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The Four-Way Fit — Chapter 19: Minimum Viable Expansion (Part 3)

If you have reached the Minimum Viable Expansion stage, you have a tiger by the tail. Your core business is scaling fast. All of the systems of your business — the revenue engine, the product development engine and the back-end operations engine — are rapidly maturing. You’re continuously at work to elevate the quality of interactions between people, workflows, technology and money flows. Systems thinking predominates as you evangelize standard operating procedures, track metrics and rev up the engines of the business.

As growth in the core business accelerates, adjacent opportunities begin to come into focus. Perhaps new vertical segments are ripe for pursuit, if only you can make certain changes to the product to accommodate their unique needs. Or perhaps the segments and customers you already serve are experiencing problems you can solve with a new product, one that will substantially add to the value you deliver with your current product. If you’re selling a B2B product, it may be time to extend your product footprint so that it addresses more points of value along the customer value chain.

This presents a problem. The core product has been evolving since the Initial Product Release stage, and it continues to do so. The work to fix, finish and fill out that product continues apace, with no end in sight. But now there is an entire body of new work required to build out a new product, or integrate an acquired business, or expand into brand new markets. It feels different from current product optimization work.

The Minimum Viable Expansion stage is defined by these twin challenges. How can you keep the core business scaling, while simultaneously extending into brand new opportunity arenas where you don’t know what you don’t know?

Market, Product, Model and Team

Market

  • As the enterprise scales, your methods of market understanding become more mature and scientific
  • As you explore and expand into new segments, new sets of adjacent problems and needs become visible — requiring more than just a core product extension
  • Success has spawned rising competitors — to retain advantage it becomes ever more important to expand your value footprint across a wider swath of the customer’s value chain

Product

  • The core product continues to evolve and mature, edging closer to the product vision — leading the top team to expand the product vision
  • The core product becomes more complex as variations arise to serve different regions, verticals, segments and use case scenarios
  • To build competitive advantage and extend product reach, the enterprise may pursue competitor acquisitions
  • Following the principles of domain driven organization design, multiple technical domain teams now exist to manage, scale and optimize the core product — some focused on different stages or tasks in the prospect and customer experience; others supporting different client interfaces (iOS, Android, desktop, etc.); and others supporting improvements at the infrastructure layer
  • As the enterprise scales, methods of product development become more mature and consistent across teams
  • New venture opportunities, within which new gaping problems and screaming needs exists adjacent to but separate from the core product, now capture the enterprise’s attention — opportunities to create new products to expand the value footprint
  • As the enterprise approaches global scale, product dependencies (both long-standing and new) must be de-risked
  • At this stage, an entire hierarchy of value propositions must now be built — capturing all the variations in product, region, vertical, segment, use case and persona

Model

  • As pricing, unit economics, customer acquisition methods and cash flow considerations begin to differentiate amongst the various regions, verticals and segments, operational concerns — the mature and reliable execution of daily work — become key
  • With multiple products in multiple regions, verticals and segments, pricing becomes more complex
  • Channel partnerships now require formal coordination rules to address channel conflict risk — including boundaries for sales teams and rules associated with pricing
  • Value proposition variations prompt variations in competitive positioning, which are built into an ever-more-sophisticated brand identity architecture
  • Now the steady investments in pathways towards competitive advantage begin to pay off: cornered resources yield their benefits; counter-positioning stymies competitors; switching costs rise; network effects power virtuous growth; brand equity and awareness rise high; systems power (both in technical and human systems) yields superior organization agility; and scale economies begin to yield their full market leverage

Team

  • The technical domain teams responsible for parts of the core product now pursue a persistent domain purpose and quarterly business outcome objectives, guided by performance disciplines such as OKRs
  • To pursue new product opportunities, new venture teams are established, separate from the core and freed from time-based OKRs; these teams need space and time to renew the Phase I journey within the new problem domain — to immerse and ideate, to devise a minimum viable concept, to iterate towards an initial product release, and then to iterate towards a minimum viable product
  • Throughout the enterprise, complexity rises — to address this, it becomes vital to continuously increase the density of 10Xers in the company
  • Maintaining organization alignment with vision, mission and strategy, along with the cascading responsibilities and authorities these require, requires significant top team attention and the development of more systematic alignment methods
  • As such, the “thinking competency” called systems thinking remains paramount at the top (though the other three remain important)
  • Within the new venture teams, design thinking and lean thinking are primary

The Story of FiveStars

I first met Victor Ho, the CEO of FiveStars, in 2013. It was my privilege to be his CEO coach for a number of years; we have stayed close ever since. Ho was kind enough to let me interview him for this chapter.

