Shooting blanks during startup meetings with potential customers
We all have our anxieties when we don’t know what to do in an unchartered territory. To be honest with you, I don’t know everything about startups and entrepreneurship.
Come to think of it, I am the person who knows subject matter the least, whenever there’s a discussion. Whenever there’s a customer discovery interviews, between the customer segment, researcher (Professors & founder of startup), CEO of startup (most cases Master & PhD holder) and myself, I would be the one who is trying hard to understand the line of discussion. I usually termed this type of session, my PhD within an hour. Cramping and understanding the scientific knowledge within that 1 hour.
My background, not a scientist. Sociology, Economics and Finance were my major. Never stepped in a science lab during my school days. Failed in maths. I can sense the Professor is saying “Failed, Zakir, failed” whenever I try to explain scientific solution to a customer.
Yet the startups remain steadfast in me to guide them. The thing that guide me is what I know of the customer segment tells me. If I have nothing from a customer segment, I start with what has been assumed of that customer segment. Earlier assumed of the customer, to be validated, comes from the researcher and CEO. Simple basis of Lean Startup.
An example I had several days ago with a startup, Grounded Learning (GL) of Prof Rahinah & her CEO, Miss Rafeah. The 3 of us entertained the GL’s potential client, UIN Malang from Indonesia. It was about GL’s service, Eagle Table, a Research Methodology solution for PhD students . It was our second meeting with them. The folks from UIN Malang are not the first people we have interviewed on customer discovery.
We are confident with the Problem/Solution Fit for that customer segment. So we were doing Product/Solution Fit with UIN Malang and coaxing them as an early adopter. The meeting session was also testing the price. In short, hoping UIN Malang come on board.
So the anxieties by Prof Rahinah and the CEO were valid. I could not agree more with their worries. What was calming, though, the fact that we have enough data to know more about that customer segment. Their challenges they are facing. The position they are in within their value chain. Their existing solutions. The way they procure and other information. These data, gathered during customer discovery interviews done by Miss Rafeah & Prof Rahinah. These information together with Lean Startup principles help a lot with a meeting session. All I needed to do was to put those data as more assumptions, for us to test during the meeting.