PNCamp#3 — Product Teardown UrbanPiper

Before writing something down about our experience at the recently held Product Nation Camp (PNCamp) product teardown session, I think it would be better to give a short perspective on the overall event from the viewpoint of a fairly reclusive startup in the B2B Saas space.

UrbanPiper has been around for some time; however, for a pretty long period, we haven’t taken part in any SaaS focused events. Well we did, but all of them were in Bangalore. The ones that we attended too, were mostly about networking with hundreds of people milling about and ready to deliver an elevator pitch if you so much as said “hello” to them. Nothing inherently wrong about such a gathering, but if networking isn’t your one-all-be-all purpose, these events stop making sense once you’ve attended one or two of them.
The PNCamp was suggested to us by one of our advisors. Not sure what to expect, the only reason we agreed to go was because we hadn’t attended any event for a decent length of time.

The event turned out to be a delightful experience — spread across a full day (Saturday), it was a small (80-100 people) gathering of focused individuals from a curated list of startups, with an evolved sense of SaaS business and products reflecting a matured outlook towards problem-solving. There was a team (including the founder) from the matured startup – Zenoti, which anchored most of the sessions and did all that they could to share their learning with the rest of us fledgling startups. The day’s events were well regulated to avoid any feeling of drag creeping in, and at all times, it felt like everyone was invested with a great deal of interest and purpose to contribute to each other’s box of learning.

The product teardown was the first session scheduled after a short inaugural talk by the PN team and the guest of honour – Mr. Jay Pullur (Founder of Pramati Technologies).

As it usually is with all things unprepared for, UrbanPiper was invited as the first startup to step up for the teardown. Not having any previous experience of a product teardown, I had no idea what good or bad was in store, and that in a strange way helped me calm down and focus upon telling the audience a good narrative about the UrbanPiper story.

THE TEARDOWN PROCESS

The teardown allows the speaker, a representative of the startup core team, to speak about their startup for 5-10 minutes. As part of the initial presentation, some basic questions are asked by any member of the audience. These questions are usually of the nature to understand a bit better about the proposition of the startup.

Once the presentation is through and the first wave of questions answered, the team from Zenoti takes over. They systematically explored aspects of the technology platform – the finished product, product interfaces, on-boarding process – but it all starts with the “deconstruction” of the website.

For us, the UrbanPiper website (https://urbanpiper.com) had been an effort to put up a decent web presence. Where “decent” merely meant that it was better as a façade than what our competitors had, and it somewhat managed to convey the platform’s proposition.

The following is what we felt manages to tick most of the checkboxes when it came to a Saas-based startup’s website:

UrbanPiper

The next 15 minutes was a logical and well-executed act of unravelling the pointlessness of doing things half-baked and half-thought. While the focus was directed towards our website, but it didn’t take much effort to see signs of the same problems when it comes to setting a product vision, selling, pricing, negotiating, fund raising, marketing, etc.

The primary theme of the teardown can be summarized as:

  1. What have you built and how do you intend to sell it
  2. Does your website echo the thought-process expressed in #1
  3. The website teardown focuses on:
    1. The messaging around the primary proposition of your product/platform
    2. The explanation of how your target audience can use your platform
    3. The long-tail value of using your product/platform
    4. How has your platform made a difference for the merchants/clients who have been using it for quite some time

TAKEAWAYS

As ominous as a “teardown” sounds, the first thing to know is that it’s a very friendly event. Instead of feeling defensive about getting “exposed”, it is best to view the teardown as a get together of well-informed friends who point out the gaps in your plan to save you the blushes in the future. Think of the last time when a friend of yours pointed out that your fly is open – that probably best sums up the purpose of the teardown.

Another important aspect is the quality of feedback–you have some of the best minds, who have most certainly been-there-done-that, offering you their undivided attention so as to offer you advice which is best suited for you.

For us, the key takeaways boiled down to:

  • Narrow down the area UrbanPiper wants to focus on. Instead of positioning the platform for every merchant, it would make it much easier to scale if we simply focused on being the best in one domain, and then decide to pursue another one.
  • Overhaul the website to focus on simple messaging instead of using buzzwords, which would most likely make no sense to even the people you’d like to sell to.
  • Break down the journey a merchant would have from not using our platform to the benefits of signing up and thereafter.
  • Last, but certainly not the least, build out the product and the website with a focus on selling globally. This involves a change in setting out a more global plan, but the start needs to be with the website–which should reflect in no uncertain terms the intent to cater to a global audience.

CURRENT SITUATION

It’s been a week since the PNCamp, but we have already finished work on the first iteration of making some much needed changes to our website. This iteration is by no means a finished product, but it certainly embraces some of the direction that we should be taking with our platform’s positioning.

