Startup Advisor Memi Genosar Shares 4 Tips to Avoid Building A Product that Nobody Wants

As a startup founder, it’s easy to be biased towards your product. You’ve spent a lot of time and resources building it from the ground up and it’s natural to think that everyone needs it. But sometimes the product you create never really takes off and you have to go back to the drawing board. So how do you avoid a repeat of your first iteration? Labs mentor Memi Genosar, Senior Lecturer at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, held a session to discuss his four tips to avoid building a product with no demand.

Tip #1: Avoid inventor bias

As an entrepreneur, you’re expected to fall in love with your product. But you need to make sure you’re not blinded by your own biases. “Inventors and startup entrepreneurs are passionate about their solution,” Genosar says. “They're so passionate that either they don’t listen to anybody else or they think they know best about what the customer needs than the customer themselves. They invest time and money in building the product and then they go to the market and face a situation where nobody wants this product.”

One smart way to do that is to communicate with the market for feedback, starting with a problem definition, to ensure that you aren’t creating a product that nobody actually sees a need for. The market will always dictate how you develop your product, so never assume that your product will sell because you think people need it.

Always approach the market with the intention of solving actual problems or answer the actual need instead of inventing problems that your product can remedy. “Is the problem that you’re intending to solve with your product a real problem for them?  Are there many customers suffering from this problem ? Are they satisfied with current solutions? Will they pay for a new solution?

Tip #2: Be conscious of the “transfer barrier”

When an entrepreneur creates a new product, they have to convince the market that this new product is better than the one they’re currently using. They also need to be knowledgeable of what barriers would prevent customers from adopting this new solution, aka the transfer barrier. “Take Tesla for example. When they started, they researched the market and they concluded that what prevents drivers of gasoline-powered cars from moving to electric vehicles is the distance between recharging. So the first thing they invested in was developing a battery and engine that supported 200 miles between charges,” Genosar says. Consumers tend to stick to what’s familiar to them, so be ready to use your resources to create a strong product that can convince people to try something unfamiliar.  

Tip #3: Research the market to understand consumers needs

When you’re building a product, the market should determine what you create. Even if you have the best intentions, if the market doesn’t see a need for your product, it won’t sell. And you can’t get what you need from the market by sitting at your desk. “Get out of the building.,” Genosar says. “Don't think that all the know-how is within your team. You must go out to the market and gain insight from them. Try to understand what they see as competition. Also find out what they are using now and what, if anything, they are not satisfied with.”

Tip #4: Adopt the Lean Canvas methodology

The Lean Canvas methodology focuses on helping you gain a better understanding of your startup at every level. Having a lean canvas to refer to can help you avoid building a product nobody wants by giving you a better understanding of the market, your customer targets, and the problem you’re trying to solve. (Learn more about lean canvas here and find a template here.)

The Lean methodology has four principles to help you fill out various sections of the canvas, Genosar says. “The first principal of the Lean Canvas methodology is testing, or getting out into the market to do evaluations. The second principal is value versus waste which says everything not bringing value to the customer is waste. So don't develop or add features to your product unless it brings value to the customer. The third principle is iterate. The engagement with the market should be done iteratively (each iteration few weeks). And the fourth principal is learning. This principal says that any testing that is done is in order to collect data, analyze it, and make smart decisions from that data.”

Above all, to avoid building a product that nobody wants, make sure you understand your customer's needs. If you’re aware of their wants and needs, you’ll be better able to create something that addresses them.“Listen to the customer all the time,” Genosar says. “All the time. Not once in the beginning, not once in the end. It’s a never-ending process.”

Learn more about product development.

This post is based on content from a WeWork Labs programming session.

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