5 Things We Have Learned Over The Past Month
A little less than a month ago I was on a plane returning from Germany. From September 7th to September 17th we traveled as a team to Munich, Germany to further our product and company development. While we were there we participated in TechFest Munich and the MedTech Bootcamp at the Technical University of Munich Unternehmertum Campus.
Prior to leaving we had just finished new laser cut designs of our glasses frames, coded speech to text to Recon Jet smart glasses and were preparing to launch our crowdfunding campaign.
While in Germany, we met a lot of wonderful people and learned new insights from everything on how to pitch our concept, develop our product, and build a flexible company.
For the past year I had been developing the concept around our smart glasses design. I designed how it would work (so I thought), how it would look (so I thought), and how it would connect with other IOT devices. All I thought I needed was a team to build it. But… there was so much more to it than that.
Over the past month there has definitely been more than 5 things that we have learned but I am going to share with you the ones that stick out to me most.
#1 Product Market Fit (& getting the right information)
Our concept development started with working in the deaf community. I developed the design for a client but realizing now, didn’t get enough input. I thought a few deaf individuals, a few parents, specialists and some teachers would be enough to confirm my hypotheses on our product. Oh boy, did I underestimate that. It wasn’t that we didn’t have a good hypothesis, it may have been that when I tried to change directions with the application we didn’t have enough feedback directly from the users. However, I think the largest factor was that I gave people an idea of what the product was before I got their feedback.
I started too many of my conversations with saying “This is what we’re developing, now can you answer these questions?”. This gave people a bias on what the product was and what they may have thought I wanted to hear. Then I started generalizing my statement saying I was working on a product for deaf and hard of hearing and would ask some general questions to get the big picture.
Don’t let yourself get in the way of the feedback you are getting. You may have this amazing idea that you think is wonderful and could solve all of the problems. But take a step back and find out if that is the problem people want solved. It may be something their willing to live with and there may be another pressing issue that you don’t yet know about.
#2 Don’t forget to pitch what you know
Despite getting not enough of the ‘right feedback’, I also didn’t include any of the feedback that I already had in my pitch deck on the first day of the MedTech Bootcamp. I tried too hard to follow a script on an out of date pitch deck. I tried to get to all of the ‘business points’ but I forgot to tell them about the problem, who I had talked to, and our story around the product and company development.
Working on the same product for over a year has given me terrible tunnel vision. I’ve been stuck on one concept and was not opening up my mind up to new possibilities. The second final pitch of the MedTech Bootcamp, our slides didn’t work so I pitched without them. I felt so much more comfortable I told the story that I would tell anyone in a face to face conversation on how I got started, how the product came to be, and where we were going. It was a natural conversation that I had told over a dozen times. I knew the product, I knew the company, I just needed to be comfortable.
I know now that building a team was one of the best things I could have done. It brings in fresh eyes and minds thus creating new and fresh ideas.
#3 Build a flexible, hardworking team
While in Munich, we had an interesting and intense week of business and product development. We did intensive market research leveraging every platform we could while we were out there. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get on any phone calls (poor service out of the country) but we did as much research as we could over the internet.
We had long, intensive brainstorming sessions, even the last day after we had pitched, we were working hard to come up with our product definition and company direction. During this time, we learned about the flexibility required as a company and individually. On a start-up team having people with different skills, different ways of thinking, and flexibility to use those different skills no matter your pivot is very important. Even more important, how you use these skills to work cohesively.
As we progress in our product development we’re working on filling some of the gaps on our team. Currently looking for additional software development help and an operations manager, we are searching for hardworking individuals that have entrepreneurial experience and can help us take our product and company to the next level.
(If you have any interest please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
#4 If you don’t know, find someone who does
There are a lot of resources out there now. With a lot of online resources to learn new skills, MOOC’s to take new classes, and blogs on blogs on blogs to get advice from, we are filled with endless resources. Don’t forget to leverage these.
With building a flexible team you also have to build a flexible you. You should try to at least know a little bit of everything as a start-up founder/CEO knowing how to read the code your developers are writing, create a story board or sketch of your vision, understand product development, and understand marketing techniques, know just enough to make what someone else is telling you make sense.
Co-working spaces are also great for this! You have other companies and people around you that have gone through or are going through the exact same ups and downs as you. Community managers know how to have fun and create a friendly community. While we’ve been at MakeOffices in Philly the crew has been very generous to us and has provided a lot of support for our company and our mental sanity.
Developing a successful start-up has many ups and downs; it is comparable to the Rockin’ Roller Coaster in Disney, or the new Joker Roller Coaster at Six Flags Great America. To help support this ride, find advisors, mentors, employees, and build a support system that can help you make your dream a reality and stay healthy while doing it.
#5 Stay Healthy & Have Fun
Over the past month I think everyone on our team has had their own share of a cold, or some type of health set back. As the CEO and founder of the company I realize now, more than ever, how important it is for me to stay healthy and happy to run a productive company with happy teammates. Everyone has told me this at least once, but my perfectionist self has said that I need to work harder, pull long nights, work all day during the weekend, and basically run myself down.
**Attention Entrepreneurs – This is not a requirement**
You have deadlines, you have tasks that need to get done, people expecting exceptional results out of you…. But how can you give exceptional when you don’t feel exceptional? Get sleep, eat well, exercise at least 3 times a week, take care of your relationships and you WILL be more productive. You’ll find you’ll be able to concentrate and get tasks done more efficiently and effectively. What would take you 3 hours before because you’re falling asleep at your computer will now take you 1 hour. Those sketches that we’re all messy, or that business plan that was a grammatical horror scene will be much more pristine and you’ll spend less time redoing everything.
Don’t forget, staying healthy and happy also means spending time with the one’s you love. Building a company can be a very lonely path but you don’t have to go at it alone! Make sure you’re spending time with your friends and family. As I mentioned before, you need that support system around you to build a successful and happy company. Don’t hold employees hostage in your offices, better yet, let them work remotely when you can. Technology makes it so easy to work on the road, from home, or at a coffee shop. Work wherever you are most comfortable, productive and happy.
Happy team members + a great product that solves a real problem = Productive and successful company.
Olive Devices Founder & CE