It gives me a lot of pleasure to unveil the new look of our website–

While this is just our first iteration, there are some key elements that we wanted to address:

  • Focus the messaging around the domain that works for us.
  • Take the visitor through various parts of the platform in a gradual and relevant manner – the features should unravel themselves as an easy to understand narrative.
  • Use styling which gives the site a crisp look and feel, such as to measure up to the expectations of a global platform.
  • Add a blog (https://urbanpiper.com/blog) section to write about the platform and make a visitor find out more. Not to mention, reap the benefits of better SEO.
  • Prominently showcase a video which ideally has a current merchant talking about the platform.

Urbanpiper2

THE WAY FORWARD

We have just begun an interesting journey of making UrbanPiper relevant for the next phase of growth. During the PNCamp, Sudheer (founder of Zenoti) had suggested that I read a book – Crossing the chasm (Geoffrey Moore). I’ve just read the first chapter of the book, and already it feels like there’s going to be lots to learn from it.

Whatever be in store, it will surely help us rediscover ourselves at an important juncture of growth for UrbanPiper.

If I were to pause for a moment and reflect upon the events and the actions we’ve taken, it’s not like there was a grand revelation or something. Working in startups, we all carry a bunch of latent thoughts. However, in the everyday hectic operations of running a startup, we often lose “perspective”. If we’re lucky, then we have some good friends from other startups with whom we hang out regularly, and exchange notes, which in-turn helps us gain some of the lost “perspective”. But then, having friends from startups which have tread a path similar to yours, call for rather long odds.

Events are usually good to meet an eclectic group of individuals from the startup world, but then, most of them are primarily about networking, and soon lose value for all the effort that needs to be put in for attending them. And then, we just become lazy, letting our latent thoughts remain buried, while we continue to endure every aspect of a tunnel-vision syndrome.

For what it’s worth, the Product Nation Camp, was certainly a refreshing take on the idea of a startup conference – or rather, unconference. You’ve got a room full of smart people, doing smart things, and wanting to help you see things differently – to help you gain some of your lost perspective.

Guest Post by Anirban Majumdar @ urbanpiper.com

The Making of #PNcamp3 #Hyderabad

Just came back, feeling happy, from Hyderabad after doing the #PNcamp3. The drive from the airport in the evening to Gachibowli was pleasant and I got to see lot of construction in the city. I felt like I was driving in the Silicon Valley highway with wide roads and people driving in their lanes. In the evening, when I drove back from the ISB Campus, it took me just 25 minutes to reach to the airport.

Sunset near the HYD airport

Some background about what we have done so far in the Hyderabad Ecosystem

We have managed to do around 5 playbooks so far, 3 of them have been around Products, 1 of them was by Suresh Sambandam on Nuts & Bolts selling to the US, one of them was on Selling by Aneesh Reddy of Capillary. Few months back, we did put together a playbook around Product Showcase, inspite of having 8–10 confirmations, no one showed up except for Niraj from Hiver who was facilitating the playbook.

I was little upset as I felt founders in Hyderabad did not value the playbooks. I stayed quite for few months and then recently wrote a blog post on my contribution to Chennai and how it is now positioned as a SaaS/B2B hub of India. Chaitanya of Ozonetel tweeted saying he will write a blog post on how Hyderabad is emerging as a B2B hub. I felt guilty of not making an active contribution to the city. So after SaaSx, I thought of putting together PNcamp3, it’s a light format and adds value to the Pre-Product Market Fit stage companies.

The Hyderabad Tech Eco-system

Just to give you a little brief about the Hyderabad tech eco-system, they have an awesome Incubator/co-working space called T-Hub which is truly a global facility. Some of the leading companies from Hyderabad in the B2B space are: Pramati Technologies, Zenoti, Ozonetel, AgileCrm and in B2C we have MeraEvents and NowFloats is in the SMB space. Also you have some emerging players such as ReportGarden, AppVirality, Robustest and few others. This is just a partial list to give an understanding of the tech ecosystem. There are many more which I might have missed.

The team which pulled PNcamp together

Few months back, Shekhar Kirani of Accel had connected me with Sudheer Koneru of Zenoti as Sudheer was keen to get connected to the ecosystem and contribute some of his learnings. Initially, I wasn’t even aware about them, but the more I spoke with Sudheer I found him to be someone who was keen to help the Indian eco-system, keen to do something for Hyderabad. He flew in from Hyderabad as I requested him to attend one playbook before he does any for us….that was a big commitment and he made it happen. I’m quite fortunate to have leveraged Sudheer for 2 playbooks(1 in BLR & 1 in HYD), he was a mentor at PNgrowth and shared his learnings at SaaSx4. Sudheer was the first person who agreed to host #PNcamp in Hyderabad. I then reached out to Chaitanya as he has always been there to support in any initiative that I have reached out to him for. I had been working with Laxman from AppVirality on Beyond Founders…it hasn’t taken off, but I know he was committed and very keen to contribute.