It all began with a delayed flight. With extra time in the airport, McKinsey consultant Victor Ho finally found the mental space to listen to a voice that had been whispering in his inner ear for some time. That voice was calling him to make a leap — to seize upon an opportunity he was uniquely positioned to understand.

The opportunity had emerged out of his post-college work. Right after college, Ho briefly joined Goldman Sachs, where he met a smart fellow analyst named Matt Doka. He soon moved over to McKinsey, where he was assigned to Fortune 500 companies rolling out loyalty programs. In his work on behalf of these global enterprises, Ho saw the power of loyalty programs to significantly increase customer retention and average customer spend. He began to ponder whether such programs could be brought to the masses — the small and medium sized businesses that shone like thirty million points of light in cities and towns across the US. These SMBs were the backbone of the American economy, comprising half of GDP.

“So I was literally sitting in front of my gate, and all I could hear was this voice that was like ‘Victor, you are being a huge coward right now. You know exactly what you’re supposed to do. You know what your dream is. And yet you’re still sitting here chasing whatever superficial sense of success there is.’” ¹

That was in 2010. Inspired to action, Ho reached out to Doka and the two came together to launch FiveStars. They would offer a best-in-class loyalty program to SMBs, so they could better compete with the big players. They would help SMBs transform customer transactions into ongoing customer relationships.

Ho had done his research. Half of all small businesses were run by families. Even though SMB success depended on delivering delightful experiences to customers, business owners were constantly consumed with back-office tasks. Small business owners worked an average of 52 hours a week — twenty-five percent more than the average employee. Yet despite this extra toil, fully 50% of all small businesses were failing within five years. Ho wanted to improve the odds.

He quickly determined SMBs were too focused on customer acquisition, and not enough on retention. At the time, Groupon was pitching to SMBs an expensive new way to drive new customer traffic. To create a successful offer on Groupon, an SMB would steeply discount its products or services. Attracted by the low price, opportunistic customers would stream in. After paying Groupon its cut, the small business was often left with lots of one-time customers to serve but no profit gained from serving them. Most customers didn’t return. Ho was determined to help SMBs tilt the scale from costly acquisition initiatives towards ongoing, profitable customer retention programs.

In July of 2011, FiveStars rolled out its universal loyalty card and associated program. The card could be swiped on a FiveStars device located by the cash register. The device was integrated into the SMB business’ point of sale system. When customers came back to the store they could gain points that would add up to rewards. It was a fancy version of the old paper punch card. In fact, the first URL for the company was fivestarscard.com. Says Ho:

“My earliest memory… is kneeling down beneath the counter at a pizza joint, with greasy pizzas going over my head and working under the register on the Windows 95 system… I was trying to debug it and get our thing to work on it. And it’s like a mass of cables and weird network settings².”

A decade and $145M in funding later, FiveStars is on a roll. The company’s mission is to help SMBs turn every transaction into a relationship. Today it serves 60 million consumers and 15,000 merchants, driving $3B in sales as a result of its multidimensional customer retention and acquisition programs. It is on an exciting growth trajectory, with the world at its doorstep.

But how did it get there?

Background

As Ho and Doka surveyed the landscape back in 2010 and 2011, it was clear that SMBs didn’t have the capacity to manage an effective customer retention program. While SMB point of sale systems could ring up sales and record payments, they did nothing to advance the cause of customer retention. To capture email addresses, an owner would need to create a separate database and ask customers to provide their email addresses while standing at the checkout counter. These would need to be entered into the database. It slowed down the purchase process for the customer, and so most of them left the store without sharing their information. The data quickly aged; most SMBs had no means of cleansing or updating it. To take advantage of this scant and messy database, a business owner would need to work after hours to conceive, create, execute and track email campaigns. This was both time-consuming and difficult. The resulting campaigns were unavoidably generic. Any customization of campaigns (such as to honor a customer’s birthday, or to message customers who hadn’t shopped in the past sixty days, or to alert a customer about an unclaimed reward) was completely beyond the capacity of most SMB owners. Furthermore, there was no digital way to manage a loyalty program. Paper punch cards were all that most SMBs could handle.

