Neljapäev, 27. november 2014

Founder Institute: Week 2 - Research and Customer Development

Apple isn’t just making computers and smart devices – it offers you a lifestyle. Have you already thought about what you have to offer for your potential clients? Do they actually need your product?

Week 2 – Focus on Customer Development and Research

Here are some of the questions that we were looking to answer this week:

  • What research can you do to validate or to kill an idea?
  • Does the market that you choose matter?
  • What are good markets, and what are bad markets?
  • Do competitors matter and why?
  • How do you define your competitive landscape?
  • How do you determine the key assumptions of your business?
  • Can key assumptions be tested?
  • What are tactics to test key assumptions when you just have an idea?
  • How do you identify and interview potential customers?
  • What are some tactics for effective surveying?

This week’s mentors
  •  Taavi Lindmaa – a UX designer & engagement officer at Trinidad Consulting.
  • Riina Einberg – a consultant at ZeroTurnaround, former HR manager at Skype, COO & Member of Management Board at GuardTime, Consultant, HR & management at Ambient Sound Investments, HR manager IS security systems business line at Cybernetica

Tips from our mentors

First thing that the mentors noted was that you need to go inside of yourself and see why you want to do this. What is your vision?
  • Then, define your personas. Who is your customer? Think what their aspirations and fears are technology and media consumption and shopping/purchasing habits.
  • You need to find a person who has a problem that your product solves. Go and ask people if they have any problems in the field that your product is trying to get into. If they don’t have a problem then your product isn’t needed.
  • When doing customer interviews never try to sell your product. Ask them questions in the past tense. What kind of problems have they had? You should focus on how/what/when/where why. Never start the interview: “Imagine that …”
  • When interviewing always record the data or take notes so that you can go back and make your conclusions.
  • After about 5 interviews go over the questions and answers to see if you have found out what you’re looking for. If not then adjust your questions a bit.
  • Live interviews are always better then online questionnaires. If you are there on the spot, you always get information. You get to ask follow-up questions. Plus, you get to sense people’s reactions.
  • Your mom will never tell you that this is the worst idea she’s ever heard. Same goes for other family members and friends. Ask people that are not emotionally obligated to you.
  • How do you find these people? Strangers in malls, cafes, bored people. Connect with people on LinkedIn. Make cold calls. Place an ad in Facebook.
  • Place an add about your product in, or any other forum that focuses on the field of your product. Put an incredibly cheap price and wait for people to contact you. Don’t worry – they won’t be angry with you when you ask them a few questions.
  • Make a webpage using tools like Unbounce or Visual Website Optimizer. Offer a demo or PDF-book about your product and get your potential customers e-mails. You can try out different slogans and see which one is the most effective. You can also try things like heat maps to see how effective your webpage is. To start off with use Crazy Egg (
  • If you have good product, it will sell itself – WRONG!
  • If you are trying to get into a foreign market then you should talk to people who actually live there. Get on the next plane out there and do your market research there on the spot.
  • Marketing is like an endless magic trick. You have to keep on pulling rabbits out of the magician’s hat.
  • If some tricks didn’t work in the past doesn’t mean that they won’t work now. Your situation might have changed and is now more suitable for the specific tactic.
  • Document every marketing strategy and its response. This way you can always go back and evaluate and see what’s worth trying again.

Founder stories – Roman and Karri

We talked to our founders Roman and Karri to see how their doing and what they think about the project, mentors etc. Both of the participants agreed that it’s tough but a good program to follow. 

“It gives you the push you need to start your own company. It also helps that we are divided in groups so that we receive regular feedback and new ideas from our peers,” said Roman.

“It’s a kick-in-your-ass program. It keeps you focused. There is a lot of homework so the pressure is on all the time. The most difficult assignment so far has been sending an e-mail to a group of people where you introduce 3 business ideas and explain them. I had to get out of my comfort zone. This was also good for feedback,” said Karri. 

Roman also added: ”It’s good that we get to pitch their idea almost every time because the more you do it the more confident you start to feel.” 


A few good pointers about pitching from our week’s mentors:
  • Don’t use the same word twice. That’s what synonyms are for.
  • Do you possess unique knowledge about why you are the best person to do this? Let your audience know why.
  • Make the listeners feel like sky is the limit! Give them a reason to make them want to contact you.
  • Use visuals to make your pitch more effective and understandable.
If you want to learn more about this topic then here are some good reading recommendations from our mentor Riina Einberg:
  • Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play. The Demise of Dysfunctional Selling and the Advent of Helping Clients Succeed. Mahan Khalsa
  • How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling, Frank Bettger
  • Businessmodel logic