I just shared the format of PNcamp2 that we did in Pune and I said, let’s target around the 75 B2B founders in HYD and do something for startups which are in the early stages. According to Chaitanya, it was a high number, so we settled for around 35–40 as we did not have enough B2B companies in HYD. We did the first blog post announcing PNcamp and noticed that we just got 1 application in 1 week. I realised that we have to probably do little more outreach to get the 35–40 number. Then Sainath Gupta heard about the PNCamp in Hyderabad, he shared it on Facebook and I did speak to him to help us out. Without knowing what we were getting into, he agreed and I set a target for around 75 B2B startups, probably around 40 from HYD and the remaining from other parts of India. I also told him that to get to 75, we have to probably get around 130 applications as we follow a tight curation process. I did update Laxman that we were not doing too well on registrations and he did reach out to Praveen Dorna who was very active in the ecosystem. I got both Sainath & Praveen on a call and requested for help. Both of them took on the target of getting around 75 people for PNcamp. Luckily, we managed to get around 90 applications out of which around 63 were short-listed and eventually 55 showed up for the event.

The day at PNcamp3

We started at 11am sharp with a warm welcome by Sudheer. This was followed by an inspiring talk by Jay Pullur. It’s safe to call him the father of the product ecosystem for Hyderabad. He started Pramati in 1998 and was one of the leading product companies in the Middleware space. Jay shared some insights on what it takes to build a global product company from India. There were lot of questions which came and he gave his insights to the startups and I could see that maturity and the depth of product knowledge that he had gained over the last 19 years.

Audience at #PNcamp3

We quickly moved on to the Product Tear down sessions. I was very nervous till the last minute on how the session would be conducted….but Sudheer and his team which included Mrityunjay, Anand & Bharath did a fabulous job of shortlisting 5 companies.

They actually tested out the functionality, ordered stuff, called up the startups like a customer and availed their service. They did a thorough analysis of their website, their market, their messaging, etc. One of the key things mentioned by the team was copy…copy…copy as the basics were not in place from few companies. This was something which Shekhar had also mentioned when he did the tear down in SaaSx.

Startup going through the Tear down process

The startups who presented got some good value and appreciated the efforts put by Sudheer’s team. Product Tear down is a good format which was started at SaaSx and now we are hopeful that we will be able to take this virtual.

Apart from this, we tried a Pitch tear down session, without the VCs, the session went well and i’m glad that most of the founders were trying to help each other in the session. Kevin William David of Siftery shared some thoughts on how you should be launching your product in ProductHunt. The session was around Product Launch…but a few companies shared their learning on how they launched the product…but it was ok…as the idea was to get them talking.

We were around 5:30pm when Sudheer started his own learnings on Building a Enterprise company for Global markets. He shared his learnings and how they have been obsessed in understanding their customer business. Sudheer and his colleagues actually bought software from the competition to understand how it works and many times went to customer to learn from them….never to sell. That was a very powerful insight. Most of the folks are always in the sell mode when they meet customers…but it was so good to see someone going to meet potential customer to understand how their business works.

Sudheer Koneru from Zenoti

They exactly understood their customers’ business, only then pitched on how their product can add value to their business. Sudheer’s session was very interactive and almost every attendee in the room had a question which he answered patiently. The end time for PNcamp3 was around 6pm and as with all interesting events, it kept stretching. knew that folks were flying back in the same evening, so around 6:45pm I had to bring it to a logical conclusion. We have collected feedback and the NPS score for the event is ~78 which makes my colleague Rajan happy 🙂

Tweet from one of the attendees.

Sudheer hosted some of the folks at his house after the session and it was great to catch up with some folks informally in the evening. I had to rush around 7:45pm as I had a flight at 9pm….and somehow I made it 🙂

I feel happy after making a small contribution to the HYD eco-system and I hope to work with the team again to put together the next #PNcamp in the city. Also, thanks to ISB for allowing us to host PNcamp in their wonderful facility. Was blown away by the infrastructure that the city has.

Blown away by the commitment of folks like Sudheer Koneru, Chaitanya Reddy, Laxman, Sainath Gupta, Praveen & Ronak Samantray for putting a great show. We just pulled this off in less than 25 days, with just a few calls…and a few whatsapp messages.

