In reviewing my notes for this episode I was left feeling a little sad. I know this is not an emotion that we often talk about when it comes to business. In my book Live What You Love I talk about the four elements to support living a life of passion and purpose. One of these elements is persistence. I am very clear in defining the difference between persistence and pigheadedness. And I fear that episode 11 had an element of pigheadedness – which made me feel sad for the entrepreneurs who had put hundreds of thousands of dollars of their life savings into their innovations – without ever showing it to a customer.
Ampan There is a hero in this story – John the farmer from western NSW, a man with a deep belief in turning rice stubble waste into hardened building board, similar to chip board. John had been working on the project for years and had spent $500k on developing his product – it tiny quantities. On the basis of a few small samples he wanted to build a production facility – yet no customer had yet seen or used the product. In our tech world there is something known as MVP – minimum viable product. This is shipping something that is not perfect to put it before customers so that they can give you feedback on its worth and how the product needs to evolve. John needs to find a solution for MVP before investing in production – what contract production could he use to produce enough of his product to demonstrate the value to customers.
Crisp Two (with a third on it’s way) custom salad bars located in the lanes of Melbourne. Husband and wife team who are ex corporates – knew their numbers, were making good profit and needed capital to expand. They want 10 stores by the end of the year. I wondered at the ‘brand loyalty’ and also the vulnerability to costs. The founders were clever and articulate. The creative and branding – fresh and crisp (of course.) Persistent absolutely – customer proof of concepts – yes. They are making money. This seems like a text book perfect pitch – and a great concept.
Mobilyser This app gives the ability to allocate an expense to each phone call on a phone bill. With $450k already invested in building the app – a $1million request and no customers – no matter how good the product it would be difficult to extract value from it. Would a consumer pay $4 per month so that they could allocate their phone bill costs to make it easier to claim for their employer? Also it was only available on Android because the iPhone software is too ‘closed’ to use it…. Robbie has a big game ahead of him. Persistence vs Pigheadedness – what do you think?
Flybabee – covers for prams, strollers and baby airline bassinets. Great product, small, light weight and practical – Emma designed the product, got the patents, did the marketing and had launched three days before the show was filmed. And she was already selling 10 a day. She was passionate, committed and fun. The baby industry alone in Australia is massive and the US and Europe are even bigger. The RRP is $99 which might be expensive compared to a cloth over the pram – but then what is a sleeping baby worth?
Putting hard earned savings into a project is essential (I did – I spent our family savings of $25000 before anyone had seen the RedBalloon offering). An entrepreneur needs to believe in what they are doing – however only the customer experience can determine if the venture will ultimately be successful. The earlier a customer group can engage with the project – the sooner the product will be right for the market
RedBalloon headed by CEO Nick Baker is vastly different from the business started in 2001 – and most of it’s innovations and evolutions have come from deeply listening to customers
In my opinion half of the pitches in this episode were pig headed rather than persistent – do you agree?