I. Why we valued self-sustainability and our customers’ problems over everything else — the story of Attentive AI
An introduction to Attentive AI, this article encapsulated our FIRST and MOST IMPORTANT OBSERVATION/LEARNING after starting up. Although, the title may sound cliched, but if you are a group of entrepreneurs (more relevant if you are working in any B2B space) looking to make a dent in this world, just hear us out because the following article may help you build something that will work. And sustain.
We are geospatial analytics company that uses AI to generate actionable insights for enterprise customers. However back in September 2016, we came together to build a product in the video analytics space. With maturing research in deep learning and the democratization of these algorithms and computational power, we believed this to be the right time to enter this space.
Then came the big question — which sub-space within video analytics should we enter?
Should we go build a retail video analytics product because it is a XX billion dollar market? Or should we enter the smart home security market because it’s as big as the irrelevant digits after 3.14 in Pi combined by the fact that VCs are betting big on it? Or maybe we can “disrupt” the increasingly growing VSaaS (video surveillance as a service)industry?
This is what most entrepreneurs start with and this is primarily how successful teams dive into ideas that can shape their lives forever. If done correctly, these ideas can lead you to build a kick-ass company and have a job that makes you grow personally and professionally at a rate hardly matched by your average corporate job.
However, is this thought process of selecting an idea/industry/vertical right?
Is there any other component or question in this process that is critical but some teams miss out on and eventually learn it the hard way?
When we started out, we started with building products in retail video analytics (which was tipped as the next big thing in the video surveillance and analytics industry) and which investors were really hot on. We decided to take a basic product to big retail and apparel stores in India and even to a large food aggregator (restaurant video analytics), we OBVIOUSLY(because the VCs and YCs said so) believed if our analytics gave valuable insights on customer demographics and patterns, they would buy our product and it will CLEARLY help them improve their topline. After multiple failed attempts, we realized why they didn’t buy our product and we were doomed to fail —
- They had no guarantee and we couldn’t give them any guarantee (technically not easy to co-relate data insights to increase in sales) that the analysed video data is useful and will directly increase their topline.
- They couldn’t quantify how much improvement this will bring to their topline, so we couldn’t price the product. It was either too high for them or too low for us considering the IP and effort that has gone into building this tech.
- And most importantly, it was not a primary problem we were solving for our customers (think of a primary problems as a nagging problem that a person faces on a daily basis e.g. damage due to theft for a logistics company, piracy for a software company or highly publicized negative reviews for a restaurant).
Primary problems more often than not are those that can break a business and its reputation if not controlled.
Would businesses pay for something that solves/prevents these problems? You bet!
Post this learning from venturing into retail video analytics, we decided to ditch what the VCs or YCs said. We decided to look out for primary problems that different industries face and build a video analytics product that gives them an immediate solution.
For eg. one of our successfully deployed solution was to the largest Indian E-commerce player where we solved the problem of theft and the associated loss of money and reputation these companies face due to it.
Our key takeaway — going by the traditional route of extensive market research, sizing or listening to what’s hot and what’s not might help you narrow down the industry or the space you are excited about. But speaking to your customers and understanding their primary problems would help you nail your solution.
Speak to them and think from their perspective. Think of what hurts them most. Everyday.
This definitely helped us. So much so that we currently don’t need venture money to make our business stand, our revenues are helping us stand. And hopefully walk..