Forget the Product, Obsess about Customer (Problems)

Attending a #PNCamp is like going to an amusement park. You know you are going to have a great time. But everything that happens still manages to amaze you in a way you do not expect.

Seth Godin

In this post, I will share my experience at the recently held #PNCamp3 at ISB, Hyderabad. This was the first Product Nation Camp held at Hyderabad and focused on early-stage B2B startups.

A bit about my startup, RobusTest. RobusTest is a software platform that helps enterprises test mobile apps better and release them faster at a significantly lesser cost. We are currently 2 years old and work with 2 leading enterprises. I came into #PNCamp3 with a burning question – how do I do sales? In the last few months, my understanding of sales has improved through reading and through real experience. At #PNCamp I was looking forward to understanding enterprise sales in a structured manner. I did get some answers and I hope you too get a few takeaways from this post.

Building a Global Product Business

The day started with Jay Pullur of Pramati Technologies exploring the topic of building a global product business from his experience of building multiple enterprise products and successfully exiting a few. Incidentally I worked with Pramati Technologies for 8 years and closely with Jay on an enterprise product.

Jay Pullur of Pramati talking about building a global product
Jay Pullur of Pramati talking about building a global product

Chefs would tell you that when making a dish, not only is it important to have the right ingredients, it is equally important that the ingredients be added at the right time and in the right mix. Jay explored both these facets – the appropriate constituents and appropriate team constitution – when building a product business.

To start with, in the building phase, you need to get the technology and the product right. Once your product is ready, you will be selling and for that you need to identify your market and your customers. In the third phase, you will be looking at scaling for which you need to focus on people and capital. It is important to remember that as a startup grows through these phases, the focus on relevant ingredients increases but it does not imply the absence of other ingredients e.g. you will need people even when you are scaling, you will need the technology even when you are selling – just that when selling your focus should be on identifying the right market and customers and when scaling your focus should be on getting the right people and having enough capital.

Jay also touched upon the different types of exits startups may have – an exit at the build stage is most probably an acquihire, an acquisition at the sell stage is most probably for the acquirer to get a foothold in the market that the product caters to. When you exit at scale, it is for the acquirer to gain a position in the market.

Product Teardown

Product Teardown is always a much awaited session because of the open and forthright feedback given by experts on existing startups and their working. Hats off to every startup which chooses to participate in this exercise. It is an acknowledgement of their willingness to confront their shortcomings and work on them.

Participants presenting at the Product Teardown
Participants presenting at the Product Teardown

5 startups presented their product – UrbanPiper, EngineerBabu, Vaave, KnightTracker, DataKatalyst  – while a crack team which spent considerable time and effort in researching the startup – right from its market space down to the minutest detail – gave feedback. As I heard the feedback given to each startup, I could see many mistakes/oversights in our own marketing and selling strategy. Following are some highlights from the product teardown.

Are customers clear about what you are offering?

Does your website clearly communicate what you are offering – to put it the right way which problem of theirs are you solving, how can a customer sign up or get more information, what they will need to pay, and many other such questions that go into “converting” a customer.

Wait, are you clear about what you are offering?

As engineers and technical geeks, most product startup founders have immense clarity about what they are building. However, most of the times we are found wanting when it comes to clarity on “which problem are we solving”, “whose problem are we solving” & “how are we solving it”. It goes without saying, that a product without customers is a hobby project at best.

Is your website communicating your value proposition or confusing your potential customer?

A rookie mistake most founders make when creating their website (or any other marketing channel) is to explain all features of their products with painstaking detail forgetting the one important part – the customer and how we intend to make his/her life better. In fact, it is not at all a bad idea to look at websites of the competition and learn a few things from them (or even copy the entire site, of course in a smart manner).

Are you selecting your customer(s) or are you catering to everyone?

When we are starting up, there is a great desire to include everyone in our customer set. This propensity, of course, ends up confusing every potential customer. It is, therefore, important to put in some thought into which customer segment to address.As is often recommended, identify your least resistant customers and go after them.

One example that was cited was nature of business ownership. As a startup when the challenge is to close a deal as fast as possible, it makes sense to target businesses which are still run by the owner rather than corporates where decision making is spread out across teams and is, shall we say, bureaucratic.

When identifying the target customer segment, it is helpful to pick as narrow a segment as possible. This helps a startup focus its efforts which is very essential considering that startups need to be very judicious with their resources.

Selling to Enterprise Customers Globally

While Jay’s session focussed on building global enterprise products, Zenoti’s Sudheer Koneru delved into selling to enterprise customers across the globe. Zenoti is a cloud-based software for spas and salons and is a successful SaaS product from India.

