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”.

Validation

It is appreciably easy to start a company in 2013. The product development cycle is the shortest it has ever been. You and your roommate can whip something up overnight with little or no cost given today’s technology. This change has upped the supply of startups considerably. Logically, one would expect the demand of startups to decrease, but it hasn’t. Problems don’t just go away on their own, markets are still fragmented, and a better solution always exists.

In truth, the supply of startups destined for failure has increased. I firmly believe whilst there has never been a better time to start a business, there has never been a more difficult time to grow one. There is no silver-bullet to customer acquisition. The term “customer acquisition” is in a sense misleading. Customers aren’t just picked up somewhere, they’re developed into ones. They evolve from doubting visitors to zealous referrals. It’s incumbent on the leadership of a startup to engross their potential customers in as many encouraging ways as possible.

Early-stage validation is really the chasm most startups fail to span. Every startup must build a foundation in its larval-stage that will slowly generate growth through the aptitude of compound interest. It is better to have a 100 people who can’t live without your product than a 1,000 people who are some-what interested. These 100 people will work with, fight for, and stay loyal to you despite all the mistakes you make. I encourage the CEO’s of companies to get into the mindset that they are really recruiting an army. The culture, drive, and passion of this army is completely sourced through you. Your extended network is in fact larger than you actually think it is, and the network of your 100-person army is exponentially larger. The secret of growth lay within the density of these connections.

No one demographic is completely the same. If you constantly try to exhort one demographic over the other, your discrimination will eventually cap growth as you mistakenly focus on differences rather than consolidating similarities. Instead, seek for a unifying thread between your potential customers. Look for a raw, captivating nerve that fastens your startup’s diversifying community. This connection can’t be faked, and you must do your due diligence in understanding the authentic behaviors of your customers. For Lovaash it’s creativity. We’ve come to understand that all our early adopters have an insane appreciation and curiosity for it– whether you’re a student with a dorm, a young professional who just signed a lease in the city, or a first-time suburban home-owner.

This indescribable pursuit of creativity and its originality is the heartbeat of Lovaash.

– Mayer

Some Statistics

Lovaash has debuted its landing page for about a solid day and half now. I wanted to share some statistics we just pulled in:

– People are spending an average of 4:35 on the alpha product

– Referral traffic from Facebook is spending a full 7:25

– Referral traffic accounted for 45.8% of all uniques

– Direct traffic was at 52.3% of all uniques

– Email was the primary referral medium. Followed then by Facebook

– Bounce rate is at 54%

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 5.47.42 PMThe bounce rate is a bit too high. We’re speculating  it’s due to mobile. Nearly a third of all incoming traffic came from a mobile device. We haven’t optimized mobile yet to fit our alpha, and I admit when I type in lovaash.com from my phone I’m completely turned off. We’re going to push mobile optimization real hard this weekend.

Lovaash co-Founder/CTO @Qhack sent an internal email out to the team today shedding light on our viral coefficient. Although we haven’t completely figured it out yet, it seems promising. We can see the chains of email’s inviting their friends, and friends of friends. Some chains run 5 links thick. I like this direction things are going in. Lovaash is all about its community inspiring one another. Its one thing for some random stranger to tell you what to like or not to like, and it’s completely another when a close friend shares an inspiration they love. We’re going to keep Lovaash available through invite-only. It’s like a grass-roots organization– it sparks with a few people who decide to audaciously believe. The power will always belong to the customers who’ve chosen Lovaash to bring into their homes.