Products, services, delivery-, wholesale- or resale-businesses, software as a service, subscription based models — all business models have one thing in common: they are about a market that demands something, and this market consists of people. Which means whatever you are offering, to make it a success it needs to be a good fit with what people want and what they are expecting. More than simply covering you customer’s basic needs, it needs to be fulfilling and, at best, exceeding their hopes.

The power and disadvantages of opinions

Opinions are important, they help us to navigate through life. Especially when you have a vision. Your opinion drives change, it can disrupt markets and motivate people. These opinions are valid and necessary, but they can stand in the way of learning and improving.

For an innovator it is easy to become tangled up in your own bias. It is human nature. Especially startups are prone to get carried away in their own bubble of enthusiasm. History is full of failed companies that didn’t see coming what killed them. Guided by opinions, they fearlessly ignored all indicators telling them about the reality until it was too late. Whenever a business has failed in an economy, it had always to do with an opinion. Investors, stakeholders, founders and CEO’s all have opinions and they all made decisions based on what they felt was right.

Opinions were the compasses that steered ships into safe harbours or hidden icebergs. Still, having a feeling you are doing the right thing can be terribly misguided, if you lack the necessary information to make a good decision. How do you break out of this bubble?

What you need are better informed decisions. Here are a few points which will help you making improved decisions:

1. Don’t start with an idea

You have heard it before: “Anyone can have an idea.” Right — but does it not depend on how you execute it? Or the team and a great masterplan for planned features? In truth, there is more to this: A good idea proves to be a great one once people start using your product or service. Which is a long way coming.

Begin with something bigger than the idea. Begin with a concept. It is not a plan of what to do when, or which feature to build first, but a framework of an idea. A concept includes answers to important questions. It is not all carved in stone and it should certainly not be rigid, but it should represent your vision. And this vision should capture things like a core market and room for expansion, a core audience and a reason to buy and a reason to use your product — again and again.

Only if your customers are building a lasting relationship with your product or service, they want to come back. They don’t disappear after an initial sale.

How do you know if people want to use your product, before you even have a product out there?

2. Ask honestly for whom are your making it

The first and most important question you need to answer is for whom you are building your product or service. Maybe you discovered a missing element in a market ripe for disruption. Or you had an idea that perfectly fills a niche in a crowded market. In either case (and every other case), you need to carefully consider who will use your product. Inevitably this leads to the question of who these people are and what motivates their own decision patterns.

Customers are not just consumers, they are people like you and me. People with their own circumstances in life, their context and social environment that surrounds them. These people have a value system based on trust and good experiences. They are looking for friends, in people as well as in products. So you should ask yourself: is my product, my service, a really good friend of the people it is for? Or is it just about making money?

3. Work on overcoming your own bias

What are those people thinking? What is going on in their heads? What are they hoping for? Sit together with exemplary people who could be your future customers (not your sister or boyfriend). Let them use a competing product or service and watch them doing it. Talk to them, ask them about their experience.

Analyse your competitor’s products for strengths and weaknesses. Figure out how these weaknesses or strengths correspond with people’s behaviour. Put them on a linear customer journey map. You are finding the reasons why people like or don’t like using these products or services.

Try to gather as much information as possible, but constantly sift through it and search for patterns and clusters of indicators for what’s going on in people’s heads.

You arrived at your opinion about a subject for a reason. It didn’t come out of nowhere. So you formed a hypothesis about a situation or need and now you need to confirm it is true . Find and collect evidence that proves this potential. The tools you have are the Internet, social networks, survey forms with incentives, interviews and user journeys in person — basically everything that helps you finding genuine answers.

Don’t just ask people what they think of your idea. Even more crucial: Don’t ask people what they would want. This would force people to think in abstract terms of an innovator and disruptor. To have a vision is your job, not theirs. Ask people what they are missing instead. Ask them how they feel using something they already know. Ask them about what they could change, if anything, to make something better. Ask them which qualities they are looking for in a product or service related to what you are about to build.

It is a lot of work, but you don’t have to do it all yourself:

4. Hire a product specialist (UX) together with developers

First, let’s get something out of the way: UX is not an afterthought, a process you apply after you built your product. That would be the worst of all outcome, because it means you are making experience design decisions without having any information to base them on. You would build a product based on guessing instead of knowing.

To be fair: UX is not a straight forward, fully outlined and predefined process. There are many models floating around of what UX should encompass. In its best form, UX will help you define and building the product. UX does not begin by testing something you already built, it starts with your concept and a number of ideas you want to have confirmed.