Sudheer Koneru talking about selling to enterprise customers globally
Sudheer Koneru talking about selling to enterprise customers globally

One of the first things that Sudheer emphasised on is that if we are targeting the global market (and we better know if we are), then all the messaging including website, language, photographs & product demos should be geared towards creating the impression that we are an international player.

On the topic of Customer Development, Sudheer narrated an impressive anecdote on how he and his team went about studying their customers’ problems. They literally got themselves massaged and manicured into customer development! They took services from different spas and salons and simulated multiple real-life scenarios. This exercise provided important insights into issues that the current offerings posed. It empowered them to talk to their customers in a language they spoke and hence, connected instantly with the customer.

An important piece of advice that Sudheer gave was to avoid selling to customers and rather focus on asking the right questions to understand their problems. Of course, it is important to ask the right questions. So instead of asking “would you like a product which does this and this”, one could ask “how do you currently do ….”, “how much times does … take ”, “how often do you create reports”, “how do you decide if you need to ….”. The answers to these questions will help one understand how to solve the customer’s problems.

The one thing

If there was one thing that I took back from #PNCamp3, it would be

forget about your product, rather obsess over your customer – rather obsess over the customer’s problems

Thanks

Last but not the least, I am grateful to the entire team behind #PNCamp3.

Thanks a lot to the team at iSPIRT – Avinash, Chaitanya and Sainath, to Sudheer and his team from Zenoti (Mrityunjay, Anand, Bharath) which was present in full force and helped organize the camp,  to Jay Pullur & Raunak (Now Floats) for their presence and guidance. Of course, thanks to ISB for being an amazing venue.

Guest Post by Aishwarya Mishra, RobusTest

If you are a B2B Product startup, here is how you can leverage #PNCamp3 #Hyderabad

iSPIRT brings #PNCamp3 to Hyderabad for the first time. There are clearly established trends that successful SaaS startups have started to emerge from India on the global front – with products that are world class and leaders in their categories. These are very early stages of a transition from a IT services world to a SaaS software economy.

#PNCamp for the first time in Hyderabad is a bootcamp never before presented to entrepreneurs in the region. It is a roll-up your sleeves kind of format wherein you will get to see real examples of companies which are analyzed. Very precise feedback on how to make adjustments to the company’s approach towards success are presented to the audience. This is all a part of the product teardown process – where other successful entrepreneurs help do such analysis for participating companies. Rather than hear boring talks – the format will be centered around addressing the issues that participants raise as key concerns.

There are three sessions where startups will present and get feedback.

#PNcamp3

Product teardown: In this section, select startups will provide a quick walkthrough of their product website. As each startup will get limited time to present, key is to stay focused on most critical or concerning area of your product. Experts and fellow participants will provide feedback on core functionality, usefulness, right fit of the product, visual and experiential aspect of the product. In the past, such product tear down has help entrepreneurs get amazing inputs in matter of minutes. Moreover it has opened up doors for more insightful beta users from the cohart. Product teardown session focuses on product flow, functionality, identifying specific KPIs and using analytics to derive insights, and immediate critical aspect that might be hindering product traction or stickiness. Founders will get actionable inputs that can be applied next day and see improvements. If you are interested to seek feedback, please apply here.

Idea to Launch (Unconference): The pre-launch phase is a very important phase in the development of your SaaS business and success in this phase can often accelerate growth once you launch to the public. Smart founders use this phase to understand as much as they can about who their ideal customers are, what their needs are and how much they would be willing to pay to get their problem solved. This session is in place to precisely discuss about this particular phase of your business.

Founders can learn from each other’s experiences in informal conversations on how to go about launching a product. Learn from the founders of Chargebee, Kissflow, Zenoti and many other SaaS founders on how they went about their product launch. From market sizing, validation, identifying lead generation channels to feature prioritization, learn it all from real stories

“What makes a good pitch deck”: One of the most important(if not the most important) resource your startup should spend time on is the pitch deck. Your pitch deck is the window to your startup. The way your pitch deck is structured can make or break your fund raising plans.

What should you include in your pitch deck? Should it be too long? Or too short?

How can you estimate the market size?

What are the key metrics investors look for in a pitch deck?

All these questions and more will be answered in this session. In this session we will do a pitch teardown of two selected startups. Investors from LetsVenture and successful startup founders who have raised money will analyze the pitches and suggest what works and what does not. They will give you pointers on how to calculate the key metrics and how to continue tracking them.

This session is a must for startups who are looking to fund raise.

The entire bootcamp comes together due to the energy infused by Founders who purely volunteer their time towards the cause of helping companies succeed. Successful entrepreneurs like Suresh of KiSSFLOW, Krish from ChargeBee participate in these forums purely with the desire to see a vibrant ecosystem of SaaS companies.