By the time FiveStars had emerged from the Winter 2011 class at Y Combinator, the company had achieved its initial product release (the universal loyalty card and the checkout counter scanner), and had proven MVP by selling its product to a score of merchants, concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A critical early challenge was the FiveStars scanning device, which needed to be located at the checkout counter and integrated into the SMB business’ point of sale system. With many SMB checkout use case scenarios and a plethora of POS systems, it took many iterations to get the equipment right and the integrations sorted out. By 2012, Ho estimated that FiveStars had successfully integrated with 90% of all POS systems. Eventually, that painful hurdle became a helpful barrier to entry — a source of competitive advantage.

As these early product problems were wrestled under control, Ho and Doka shifted their attention to sales. The initial merchant price point was $60 a month. Their first priority was to increase merchant density in the Bay Area. They knew this was important not just for revenue, but in order to increase the value for consumers. As Ho said in a 2012 interview with Forbes: “Consumers can sign up in just a few seconds to use just one loyalty card everywhere they go and still earn store-specific rewards³.”

Soon, the story tightened and sales became repeatable. After he raised a May 2012 seed round of $2M, Ho began to add salespeople, and the merchant count rose. By October of 2012 FiveStars had about 20 salespeople on board, and 800 merchants were on the platform. From July 2011 to August 2012, the number of consumer purchases tracked by FiveStars grew from 100,000 a month to 3.5M a month — a 1,374% increase⁴. Of the 250,000 consumers using the FiveStars card, about 100,000 were using it once every three weeks; 50,000 were using it every week.

By late 2012, FiveStars had raised a $14M A round. The new money powered investments in the product and the revenue engine. As to the product, the next area of focus was to improve and customize the loyalty-based campaigns. A series of enhancements were introduced into the consumer messaging and rewards programs. As to the revenue engine, Ho recruited Chris Luo, formerly Facebook’s global head of SMB marketing, as VP Marketing. Ho then tasked another senior executive to bring order to revenue operations, establishing clear sales development paths and expectations, and tightening the coordination between people, workflows and supporting technology (such as with HubSpot and Salesforce). And the revenue engine scaled.

By 2013 FiveStars boasted 100 employees, 1 million consumers and was charging an average of $149 a month. Then in 2014, two important product launches occurred. The first, Promotions, enabled one-time offers to be easily created by the merchant, and then sent to customers — for instance to announce the business’ anniversary sale, or a holiday promotion. The second, called AutoPilot, emerged out of three years of development work. It wove the threads of FiveStars’ previous loyalty programs into a fully integrated solution that addressed a wide array of scenarios. SMBs could send an offer after a new customer’s first visit, or to recapture lost customers (inactive five months or more), or to bring back at-risk customers. There were rewards for frequent customers and gifts to celebrate customer birthdays. With these new products in place, FiveStars increased its price again — to $199 a month. Now, the company was prompting 4M consumers to make 1.2M visits a month to 5,000 merchants. Merchants began to understand the degree of leverage their customer data could deliver, once captured and managed within their FiveStars platform.

Said Ho:

“We can automatically enter all of your customers into the CRM… We collect all this information for you, and we incentivize (customers to join the loyalty program) with bonus points and other things like that…Then, with the thousands of customers you have captured on your loyalty programs, we can automatically segment all of them into buckets… So you log onto your dashboard, and we can show you this many in use, this many that are at risk, this many who are VIPS, who are lost — anything you can think of. And with a single click of a button, we can let you email or text these different segments⁵.”

FiveStars had evolved into a comprehensive SMB CRM system, with a growing foothold in a $60B market.

In 2014, Ho raised another $26M. He quickly put the money to work. By 2015, FiveStars had 350 employees. 10M consumers were in the network making almost 3M merchant visits a month, bringing joy to 10,000 merchants. Ho continued to focus on fix, finish and fill product work. He cleaned up consumer permissions. He leveraged data to refine messaging and campaigns, such as the customization of messages by vertical. And he tested price sensitivity, moving up the price to $299.