The hypothesis and validation of hypothesis is the most important toolset you have. A good UX consultant or product designer should begin by looking at your concept, at potential functions, and they should search for evidence in the market that these features are expected status quo or hold room for improvement. They should be looking at competitors, at user behaviour patterns, also at established paths, to figure out what is going on and why people are doing what they are doing. Once you find what drives people to do something, you have a better chance of redefining it as a well implemented feature.

You need someone with Design Thinking and UX experience aboard to help you plan your product features. You should regard them as developers and let them be part of your team that will define the product. Bringing in a UX person from the start will be guiding your team to find the right questions for the answers you are looking for, to better evaluate the importance of planned features, before investing time in building them.

5. Build small, then test, expand to larger territory, iterate and repeat the process

Once you have a set hypotheses you want to check out, start building the smallest possible array of something that does just what it needs to do. This is not a full product and it should not be perceived as such. It should consist only of elements necessary to let a user go through a task to achieve what they want to do.

To test a hypothesis, you can use a deck of cards. Or it can be a row of sticky notes with steps on a white board. It can be set of actions in a form with radio buttons or check boxes. It can be an interactive set of wireframes. The important part here is that you are testing flow, not a static image. What it should not be is a high-res user interface. Anything that helps you tell the story to guide a user through the journey of accomplishing a task is good and helpful. So if you need the colour red to indicate a state, use red. But if you don’t need red, don’t use it.

From there you can evolve the results into your minimal viable product — a term that has been stretched broad and thin to justify the presumed necessity of fully built products that only lack nice-to-have features. It shouldn’t be the most minimal product you get away with. Think of it as the combined core features, determined in relevance by the reasons you found, why people would use your product in the first place.

For an example, if you are building a flight booking app and you found that one thing that people really want and no one is delivering it, build this feature first and have people using it, then move to build everything around it.

6. Be ready to accept extreme changes

Here comes another potential pitfall: It is very easy to slip back into your own bias mode, thinking what you want, or what you think is best, is actually best for the product. It is so easy, because you are smart and you have already learned quite a bit about your product and its market. What you can’t know is the stuff that is not yet in your head.

You will come across things you did not anticipate. Your view of what is important and what isn’t may be shifting balance. Suddenly a feature you thought was essential turns out to be off the radar for your target group. It could become irrelevant, or it could go the other way, rising from a small thing to a powerful feature. Either way, you have to brace yourself for big changes.

In retrospect, after successfully launching and selling a product over a period of time, you may think that a lot of your team’s decisions were obvious. And you will think, perhaps, how foolish you were for not having seen the path it has taken. But that is only how it looks in retrospect. In reality, you couldn’t have made these decisions without outside influence, to arrive at where you are then.

Admitting misconceptions is almost as hard as admitting mistakes. But realising that what you thought is important is not, and saying “no”, leaving those beloved features behind — this is probably the quintessential element that will decide over success or failure of your venture. Be bold and leave stuff away. Say more “no” than “yes” to features you want, and focus on what people showed you they care about. Then make those things, but in an unexpectedly great way.

It is what made every great product ever made a stunning success.

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E.

Essential Podcasts for Entrepreneurs & Tech Lovers

Podcasts are a great way to discover new subjects and new people. Whether you are a tech lover or an entrepreneur, bellow you will discover podcasts for entrepreneurs you should – without a doubt – listen to. 

Itnig Podcast with César Migueláñez, Bernat Farrero and Carlos Pierre
Itnig Podcast with César Migueláñez, Bernat Farrero and Carlos Pierre

« Masters of Scale » 

with Reid Hoffman

The host: Reid Hoffman decides to turn to the corporate world instead of pursuing a university carrier. He worked for Apple, Fujitsu for then starting his own business: SocialNet and left it in 2000 to join Confinity. Confinity gives life to Paypal after fusionning. Finally, in 2003, Hoffman co-founds LinkedIn. He is Master of Scale’s host. 

About: The podcast welcomes some of the greatest entrepreneurs. You will discover throughout the talk how they managed to take their companies from 0 to a lot of zeros. You can listen to Masters of Scale’s special guests like Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Selina Tobaccowalla (Evite), Brian Chesky (Airbnb) or Nancy Lublin (Crisis Text Line). Must-hear: one of the top tech podcasts for entrepreneurs.