Look forward to seeing you all for what will be the most hands-on bootcamp ever made available to entrepreneurs in Hyderabad.

This is a MUST attend camp for any early stage product startup. Do not miss this unique opportunity to catch the brains of experts and fellow participants through product feedbacks and interactions. So, if you are an early stage startup looking to take your startup to next orbit, then register yourself right away at www.pncamp.in Lets build great product nation, one product at a time! See you at PNCamp.

Guest Post by Sudheer(Zenoti), Chaitanya(Ozonetel) & Laxman(AppVirality)

Announcing #PNCamp3 (22nd April- Hyderabad) – Feedback,Teardowns and more.

Building a startup is hard. And many times it’s lonely. The actual building of the product is the honeymoon period. Especially for tech startups. There is the high of creating something from scratch and seeing it take shape. But just like in a real marriage, then start the struggles 🙂

You have a product. You have some early adopters,maybe some friends and family. But how do you scale? How can you build a predictable revenue machine? Is your product right for the market? Should you track some metrics? What metrics should you track? How do you make people come to your website? How do you make them stay? How can you wow your customers in the first 5 minutes of them using your product?

Every early stage startup will have these and many more questions. And thats a good thing. This means that there are successful startups who have had these questions and have found answers. And thats where this #PNCamp gets in.

The idea of this #PNCamp is to get a bunch of successful startup founders and early stage startups together so that early stage startups can learn from the successful ones. But this aint your regular gyaan session where a founder gets on stage and shares his/her “journey”. No sir no. The format of this camp is to have a complete hands on approach in helping startups find answers to their questions. The PNCamp is structured for real action oriented learning. And the more you share the more you learn. You are getting only 10 visitors a week? What actual things you can do will be suggested. You are converting less than 1% of visits to leads? Actual changes to your lead form or web site will be suggested. These are actionable insights which you can apply immediately.

And you can question. In fact you should question the insights,after all, you own the product. And this will hopefully lead to a healthy debate.

Here are a list of things which we will do at the camp:

  1. Founder truth or dare: A successful founder will be put on stage and you can ask them anything. They will share their insights by putting it all out in the open. And in case they refuse to share, well, we will give a dare to them 🙂
  2. Teardowns: Startups can nominate themselves for a teardown from experts. The experts will analyze your product/website/sales process/marketing and give you blunt feedback on each of the processes. Don’t expect any sugar coating from the experts. They will tell it as they see it. It’s almost as if your startup is getting free consulting and mentorship from some of the best minds in the world :). This is the most important feature of the camp and this is where most of the learning happens. Our previous teardowns have been very successful and every startup which has gone through the process has improved.
  3. Pitch breakup: Here again, startups can nominate and share their pitch deck. Experts will analyze the pitch-deck and give suggestions on optimizing the pitch.

Startups may have a worry about opening up about their startup. Its a valid worry, but let me assure you, it’s an unfounded one. What goes on in the #PNCamp stays at the camp. Its just a community of startup peers sharing.

So are you ready? Just go and apply for the bootcamp  in Hyderabad on 22nd April 2017.

Takeaways from the Second ProductNation Boot Camp #PNCamp #Pune

iSPIRT put together its second Product Nation boot camp for product people, by product people on 8th October 2016 at Persistent Systems’ Office in Pune. It was a day-long coming together of doers: ones who have been there, done that; and ones in the journey of getting there. The format was simple:

takeaways-from-the-second-productnation-boot-camp-pncamp-pune

Successful product entrepreneurs shared details of their journey, interesting hacks and their learning

Teardown session of early stage product startups, who are still looking for product-market fit.

Orchestrated by hand-picked facilitators, there were focused, interactive, deep conversations within small, curated groups. 

I have summarized key learning from the bootcamp below:

ankit-at-adpushupConfirmation Bias

One of the things that stood in the teardown sessions is that more often than not, founders tend to be bogged down with confirmation bias. Despite best intentions, many entrepreneurs look to confirm hypotheses, rather than test them. This is called confirmation bias and may lead to false positives.

Confirmation bias is defined as the tendency to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms one’s own existing preconceptions, beliefs and opinions. Entrepreneurs, generally known to be highly driven people, are intensely focused on their goal and therefore may be extra vulnerable to the destructive effect of confirmation bias

For an entrepreneur, the danger here is obvious: without a clear understanding of the things that might cause your business to fail, it’s impossible to overcome them.

Focus on specifics and go into depth

Another aspect evident from the discussion was that we are often trying to do too many things, and this could be with respect to also adding too many features.

