Tile

Good friends of mine launching their product this Spring 2014– let us know what you think!

http://www.thetileapp.com

Product-Customer Fit

In the odyssey of your startup, numerous factors will undoubtedly come into play. The list can be endless, and more than often, beyond inundating. It’s easy to be assailed with idle coffee meetings, vain pitches at meetups, foolish preparations for these pitches, despairingly gauging the fundraising climate, or naively worrying about extraneous factors that are just beyond your control.

Your time is limited. It’s vital for you to move swiftly, to test the riskiest assumptions you’re making, and compulsively validate whether your hypothesis even has legs. The best entrepreneurs have this uncanny ability to sift through the noise and discern for something I call the “limiting-factor” tasks. The term was inspired from my exposure to the hard-sciences in undergrad, and its definition can best be understood as the reactant in a chemical reaction that limits the amount of product that can be formed.

Within the chaotic, vast sphere of your startup, there will be certain undertakings that you just can’t move forward without, and they ultimately “limit” your ability to progress. These tasks are subjective and unique to each; it’s up to you to be due diligent. Competition is unforgiving in today’s brisk tech cycles, and you absolutely can’t afford for your team to work on something that no one will use, or on tasks that yield only marginal returns.

There is a popularized term in our industry that stems from the classic lean-startup school of thought called “Product-Market” fit. I personally think this term’s scope is a bit opaque, and prefer the word “Product-Customer” fit. I’ve opted for this because it places a substantial, dramatic focus on the only variable that truly matters — your customers.

The decisive limiting-factor is reaching this celestial destination of “Product-Customer” fit. If you’re not there, get there. You must ask the question– does this product I’m creating solve the problem of my customers? Do they like it? Even better, are they willing to pay for it? If not, you need to iterate on your product and fit it around your customers. Some of the best insight I can give is to get your customers involved as soon as possible.

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else”

Lovaash has two customers. First, we have Creatives. Some of the best painters, artisans, calligraphers, typographers, and cartographers from all over the world are creating Lovaash Online Stores by the hundreds every week in our private alpha. Second, we have consumers who own spaces— home-owners in the outskirts of cities, students with dorms, young professionals across San Francisco and Miami, owners of Italian to Korean restaurants, interior designers liable to enterprise clientele, and the list goes on.

My team and I are creating technology to solve the issues in selling the work of our Creatives through a SaaS (Software-as-Service) dashboard that manages transactions, real-time promotions, analytics, and more. And as a Consumer, you’ll be able to find exactly what you want through the lens of your personal space. The solution will be a 2-sided global marketplace with its foundation etched in inspiration, simplicity, and affordability.

Lovaash is where you “Enhance your Space”.

Flip if you’re a Market Outsider

There is some advice that I feel is very important to first-time entrepreneurs– don’t start a “white board” company. A white board company is a company that you create just for the sake of creating a company. Entrepreneurs create scalable solutions for problems. It just so happens that in order to effectively distribute the solution of this problem it requires the creation of a syndicated team– a company. Problems are only truly understood by pivotal members of a market’s respective demographic who experience this problem first-hand. In truth, the best entrepreneurs find themselves as ones by accident. More than often, good ideas can’t be contrived.

Now this advice is a general rule of thumb. There have been some admirable examples of outsiders brazenly entering markets and introducing a new order that no one was expecting. Often market incumbents aren’t innovating enough and it’s these outsiders who are willing to try some of the most daring solutions. These solutions can take away a good amount of market share from existing players in the short-run, or at least enough for them to notice you. Your job isn’t to come out on top in the long-run here. Your indifference and naivety is your biggest weakness. Startups are marathons, and it takes a truly experienced and committed insider  who understands the market, its problems, and its future to win in the end.  You as an outsider should directly attack their customers. Disrupting the status quo in a competitor’s customer culture is entirely your power to leverage. Companies will do whatever it takes to protect loyalty. Force these competitors to address the situation and have no option but to buy you out.

If you want to win in the long-run, solve a problem that you yourself are experiencing.