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Entrepreneurship

Will Others Actually Find Your Startup Idea Valuable?

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I love smoke tests. They’re a great way of testing whether or not there is any serious demand for our value proposition.

One common form of smoke test is a landing page test. The landing page states a value proposition with a call to action that asks the user to commit some form of value such as an email address or even money to sign up. Based on the % of users who signup, we get a rough signal from the market if the value proposition is in sufficient demand to build a minimal solution. If not, pivot!

But as much as I like smoke tests, I hate premature surrender. That’s what happens when the signal we get from the market is NO, but we don’t truly grasp why.

 

Landing Page Test

Let’s say we’re selling a new type of shoe that cures plantar fasciitis. We put up a landing page test with our value prop and a “buy now” button. Then we put $1000 in to Google Adwords for “shoes” to drive traffic and sit back to wait for the money to start rolling in…

Comprehension Test - cures plantar fasciitis

…and our conversion rate is 0%

Should we give up? That’s what the landing page test says. There is insufficient demand for this product.

By this point, some of you are probably asking, “What the hell is plantar fasciitis?”

Exactly. All those people coming to our site are asking the same thing.

Is our test failing because customers aren’t interested? Or do they fail because they simply can’t understand the value proposition?

Comprehension Test

Comprehension test - stop clubbing baby seals - Illustration by Emily Chiu

Before we ever run a smoke test, we should run a comprehension test.1It’s a simple test we can do that usually takes less than one hour:

  1. Write out our value proposition in 1-3 sentences.
  2. Show the value proposition to a participant for a few moments, just enough for them to read it. Then take it away.
  3. Ask them to explain the value proposition back to us in their own words.

If the participant’s explanation is roughly comparable to our own, we count that as a positive result. If not, then it’s a negative. For this sort of test, we generally want a sample size of about 20 people and a positive conversion of about 80%.

The conversion has to be very high because regardless of what our value proposition is, people should understand it.

Who?

No customer persona, no one to comprehension testWho we bring to this sort of test is important, but we don’t actually need to use our target customer. We just need someone with the same basic education level and vocabulary. That’s because we are not testing to see if someone wants our value prop, just if they can understand it.

If our target market has a high school level education, then we can just walk out onto the street for participants.

If our target market has a specialized vocabulary such as Chief Marketing Officers, we can probably run a comprehension test with anyone with a marketing background. MBAs seniors might do just fine and they are a lot more accessible than CMOs.

Once we’re certain people understand our value proposition, only then can we run our smoke test and be confident about the results.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

Comprehension Test: Qualitative vs. Quantitative?Don’t get caught up on qualitative vs. quantitative. Comprehension tests are both.

We get a yes/no quantitative response depending on the % of people that can successfully explain our value proposition.

We get the actual explanations as qualitative data. This data can be incredibly useful. If we use the comprehension test on our value prop “shoes that cure plantar fasciitis” we might get responses such as:

  • “Don’t know.”
  • “No idea.”
  • “Don’t know.”
  • “Something that cures a scary sounding disease.”
  • “Don’t know.”
  • “Shoes that help with a common runner’s condition that causes foot pain in the morning.”

Clearly the first five aren’t very useful, but the last one is. The last response is from someone who actually understood, probably a runner. Plantar fasciitis is a very common problem for runners.

Although our original value proposition failed the comprehension test, our respondent has given us a new value proposition to test!

Not only that, they’ve suggested some great keywords we can use for our Adwords campaign…something a lot more specific than “shoes” and with a lot more search volume than “shoes for plantar fasciitis.”

Rules of Thumb

  • Before testing commitment, test comprehension
  • Qualitative vs. quantitative is a useless distinction, we need both.

________________________________

About the Author

This article was written by Tristan Kromer of Grasshopperherder. Tristan helps product teams go fast. As a lean startup coach, he works with innovation teams to run at least one experiment/research per week to improve their product and business model.

If you’re interested in cutting to the chase and reading the entire Real Book, you can download it here.

 

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Laina Raveendran Greene, Co-Founder at Angels of Impact

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is our interview with Laina Raveendran Greene, Founder of GETIT Inc. and Co-Founder of Angels of Impact, an impact network focused on women social entrepreneurs helping to alleviate poverty. She is an entrepreneur and social impact investor, whose passion is female empowerment, and enabling women to be key agents to help alleviate poverty in Asia.

What makes you do what you do?
As a minority female Singaporean from relatively humble beginnings, I have never taken anything for granted. I learnt early on that I have to work doubly hard to overcome the “glass ceilings” but if I persevere, I can succeed. That is why I chose to focus on helping women-led social enterprises as I know how hard things are for them and I hope to make things a little easier for them.

How did you rise in the industry you are in? 
I rose by being courageous enough to push against the “glass ceiling” and seizing opportunities open to me no matter where they were. Early on, I realized I would have better opportunities overseas, so I worked in many countries, including Switzerland, USA, and Indonesia and used these opportunities to learn and open new avenues for myself. I now come back to Singapore with many more networks and skill sets.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
Yes, as a minority Singaporean, it may appear that I am not the usual leadership demography in Singapore. In my own way, however, I think I have amassed my own international accolades and work experience such as serving as the first Secretary General for the Asia Pacific Internet Association, CEO of one of the first few tech startups in Singapore in the early 90s, being on the International Steering Committee of the Global Telecommunication Women Network, and most recently selected as one of the 2nd cohort of Edmond Hillary Fellows in New Zealand.