Instead, you want to be the best at one thing your customers want or need. Focus on how that one thing you do best can deliver value to your customers. Become irreplaceable to your customers

To implement even one good idea takes a mountain of work–strategic planning, product development, marketing pushes, financing, administration, human resources, and so much more. Taking one idea to profits is hard. To be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to realize the devil is in the details. Don’t fall into the trap of trying–like so many entrepreneurs–to do too much.

Another benefit of focus for startups is that it enables better marketing. The only way to get mindshare is to have a simple story. It’s hard to be succinct in describing several products. By having a clear and singular focus you can more easily craft a simple story that resonates with customers. This in turn makes it easier to generate PR. And most importantly of all, an easy to describe product and differentiation allows consumers to more easily tell your story and help you create viral growth.

Identify Customer Persona

User Personas are fictional descriptions of a few different profiles of your typical users, based on research and conversations with prospective buyers. They help you understand your users better and are important tools when tailoring the message of your brand. Identifying customer persona helps early can help you in several ways:

Identify your target market – Building a User Persona helps a startup clearly identify and understand its target market

Shape your product or service offering – With this goldmine of information, a startup is uniquely positioned to shape its product or service offering to better cater to the needs of its target buyers. This can, for example, also help you decide the theme for your product landing page, color combination, UX intricacies etc. 

Lead generation – A marketing strategy that is based on well researched user personas, and defined customer decision journeys will result in higher lead generation

Content creation –Once you’ve understood the motivations, goals, challenges and habits of your users and prospective users, you can build content that is designed to address these goals. Your content will now be much more effective and will convert at a higher rate.

How are you divergent?

Suresh from Kissflow showed an interesting slide on how KissFlow was divergent against its contemporaries. Founders need to have clarity on the key criteria their target persona will evaluate before choosing their product. It could be features, price, ease of use etc, and compare it with other players in the market.

Think about this: Why do customers pay for your product or service? What makes it unique and better than that of your competitors?

Your differentiation will stem from the insights you gathered about the problem or the customer which you uniquely believe no one else has.

Rinse and repeat

As an entrepreneur, you need to clearly differentiate between fact and hypothesis. You will make several hypothesis, but you need to test them before making accepting them as a fact. 

The most important element of creating a hypothesis is that it must be “falsifiable.” That means your hypothesis can be rejected after an initial experiment of the hypothesis. 

Second, all hypotheses should be quantifiable. In other words, you must be able to predict, account, and analyze your results. A good hypothesis includes both a question and good methodology to uncover the results. After determining the question and developing your methodology, you should then run a test to analyze the information obtained.

You will be creating hypothesis related to several aspects in your startup journey, viz. product features, customer needs, website, pricing etc. 

Three important rules to keep in mind:

Do not be afraid to test your hypothesis

Be honest with yourself 

Learn from your mistakes.

In the words of Matt Damon in The Martian, “At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”

Keep It Simple

And finally an important rule that founders need to imbibe by – Keep It Simple. This applies to your product, it applies to your website, it applies to user onboarding and perhaps almost everything.  The single biggest thing that will attract customers to try you, atleast initially is trust. Trust that you can deliver and trust that what you say is true. Simplicity helps you build this trust. Shy away from unnecessary hype or claims on your website and don’t make it until you make it.

facilitators-at-pncampAll in all, PNcamp is a MUST attend camp for any early stage product startup. It is a unique opportunity to catch the brains of experts and fellow participants through product feedbacks and interactions. What particularly stands out within the iSpirt community and in this even is the candidness of founders and their willingness to share details about their journey.

Guest Post by Rajat Harlalka, Bellurbis Technologies

Here seasoned founders make bulbs flash in the heads of newbies

“Are you an accounting company or a finance company?”

The question was addressed to Baskar Ganapathy, co-founder and product head of Numberz. It’s an early stage fintech startup with a software product to help small businesses manage their invoices and cash flow.

What makes it different is an add-on feature that lets businesses get a credit line and working capital loans. Baskar explained that managing accounts gave Numberz the credit profile of a business, which made it easier to provide loans.

Suresh Sambandam, founder and CEO of Kissflow, who was one of the mentors at the iSPIRT ProductNation bootcamp in Pune. Photo credit: Sumit Chakraberty

What’s more, businesses can not only get loans for themselves through Numberz, but prompt their clients to use it too. It has a GetFinance button to send with an invoice to clients who may need loans to pay their dues.

The problem arises in pitching the product. Accounting tools are many, but a financing avenue through an accounting software product is unusual. Shouldn’t this be the highlight instead of an add-on? Hence the question to Baskar on how he was positioning the startup.