Listen to the podcast: On their website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Youtube

The Team: Reid Hoffman, June Cohen, Deron Triff and Jai Punjabi

« Rocket » 

with Christina Warren, Simone de Rochefort and Brianna Wu

The hosts: Christina Warren started as a Freelance Writer. Then, she worked at Mashable as a Senior Tech Analyst and Tech Correspondent and ended the journey at Microsoft as a Senior Cloud Developer Advocate. About Simone de Rochefort, she is  Senior Video Producer and co-host of The Polygon Show. Brianna Wu founded her first startup at the age of 19, Giant Spacekat. She was Head of Development at the time. She is now running for US Congress. 

About: In this podcast, you will discover three passionate women and their “geek conversation” as they like to call it.  No guest speakers, but you will be able to listen to a panel of tech subjects from Apple to Comics, you will not be disappointed. 

Listen to the podcast: On their website, Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Spotify and Castro

« This week in Startups »

with Jason Calacanis

The host: Jason Calacanis starts as an internet industry journalist in New-York. In 2003, he co-founded Weblogs, Inc and then a few years later he joined Sequoia Capital, launched the web directory Mahalo. He also founded ThisWeekIn.com. Furthermore, he created This Week in Startups podcast and a startup named Inside.com. Finally, he was part of the creation of the Sydney Launch Festival. 

About: Either you are looking to start your own company, or you are a successful entrepreneur, or you just love technology, this podcast will give you a peek to the entrepreneurship world. You will hear stories of all kinds! On his website, you will also find his events and some research on transportation, healthcare and more. This is one is part of the tech podcasts for entrepreneurs not to be missed.

Listen to the podcast: Apple Podcasts, Youtube, SoundCloud and RSS Feed

You can also subscribe to their newsletter in order to receive episodes directly. 

The Team: Jason Calacanis, Jacqui Deegan, and Tony Agapiou

« Recode / Decode » 

with Kara Swisher

The host: Kara Swisher is an American journalist specialized in the technology industry. She first started to work for an alternative newspaper in Washington for then working for the Washington Post. She wrote articles for the Wall Street Journal and New York Times and wrote her own books. Finally, in 2014, she created Recode, a website dedicated to the latest technology news. In 2015, she initiates Recode Decode. 

About: The weekly podcast welcomes tech experts and great entrepreneurs. They review how they got there, what’s on their mind about the current industry and what they would improve or create. Her recent guests were Elon Musk (Tesla CEO), former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg. 

Listen to the podcast: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn

« K Fund PodKast »

with Jaime Novoa

The host: Jaime Novoa’s background is quite diverse. He is a writer and an investor, but he also worked in data analysis and social media analysis. In 2014, he founded Novobrief, a newsletter for startups. Then, in 2016, he becomes an investor at K Fund and he founds, in 2019, Dealflow, a weekly tech newsletter. 

About: The podcast discusses startups, entrepreneurs and Venture Capital. You will discover enterprises and their story. From data science, unicorns or digital platforms, you sure will find more than one interesting podcast. 

Listen to the podcast: On their website and Soundcloud

« Clockwise »

with Dan Moren and Mikah Sargent

The hosts: Dan Moren is an active author and writer as well as podcaster. He was a Senior Editor at Macworld. Today, he hosts two podcast shows: Clockwise and The Rebound. As for Mikah Sargent, he started as a Website Designer and Developer for then switching as a Senior Editor at Newsy. He now hosts few podcasts such as Clockwise on Replay FM or on TWiT.tv. 

About: The weekly podcast discusses technology and welcomes each time 2 special guests. For 30 minutes, they address 4 topics where all four speakers get to elaborate on the matter, highlight the issues and expose their thoughts. 

Listen to the podcast: On their website, Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Spotify and Castro

« Itnig Podcast»

with Bernat Farrero

The host: Bernat Farrero starts his career as a Developer. In 2009, he founded Itnig, a startup ecosystem that organizes entrepreneurship events. They also have a coworking for startups, a podcast and a fund for early-stage projects. Furthermore, he is a Founder of Factorial, Quipu and Camaloon. He is also a Board Member of Playfullbet, GymForLess and Parkimeter. Finally, he hosts Itnig’s weekly Podcast. 

About: The podcast welcomes every week a new guest. If you wish to learn from successful entrepreneurs, you are on the right platform. The discussions turn around Technology and its industry. You will come across guests like Carlos Pierre (Badi), Vincent Rosso (BlaBlaCar) or Oscar Pierre (Glovo).

Listen to the podcast: Youtube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Ivoox, and Google Podcasts

You can subscribe to their newsletter if you want to receive the podcast’s link every Monday. 

Whether you are at an early stage of your project, an investor or you are just curious, these podcasts for entrepreneurs give you the opportunity to be updated on tech and business news. Also, you get to learn from successful international entrepreneurs, which can definitely be very useful for your business.