As to the revenue engine, Ho increased investments in marketing spend and sales staff. He refined the outside sales model, launching teams in cities across the US. It was the kind of door-to-door selling he and his co-founder Doka had done at the outset of the company. Tight sales expectations were developed. New hires had three months to prove themselves, supported by a solid training program called The FiveStars Way. He invested in a phone-based sales development team to turn marketing leads into sales qualified leads. But despite the higher price and tight sales operations management, Ho found it difficult to achieve optimal SaaS unit economics of LTV / CAC >=3. He admitted the challenge in a January 2016 interview with VentureBeat:

“ ‘All of the difficulties of selling to small businesses are true,’ he said with a little laugh. ‘It’s incredibly difficult. They will not find you, and you often can’t find them through Google. They are small retailers and the only way to get them is to get in front of them with a direct sales force.’ He notes that this is one of the details that isn’t really talked about when discussing startups that target small businesses. ‘Even Square uses one,’ he said. About half of FiveStars’ employees today are sales people⁶.”

By 2017, FiveStars was back down to 250 employees. While sales growth had continued apace — with 40M consumers driving $2B in local commerce to 13,000 happy merchants — the sales model had proven too expensive. Unit economics needed to improve. Either LTV would need to increase, or CAC would need to decrease. Ho realized that the key to this dilemma was to increase product value, and to build network effects. To add product value, he launched FiveStars Acquisition — the first product to move beyond loyalty. FiveStars merchants could now send offers to FiveStars consumers who had not yet shopped at their store. It was a good incremental step, but Ho knew he would need to achieve a more decisive product breakthrough if he wanted to catalyze a rising network effect. Said Ho:

“By 2017 we were trying hard to figure out what to do next. All of our products to date had emerged organically from our first product. They were certainly delivering value, but we knew we could do more. Too many merchant customers were still walking out of the store without giving their contact information. We recognized that to create rising network effects, we would need both consumers and merchants to gain more value everytime another consumer or merchant joined the network. But to create that value, we needed a team that could focus. We were being pulled in too many directions, and had lost our agility⁷.”

And so FiveStars entered the eighth stage of company-building — the Minimum Viable Expansion stage.

Heads Up: Four-Way Fit Spreadsheet

At the beginning of each new stage, leaders must return to the “heads up” motion. You need to revisit your assumptions in the domains of Market, Product, Model and Team. For this, the Four-Way Fit spreadsheet is a useful tool. Its consideration topics lead you to look at your business holistically. They help you sort out what must become true for you to progress to the next stage of company-building. These “must be true” imperatives lead you to devise your claims, which can be either “already true” claims or “if / then” claims. As to the first type, you posit something is already true. If you’re sure you’re right, it’s a settled assumption. If not, you first need to conduct more research. As to the second claim type, “if” you do “x”, “then” you should achieve the imperative. Once again, if the claim can’t yet be considered a settled assumption, it needs to first be tested and verified (so as to avoid the mistake of investing precious cash in plans emerging from untested assumptions).

Ho’s decision to step back and refocus was a “heads up” step. He didn’t actually employ the Four-Way Fit spreadsheet in this exercise (it hadn’t been invented yet), but he went through the same fundamental steps, thinking through key considerations in the domains of Market, Product, Model and Team.

As to Market, the FiveStars team continued to refine its understanding of the SMB space. It was clear that the fundamental thesis of FiveStars had been validated. The key to the survival and growth of SMBs was in customer retention, and FiveStars had developed a product that could deliver substantial gains in retention. But it was also clear that for an SMB to win in the battle with big players, it needed to deliver great experiences. If all an SMB sells is commoditized products available on Amazon, it can’t win. Buying such products is a chore, and the customer will always seek the cheapest and fastest way to get the chore done. But if a small business can deliver a delightful experience, it can win. To deliver a delightful experience, small business owners needed to create it, day in and day out. Anything that takes the owner’s time away from experience creation, such as work in the back office, is drag. Not only do back-office functions need to be automated, they need to be integrated. Siloed digital platforms create disconnects at the handoff points, leaks in the data bucket and distractions for owners.

As he pondered the market and the state of his business, Ho was bothered by a troubling fact. Research indicated that for big players like Target or Starbucks, once payments were integrated with loyalty and reward programs, signups tripled. Yet despite all the product feature additions over the years, too many SMB consumers were still walking out of FiveStars merchant locations without having signed up. He would need to fix this problem, and fast.

As to Product, the key would be to act on these insights. And so a thesis was born. If FiveStars could accept payments and integrate these into the merchant’s POS system, payment flows would naturally drive more customer signups. Furthermore, FiveStars would gain access to important new customer data, which could be used to further refine messaging. Payments could be the thing that might finally catalyze a network effect: more consumers would sign up at every merchant location, driving up average monthly sales for merchants, increasing value for merchants, driving up the number of merchants in the network, driving increased merchant density, driving up value to consumers who could shop and receive rewards at more and more FiveStars merchants close by in their neighborhoods. Network effects spark low-friction adoption, and with low-friction adoption comes better unit economics.