I am now moving to the next phase of using these networks and skills to help other women to social enterprises, which seem to be exactly what I want to do in my next phase of life (after more than 25 years of global work experience).

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? 
It was harder in my younger days, as one of the few women in tech to find mentors but today I do.  Men were reluctant to mentor me for fear of rumors.

How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him? 
I found my mentor when I was taking an executive program at Stanford. He was one of the keynote speakers and I went to talk to him. Intrigued by my background, when I asked if he would mentor me, he said yes. I meet with him at regular intervals and I always ensure I have put his ideas to test before reporting back to him. I feel that I value his time if I do actually listen and act on his advice.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent? 
The key qualities I look for is an eagerness to learn and humility to be open to new ideas. Also, when asked to be a mentor, I usually give homework and see how proactive they are. Only the ones who do their homework, take the advice and act on it, are the ones I actively mentor.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously and unconsciously support diversity, as I see the importance of diversity on true innovation. You never get anything new, talking to like-minded people. It is always good to have different perspectives to create new ideas. I am also an active supporter having faced racial and gender discrimination in my life and want to ensure that others are given a better chance.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb? 
A great leader to me is one who has empathy and humility, and a genuine spirit of service. Today’s challenges such as climate change and social injustice, requires many players to apply their knowledge and skills to solve and have a sense of ownership in solving these issues

Advice for others?
The only advice I can think of is do what you are strongly passionate about. You need to persevere to succeed so it helps if you truly care about the endeavor you are working on.

If you’d like to get in touch with Laina Raveendran Greene, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laina/

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Callum Connects

Denise Morris Kipnis, Founder & Principal of ChangeFlow Consulting

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Denise Mossis Kipnis’ curiosity in people and the world, lead her to set up ChangeFlow Consulting.

What’s your story?
I’m driven by curiosity. Having been the only one in a room who looks like me for most of my life, I developed a curiosity about who stays, who leaves and who thrives in minority/majority situations including when and how connection and collaboration happen. I was a systems thinker long before I knew what that was, always asking why and so what; and seeing the pieces, the whole, and the places in between. So helping people and organisations move through the complexity of transformation feels natural to me.

What excites you most about your industry?
I see change and inclusion as two sides of the same thing; I don’t practice one without the other. Some people see change as death, as loss, as exhausting. And it can be. But I see in the work I do as an opportunity for something new or hidden to emerge. When an organisation understands that it is first a group of people, who themselves represent and belong to groups of people, and it begins to tackle what it would mean to understand and learn from all that talent, all that diversity, to have them all working for and not against the organisation, to truly unleash all that their people have to offer; that’s magic.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Change and inclusion are personal values as well as professional strengths. For me, living and working outside of the States was a bold experiment to see whether any of the stuff I’d learned about change and inclusion would work outside of the US. My husband and I targeted Asia specifically: it would be the greatest contrast, culturally speaking, for me; and a unique career springboard for him.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Although I’ve practiced in other cities, I am biased towards Singapore. In some ways it’s what Los Angeles is to the rest of the United States, a microcosm of sorts. The regional/global nature of it means that so many different nationalities and cultures are represented. As a result of this mix, you never know what you might get. In some situations, cultural dynamics are obvious, sometimes subdued. The variability is compelling.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.” Michael Rouan.

Who inspires you?
Often it’s a “what” not a “who.” I can get inspiration from a passage in a book or a situation in a movie, as well as a turn of a phrase or watching people interact. I often make the biggest connections between the various threads I’m working on when I’m sitting in someone else’s event.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’m honestly not blown away by much. Instead, I’m struck how circular things can be: ideas often come back around with a slightly different twist and I watch the way it shakes things loose for people. I recently sat through a workshop on Self as Instrument, and despite being thoroughly versed already, I learned something. In preparing for a panel on design thinking, I unearthed a new language to describe things.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
You’ve caught me at a good time. I’m sitting in appreciation and gratitude for all my experiences, because I wouldn’t be who I was today if all that has happened, didn’t. And yet one thing comes to mind: It wasn’t until I redesigned my website two years ago (shout out to Brew Creative!) that I realised I hadn’t made explicit agreements with my past clients as to what I could share publicly about our engagement, or whether I could use their logos in my promotional materials. In my business, confidentiality is so important, and yet I need to be able to talk about the work as reputation and experience leads to the next success, and so on. It turned out a lot of the contacts I had known had left the organisations where the work was done, so they couldn’t help at that point. So the practice I’m carrying forward is to get those agreements up front, and to make sure my relationships in client systems are broad as well as deep.

How do you unwind?
Science fiction, puzzles, wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Home. I don’t travel to relax, I travel to learn and explore.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Built to Change, by Ed Lawler and Chris Worley. To my knowledge, it’s the first pivot from advising organisations away from stability and toward dynamism, from strategic planning to strategizing as an action verb; to blow up the traditions and rigidity that impede organisations from developing change capability.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re taught that there are two kinds of people: those who see forests, and those who see trees. There is a third type, my type, and we see the ecosystem. Worms, climate, birds, the spaces in between. This is the perspective organisations need to be successful in solving complex problems and thriving in change.
ChangeFlow uniquely blends four disciplines (two of which are multi-disciplinary in themselves): organisation development, culture and inclusion, change management and project management.

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChangeFlowConsulting/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dmorriskipnis/
LinkedIn Company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/4862954/
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://www.changeflowconsulting.com

Twitter handle?
@ChangeFlow

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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