Recently I ended up at a bar late at night. It’s a revered place called De Raum. It’s been well covered on the web so I’m not going to give a review of it here. What I will do instead is tell you the story of the ‘Teachers Reserve’. And how this business justifies an ultra price premium.
I asked the bar tender for something sweet, to help take the edge off after a heavy day – something night cap-ish. He said;
“I know just the thing. The Teachers Reserve. For those moments when you’ve done all you can, when the days been hard, and it’s time to reflect, quietly and possibly have a conversation in your own head. It’s not exactly social, but poignant.”
He then made up the drink and presented it in a manner which will make sense when you see the photo essay below. He furtively passed me the book, while he looked in the other direction – as if to say: ‘let this be our little secret’.
Classic theatre at transaction. I was delighted, and I didn’t mind paying the $25 for it.
This is an amazing piece from Dow Corning on the future of glass in our lives. It really sets the tone on how they will through their products make our lives better. It makes me wonder why more startups and large brands are not creating films about the future, and how they will shape it in a positive sense.
Prufrock coffee who created the worlds first disloyalty card.
The card to encourages their clients to sample the wares of quality coffee shops around their local region in London. Which is completely counter intuitive to sound business practice.
How does it work?
If a disloyalty member tries all 8 coffees on the above card , it will earn you a free coffee at your next visit to Prufrock Coffee. The interesting part is that it was conceived to keep ‘coffee customers’ out of the four walls of the ever encroaching Starbucks behemoth. The disloyalty card created a community of coffee lovers that could compete the ‘way of an artisan’. Something Starbucks could never do. It might just help keep them out. In this instance the community matters more than the trader. This is the new collaborative world we are in transition towards. A community who vest their interests in each other.
What can your startup do to flip the rules and do what a bigger competitor never could?
Making really good stuff is not enough. We’ve got to be good as well. Good people. We’ve got to have a DNA encoded into our business which shows we stand for something that is wider than what we sell. I’m not talking about any of that Corporate Social Responsibility crap, or even triple bottom line reporting. I’m talking about caring enough to leave good things behind us in our trail. For the things we touch to be the same or better after we’ve been there. And most of all, we need to make sure our trail is going to be good, before we carve the path that takes us forward.
The question was: “How do you recommend balancing yourself?”
“My advice first and foremost would be to do what you love. Um… because that way, if you do what you love, it increases the chance that you’re gonna have success with it. And even if you don’t have success, at least you spent your time doing something you love.”
1. Technology is easy – getting customers to pay you is outrageously difficult.
When was the last time you heard about a web startup failing because the product didn’t work? Almost never. With the greatest respect to all the hackers and engineers out there coding away, making a product do what you want is simply a function of time. Spend enough development time on it, and you can write code to do almost anything you want. Getting a customer to pay you some money for that feature you just added? That’s an entirely different proposition. The vast majority of web startups fail because they don’t find enough customers, at the right price and in enough time before they run out of cash. If we spend as much time on marketing your startup as you do on writing and shipping your code, and we just might beat the odds.
2. Customers can always choose to do nothing
When pitching a prospect we are generally trying to convince them to do one of two things:
(i) Leave a competitor and join you
(ii) Stop doing nothing about their pain problem and join you
Who knew that getting them to leave a competitor was often easier than getting them to stop doing nothing? At least if they are using a competitor they recognise that they have a problem that needs solving! The truth is, many prospects are indecisive, stagnant, glacial, apathetic, unwilling, and unmotivated. Demonstrating your product and then asking for the sale is just as likely to be met with a yawn and a scratch of the arse as it is with a chequebook. If you understand how difficult the process is, then there is a good chance you will approach it with the right amount of preparation and effort.
3. Financial models are fantasy
Their is one good reason to construct a financial model prior to having any real customer data. Do it to prove to yourself that the fundamentals of your model will produce a profitable business over time. Think of it as a sanity check. Once you are happy that the model works in theory, throw the spreadsheet away. Never look at it again, and for christ sake don’t go out and try and raise investment funds off the back of it (guilty as charged!). Just launch your product and get as much real live data as you can. Months later you can giggle about how wrong your projections were, but at least you won’t be making life altering decisions based on nonsense.
4. There is no replacement for quality user testing
User testing pays for itself many times over. This doesn’t mean getting your mates over to play with your creation in return for a 6 pack. It means getting real life customers/strangers to use your product while you watch. True story. Our startup is an online event registration solution that allows customers to sell tickets and accept registrations for any sized event. Three months after launch, we sat and watched via web cam while a Canadian tester spent 15 MINUTES just trying to create an account. In one of our releases, we had cannily decided not to display a “register button” to anyone using Internet Explorer. No-one using this browser could get in and use our product, and it had been that way for over a week. He eventually managed to get in, but man was he pissed!
What else do you wish you had known before you did your own web startup?
Post by Scott Handsaker founder of Eventarc