users this week. That one is easy to measure, it’s a simple count. We see that it’s growing 5% week over week.

The second number we’re going to look for is conversion, in our case the percentage of users activated. Effectively we’re calculating the ratio of users who, at some point, became active. It’s a valueable number: if our product is too technical or just difficult to use, that number will be low. If it provides a lot of immediate value and feedback, it will be high.

It’s also a slighly misleading number. It turns out our activation rate is 30%, which is not a bad number, but let’s work the rest of them. It costs us $85 to acquire a user, 35% activate, each user pays $10 a month (or we make the equivalent some other way). Are we profitable?

Well, that depends on what we call the Life Time Value of each of these users, which depends on how much they’re paying a month, and how long they’re sticking around.

Alice in Wonderland: White Rabbit - Who Killed Time?

Activation doesn’t tell us that, it shows that 35% of users were active at some point in time (converted), but maybe they were only active for a week and promptly left. The number of active users keep going up 5% week over week, but what if we’re activating 300 new users but losing 250. What if the average user sticks around for two months, paying $20 in total. Remember, that user cost $85 to acquire.

This is where we need to understand behavior over time, but we can’t look at aggregate. An aggregate would look something like:

[table id=3 /]

What instead we need to look at, is a table like this:

[table id=6 /]

The weeks here refer to when the user signed up, so we see that 350 users are active in the first seven days after they sign up. In the next seven days, 300 of these remain active. In the fifth week after signing up, that’s the second month, only 50 remain active.

Basically, we get users to toy around for a couple of weeks, then they lose interest and only 14% stick around for the second month of service. That could be good enough if we didn’t pay so much to acquire users.

Of course, that chart may not be the most accurate either. What if those 50 are the friends and family we invited early on, meaning we really don’t have retention with the general population? Or maybe our product is getting better? Of the 100 that joined this month, 50 will stick around. It’s the numbers from earlier months, when we had less features and more service interruptions, that are confusing us.

So let’s change the table a bit:

[table id=4 /]

The horizontal are cohorts: they’re grouped by users who joined the service on a particular week. The top row represents all the users who joined the week of June 5th, the next row are users who joined the week of June 12th and so forth.

For each cohort we see a time series of the weekly active users. The week here refers to their week of being with the service, so the top left would be users who joined on the week of June 5th, 100 of which were active during the week of June 5th.

Of these 100, only 20 remained active in their second week of using the service, the week of June 12th. Note that in that week, 100 other users joined the service; those are represented in the second row. The first row only deals with users who joined the week of the 5th. Those who were really not happy in their first week chose not to stick around for long.

But something interesting happened in the week of June 12th. We made a significant improvement to the service, and even though  we lost a lot of users that came the previous week (before these changes), we retained 40 that came that week and experienced those changes. 30 of them stuck around for four weeks.

Those users who joined the week of June 19th, after the new changes were rolled out and some bugs ironed out, were even happier. 50 stuck around for their second week of service.

So we’re making a significant improvement to the service that we know. Our second week retention went from 20 to 50, 150% improvement; our second week retention went from 15 to 44, up 190%.

In contrast, if we rolled up the data, we’d see a different picture:

[table id=5 /]

There’s some improvements, but it’s not as spectacular because the roll-up swallows significant change in historical information.

It’s cohorts that allow us to clearly see any significant improvement or failure in real time and respond to it.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a question in the comments.

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Cohort Metrics For Startups Revealed – Part I: Plain English

Meet Silver Surfer aka 500 SuperMentor Dan Martell (@danmartell).  Dan is the Co-Founder of Flowtown, a social marketing application for businesses.  Self diagnosed as having intense ADHD, you can either find him hosting dinners, speaking about marketing or jumping off cliffs around the world.

Authors note: This post was written in collaboration with Assaf Arkin, Flowtown’s lead engineer and the creator of Vanity – a ruby framework for experiment driven development (EDD).

Every time I speak at a conference and present how we do weekly cohorts for our product metrics, everyone wants an explanation. They kind of get it, but don’t fully understand it. The following 2 part series is going to try and define what a cohort is and then how to understand aged groups. If you have any subsequent questions – please ask in the comments.

Cohorts in plain English

Our Direction

A cohort is a group of people who share a common characteristic or experience within a defined period. For example, all the people who signed up for our service on a given week, or all the people who signed up from Facebook, Twitter or other channels, or all the people who signed up for our basic, premium or supreme plans.

I’m going to start with a simpler examples, and then work to describe age cohorts, which seems to confuse more people. Let’s start by dividing our customers based on the channel from which they came through.