As to Model, refinements would be required. It had become clear that FiveStars’ outside sales model was too expensive to sustain. It was forcing a higher price point, which held back merchant sales. Even with the higher price point, unit economics weren’t where they needed to be. Ho pondered whether to adjust the price structure — to offer a basic entry point augmented by a la carte options. He theorized such a scheme could support the shift to a more cost-efficient inside sales model. A strategy began to emerge — expand into payments to spark a rising network effect (resulting in higher brand awareness and less expensive top of funnel lead acquisition), shift pricing to a lower entry point with add-on a la carte options, and move to an inside sales model. These actions might reduce the average initial purchase price, but they would also significantly reduce CAC. And if the team could “land and expand” with sales of a la carte add-ons such as payments, then the lower initial merchant spend would rise as customers added items, driving up LTV.

As to Team, the new payments opportunity created a dilemma. How could FiveStars continue to scale with its current products, while simultaneously developing a brand new product from scratch? Scaling the core most required systems thinking, with its clear division of labor, domain-driven organization design, a cascading leadership hierarchy, tight processes, standard operating procedures, OKRs and KPIs. Whereas discovering a value breakthrough in a new opportunity arena most required design thinking, with its extreme outside-in orientation, rapid ideation, continuous testing and iteration and regular pivots. These were different worlds, and they would need to be handled differently.

Separate Concerns

It is all too common for fast-scaling companies to bring an enterprise approach to the pursuit of a new opportunity. Someone at or near the top conceives of the perfect product to address a perceived problem, and its development and launch becomes an OKR. A team is formed, and launch deadlines and revenue targets are established. The team is assigned to go make it happen. A year later, if the dates and dollars aren’t achieved, the team and the entire project is called a failure.

This approach is doomed from the beginning. As we’ve discussed throughout this book, what it takes to run a fast-rising enterprise is fundamentally different from what it takes to run an early-stage startup. And the pursuit of a new opportunity domain is just like a new startup.

At FiveStars, Ho approached the payments opportunity domain the right way. He created a separate team, called Voyager Labs. To ensure 100% focus, team members were asked to divest themselves of all core responsibilities. They would work solely on payments. Meanwhile, the core team continued to do what it had always done — drive new merchant sales, and make continuous optimizations to the product so as to increase consumer engagement.

Core: Keep Scaling

While the Voyager Labs team chipped away at the payments opportunity, the rest of FiveStars focused on the core. The shift began to a more base plus a la carte approach to pricing. The other important shift, from outside to inside sales, was also initiated. And on the product side, the work to fix, finish and fill continued. For instance, a stumble with a big consumer app update forced a lot of rework. Eventually the bugs were fixed.

New features such as Text-to-Join were launched, adding new methods for capturing more customer data for merchants.

New: Immerse and Ideate

Whereas the move from the loyalty card to AutoPilot to Promotions and other CRM feature additions was organic, the move into payments would be orthogonal. It would be a mistake to move too quickly. The Voyager Labs team knew there was much it didn’t know. A whole host of new considerations needed to be explored. How is a payment processed? How do ISOs (Independent Sales Organizations) that handle third-party payment processing work? What does it take to become a registered payment processor? What new risks and liabilities will be introduced by stepping into this new world? What is the existing business model for payment processors, and how will we compete? What are the product integration requirements? What new hardware will be required? What are the security requirements? How will we design the payment workflow so that it incentivizes customer signups? What consumer protections must be honored, and what permissions will be required? Questions such as these dominated the “Immerse and Ideate” stage.

The team engaged in countless white board sessions, mapping out the lay of the land and seeking to identify the critical dependencies. Every time an important unknown was discovered, a research project was spawned. Slowly but surely, critical considerations in the domains of Market, Product, Model and Team began to clarify.

New: Minimum Viable Concept

The Voyager Labs team did not actually use the Four-Way Fit canvas to think through the payments opportunity and conceive a product and business model, but it surely confronted all fourteen of its subdomains in the course of its work: market viability, customer segmentation, gaping problems and screaming needs, product features, product dependencies, the value proposition, pricing, unit economics, customer acquisition implications, cash flow issues, the building of the competitive moat, team competencies, structure, roles and objectives, and culture.

