- by Josh Wine, VentureLab Graduate Assistant
During my time at VentureLab I have learned many things. One is that [Principal] Harold [Solomon] really likes metrics…But one of the more important things is the concept of customer discovery. The whole aspect of talking to people (customers) before you start something (a startup!) sounds like common sense, but as many of us know common sense ain’t that common. Especially when you have a GREAT IDEA. After all, how could anyone not want to buy my widget if it solves every problem and I have been perfecting it for some time now? People just need to be made to understand how much better their lives would be if they buy my product, right?
I don’t mean to sound condescending of anyone who falls into these mental traps, because I have done it numerous times myself. The problem is that you can get sucked in to your great idea, and develop tunnel vision on something that you are passionate about. This doesn’t confine itself to individuals; groups that have ideas get themselves into “group think” and don’t go outside themselves to test their ideas. After being exposed to the notion of customer discovery, it’s pretty easy for entrepreneurs to figure out that they should talk to customers, and I believe this concept is even more important in this day and age….
The other day I was thinking about how the Internet, in all its awesomeness, has ruined things for people like me. I am not particularly intelligent or good-looking but I do have the ability to work hard and take action. If there’s something I want to try and do, I find out about it and act. Twenty years ago that would have meant a lot of work: going to the library or maybe the courthouse, using the card catalogue or renting a storefront. Nowadays, people can gather knowledge on a subject with a few clicks of a button and can launch a business with another click. In this day and age, it is so easy to get businesses started that it is even more important than ever to do customer discovery. Just look at all the obviously horrible apps, websites, food trucks, you name it that were started because it was so easy to get these businesses off the ground.
Studies show approximately 95% of apps are unused.
And of the 649 million websites in the world today, 462 million are inactive!
If some of these entrepreneurs had spent a day or two interviewing folks to see if people actually wanted Jamaican/Thai/BBQ tacos, they might not have wasted a lot of time and money.
Ready to try your hand at Customer Discovery? Contact the folks at VentureLab to get started: www.venturelab.gatech.edu
About the author: Josh Wine is a military fellow pursing his MBA at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business. As an officer in the United States Coast Guard, he has served as aviator flying the H-65 Dolphin helicopter on search and rescue and counter narcotics missions throughout the Caribbean and eastern Pacific for the last decade. Josh will serve as a financial manager for the Coast Guard upon graduation. While at Georgia Tech, he has taken part in the startup community, serves as a graduate assistant at VentureLab, and has launched two of his own enterprises. His projects are sharethebonus.com, an arbitrage website that allows individuals to share referral codes when signing up with things like credit cards, cell phones, or banks, and vayando.com, an online marketplace connecting travelers to emerging economies with local microentrepreneurs for a more emersive and authentic travel experience.