Grouping activity into cohorts

Salutation Nation - 137

Say we run ads through several channels. A conversion analysis may tell us something like this:
[table id=1 /]

We don’t care how many impressions we got, as you can seen they’re not correlated with number of signups. It’s a vanity metric. We don’t care how many signups we got either, we can always get more by spending more on a given campaign. What’s more interesting is, which channel should we double down on to get the best customers for the least amount of money.

And you would think the answer is A. At $1.11/signup, channel A is %13 cheaper than channel B and 20% cheaper than channel C. Clearly we should be doubling down on channel A and forgetting about the under performing channels B and C. But is that the truth?

Aligning the channel

Rush

Our business is based on subscriptions, so let’s have a look at the life time value of each channel:
[table id=2 /]

As you can see, customers that came through channel C remained customers for an average of 8 months, 45% longer than customers who came through channel A. More customers that came through channel C choose the $10 and $20/month subscription plan, whereas customers coming through channel A opted for the $5 and $10/month plans.

As a result the customer life-time value of channel C is more than double that of channel A. It may be 20% more expensive to acquire customers through channel C, but that $4 cost translates into $51 more revenue.

What we’ve done here is segment out customer base into cohorts, each cohort representing a group of customers we acquired through a given channel, and then looked at their behavior over time. That’s a typical cohort analysis.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a question in the comments.

UPDATE: Part II continues here.</a

The Designer-Driven Startup

The author, Zach Weiner is the co-founder of Storytree, one of the first d.funded companies.  Zach is the product of the Stanford Symbolic Systems program, equal parts computer scientist and designer.  This post is the second in a series about the design-driven startup.  The first, entitled “The Designer-Driven Startup: Why”, explains the need for a new kind of startup, and it can be found on the Storytree blog.  This post details the solution.


First, since design is an overloaded word, a clarification about what design means to us (I’m not talking about making things look good): design is a process* concerned with a product’s meaning, not just its use and usability.

 

While design in this sense of the word is not yet what people usually mean in the startup world, much of the process is familiar and practiced already.  In fact, its key tenet has even been adopted by the popular lean startup movement: fail early and often.  Usually manifested through lo-fidelity product testing with users, this serves to eliminate risk in a venture when it is cheapest (early failures cost less and risk falls with each iteration).

 

Still, there is much more to design thinking, and if “making something people want” is the golden standard, then design may be the perfect tool.  The problem is that making something people want is a fairly complex goal, and even if you can build, ship, and test at lightning speed, it is highly unlikely that you happen to hit on that magical “something”.  So, we decompose it into three pieces, each of which our process addresses:

 

1. Who are the “people” exactly? It’ll be tough to convince me that it’s everyone, and saying it’s “people like me” is likely to mislead you, because as you build you’ll think, “I like this so others will too” without realizing how biased you are.  So we begin by empathizing with our users and understanding them as complex people.  For instance, we discovered that many baby boomers are afraid of losing their family’s stories and felt detached from loved ones spread around the country or the world, and decided to design for them. 

2. What do they want? The answer to this question does not yet mandate a particular solution.  For Storytree, the need we uncovered was not “an internet service that will record you and display your story privately and prettily with features X, Y, and Z.”  The need was “a way to explore meaningful stories with loved ones before those stories are lost.” 

3. What can we make that gives them what they want? This is the actual solution, with a feature list.  We take the our user + need + insight and come up with ways to answer the questions about our solution.  We are especially liberal with the ways we can prototype and test; we may even test with “extreme” users prototypes that barely resemble our product — this way hidden problems become obvious.  By setting up storytelling booths for grandparents, we reached a key insight: it’s tough telling a story to a blank slate, so we provide prompts to start people off.

 

Note that very often the solution has a broader reach than was originally expected — in our case, Storytree can be used for groups of old friends that want the stories behind a semester abroad rather than just the pictures.  But our process assures that we do not make assumptions about any of these pieces.  As a result, we can all but guarantee idea-market fit.  From there, we can iterate on various pieces of the solution until we reach product-market fit.

 

Ultimately, engaging our users on a deep level helps us build products that inherently have meaning.

 

The next post in this series discusses the challenges with a designer-driven startup.

——

 

*The human-centered design process for those new to design thinking:

 

You start by empathizing with a specific user in order to uncover a core need and an unexpected insight that will drive innovation.  user + need + insight define a point of view, which will focus your process.  You quickly flare, ideating as many wild ideas as possible based on that POV, before focusing on a few ideas that you can make practical.  You then prototype and test multiple ideas quickly with your users, at extremely lo-fidelity (frequently in < 1 hr), meanwhile building a hi-fidelity solution that incorporates your learnings from each lo-fi prototype.  At every stage, you loop back to make sure that what you are doing is consistent with your POV, and often change both your POV and your solution (if you want to, I suppose you can call it a pivot).

 

For methods, see the d.school bootcamp bootleg:

 

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