The team chose to focus first on the merchant side, and then move to the consumer side. Ho acknowledges the process did not go perfectly. The team found itself in multiple cul de sacs before it eventually found the open road. Voyager Labs began its work in 2017. FiveStars Pay launched two years later, in 2019. Given the subsequent success of FiveStars Pay, it’s clear the team thoroughly thought through the considerations covered in Four-Way Fit canvas.

New: Initial Product Release

Once the entire concept came into view, the team moved into actual product development. It moved carefully, concept-testing each feature first, then building prototypes, then moving into a concierge MVP approach. Key partner relationships needed to be negotiated. The business model needed to be tied down.

Finally the product was ready for prime time. In 2019, FiveStars introduced the first marketing-powered, CRM-connected payment hardware and gateway, called FiveStars Pay. It operated with FiveStars Payment Processing, and supported integrations with multiple channel processing partners. To assure secure and frictionless processing, FiveStars went to market in partnership with two top tier payment processors — WorldPay and First Data Merchant Services. The First Data relationship gave it access to the Clover POS system, which vies with Square for top billing in the merchant POS market in the US. It was both a critical product dependency and a promising channel opportunity.

To assure merchants of its payment security, FiveStars guaranteed PCI compliance. The FiveStars Pay reader accepted all major credit cards and supported both NFC contactless payments and EMV chips. Next day deposits were made directly into businesses’ bank accounts.

The new hardware supported both payment processing and customer sign-up into the FiveStars network. Merchants liked the on-screen tipping function. The device prompted the customer to enter her phone number, and then asked if she would like to receive loyalty offers and rewards. As with its previous products the system integrated into most SMB POS systems. It supported iPad or tablet based POS systems, as well as terminals.

As to pricing, FiveStars offered merchants a choice: accept a standard charge of 2.6% plus $0.10 per transaction, or match whatever pricing the merchant was receiving from its existing payment processor. It was a good counter-positioning move, given that most processors charge more than FiveStars. No contract was required — the merchant could cancel with one month’s notice.

New: Minimum Viable Product

FiveStars Pay became a big hit with merchants. They saw a big increase in sign-ups; most were soon signing seventy percent of their customers to the FiveStars loyalty and rewards program. By the end of 2019, $210M in payment volume had been processed through FiveStars Pay, clear proof the new product had progressed beyond the MVP stage.

Ever Since

Through its combining of payments, loyalty and marketing automation into one integrated product suite, FiveStars finally found the path to rising network effects and better unit economics. With the wind at his back, Ho was able to secure $52M in equity and debt financing in early 2020, bringing funding since inception to $145M. The round closed just before COVID hit.

This funding proved pivotal, as the FiveStars SMB customer base hung on by their fingernails through the COVID storm. Despite the distressed state of their businesses, FiveStars merchants processed $325M in payment volume in 2020, up 50% from 2019.

Now, as the world recovers from the effects of the pandemic, FiveStars is well positioned to strengthen its competitive advantage — especially in its network effects, brand, switching costs, scale economies and counter-positioning.

Summary

If you have gained the privilege to enter the Minimum Viable Expansion stage, you have entered into a moment of great opportunity. It means you have accomplished much already, and have exciting new opportunities in front of you. Expansion can come in the form of a new product, as with FiveStars, or an acquisition, or international expansion. In all cases it is best to treat the expansion initiative in a way that is fundamentally different than how you manage the core. If you separate concerns, keeping focus on scaling in the core while simultaneously unleashing a separate team to attack the new opportunity domain, you will increase the odds of achieving success.

Victor Ho and the FiveStars team did it right. In pursuit of the payments opportunity domain, they took the time to spin up a separate payments team, Immerse and Ideate, develop a Minimum Viable Concept, work towards an Initial Product Release and then continuously iterate until they had achieved Minimum Viable Product with their payments expansion. All while continuing to focus on scaling the core. Because they did, they have won the pole position in a $60B market. A bright future awaits.

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Notes

  1. Rogers, Bruce. 2014. Bringing Customer Loyalty Programs to Local Merchants. Forbes Magazine.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Cohan, Peter. 2012. FiveStars Wins the Prize for Small Business Loyalty. Forbes Magazine.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Takahashi, Dean. 2016. FiveStars raises $50 million to help small businesses build consumer loyalty. VentureBeat.
  7. Ho, Victor. Interview with the author

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