Why it's critical to pay attention to the "voice of the consumer" at all times
Every time a young aspiring technology entrepreneur approaches and exclaims, “I have a wonderful invention that can transform the world!” One becomes alarmed! Even a cursory investigation reveals that the young aspirant wants to pursue this idea because s/he encountered a certain problem and could not find a ready solution, and now believes that the solution (which is, in reality, nothing more than an idea – not even at the ‘proof-of-concept’ stage) is not only going to solve this problem but that the entire world is awaiting the arrival of this incredible value position!
If you’re a technologist who enjoys fixing a technical problem, you’re not alone. Sadly, that is not at all the case! It’s impossible to fix a problem without first listening to the ‘voice of the consumer.’ This is not meant to detract from the individual’s or the team’s ability to produce a high-quality product or service. Although many young entrepreneurs (especially those with no previous business experience or exposure to the world of business) believe that they will soon become unicorns, the media will write exciting stories about them, and they will have “arrived” in the world of name and fame, many find out the hard way that this is not the case.
Startups & Technology
The most important component of any entrepreneurial endeavour, regardless of whether it is a technology-based one or not, is to get to know your customers. An entrepreneur’s ability to create a compelling value offer for a consumer is directly correlated to his or her ability to comprehend and live through the ‘pain-point’ of the customer. Also, keep in mind that by “customer,” we don’t simply mean someone who recognizes, appreciates, or uses the value of the solution, but rather someone who has the means and the willingness to pay for it.
The first step is to work with clients in the early stages of ideation and iteration in order to meet the customer’s minimum expectations. The final version of any product is never achieved in a single release. Once a product is ready to be tested on an alpha (an early adopter) or beta consumer, the path might be a long one with many revisions and modifications.
In the context of ‘products,’ rather than services,’ there is an emerging concept of ‘co-creating,’ which implies working closely with the end user to arrive at a proof-of-concept (PoC) that can be rigorously evaluated under a variety of scenarios. Going from concept to proof-of-concept is one thing; putting it into production and bringing it to market is a whole different story.
This article was inspired by the fact that an increasing number of intelligent young men and women are eagerly pursuing tech entrepreneurship with unreasonable expectations. While it is admirable to aim to become a great entrepreneur and make a difference in the world, one must proceed with care and prudence along the way. Not every intelligent engineer or scientist is cut out to be an entrepreneur, nor does the ability to solve or crack a difficult technological challenge in new technology ensure that you will become a successful entrepreneur. There is far more to entrepreneurship than mastery of technology.
Instead of focusing on the technology you believe is your strong suit, focus on your customers instead. This will greatly improve your chances of success.