The question came from Suresh Sambandam, founder and CEO of Kissflow, one of India’s SaaS success stories from Chennai. It provides workflow automation software on the cloud to over 10,000 companies around the world. Suresh knows a thing or two about being razor-focused in pitching a software product.

Don’t tell me anything more about your product other than how it is going to solve the client’s problem.

A word to the wise is sufficient. Baskar and his co-founder at Numberz, Aditya Tulsian, both worked at Intuit earlier. They led campaigns for adoption of Intuit products like Quickbooks for accountants, and saw a gap in getting small businesses to use accounting software. So the Numberz cashflow management product was a natural extension of what they had done earlier. Now the interaction with Suresh gave them food for thought on positioning their unique financing product for small businesses.

The interaction happened at a bootcamp in Pune organized by non-profit think tank iSPIRT (Indian Software Product Industry Round-Table), whose mission is to transform India from a back office for software services to an innovation hub for software products.

This was the second  in Pune aimed at helping early stage startups looking for product-market fit. ISPIRT holds a similar bootcamp for growth stage companies in Mysore. The bootcamps have a product teardown format for experts to coach startups.

Places like Pune and Mysore are emerging startup hubs which lack the abundance of role models and mentors in India’s Silicon Valley, Bangalore, or its SaaS capital, Chennai. Seasoned entrepreneurs and mentors from the bigger hubs of Delhi, Bangalore, and Chennai had day-long interactions with startups who had signed up for the bootcamp in Pune.

Read the complete story by Sumit Chakraberty at TechInAsia 

Learnings from #PNCamp

For those who aren’t aware, PNCamp is a bootcamp event for early stage SaaS startups. We were lucky enough to get invited to the event in Pune on Oct 8. The event, like earlier SaaSx event in Chennai, is a no-nonsense event for founders and product folks. The day-long event had two tracks: one for B2B startups and one for B2C startups. We, at Fyle, were part of the B2B track.

learnings-from-pncampThe B2B track consisted of a mix of talks by accomplished folks — Suresh of Kissflow, Krish of ChargeBee and Ankit of AdPushup covering fun anecdotes, practical suggestions and cautionary tales. Here are a couple of interesting ones (more on my twitter).

Apart from these talks, there were “Product Teardown” sessions where a startup gets 10 mins to demo and talk about their product and the next 15 mins is spent in critical evaluation. The framework for the session is aptly summarized by this diagram:

Fyle got to participate in the Product Teardown session and the most important learnings for us were:

  • Pricing page and testimonials are really important to increase confidence in your product
  • Remove unnecessary friction during sign up flow. E.g. we had an email verification step which, in hindsight, is an overkill
  • Pick your audience and get them to a wow really quickly. E.g. you may restrict your app to G-Suite customers and optimize their experience by deep integrations
  • Put some effort into content marketing, it will pay in the long run
  • Saying NO — the lack of focus for a company reflects in its website and affects the product, team and business

Overall, the event was refreshing in the level of candor — founders were openly discussing problems with focus, hiring and customer acquisition and tips and suggestions were extremely practical in nature. It was part-educational and part-therapeutic for me and I highly recommend it for early stage startups.

Special thanks to all the volunteers and facilitators for organizing a fantastic event! One parting thought from Ankit on how to get fresh insights into your product which we’re going to institutionalize 🙂

Guest Post by Sivaramakrishnan Narayanan, Fyle.in. The original post can be accessed on Medium

#PNCamp2: Shortlisted B2C Products for the Product Teardown Sessions

The volunteer team here at PNCamp are excited to share their list of candidates for the live Product Teardown Session. These companies have been selected to have their products analysed by our expert panel of in minute detail over a 2 hour long session. We expect that the feedback that they’ll get to take back from the session will be relevant and valuable in improving their product’s readiness.

  • Priyanka, Wishberry.in – help independent artists raise money for their projects from their fan communities
  • Sriram, Blue Sky Agriculture – Reimagining the supply chain for fruits and vegetables.
  • Vinay, FinitePaths – Get answers for your questions from people you can trust.
  • Dushyant, PodPitara – Discover curated podcasts.
  • Rohan, Garagehub – One stop for all your vehicle related problems.
  • Ajmal, Spenwise.com – Wise spending for a smart generation.
  • Murukesh, Codeflow.co – a programming platform that lets you build scalable cloud applications by simply composing reusable components.
  • Ashish Sharma, Phynart – building the future in the field of Home Automation.
  • Rohit, Koove.com – Discover exclusive products.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy for the curation team to go over the details of each company and pick out the right ones. If you haven’t been selected, or would still like to apply for a slot – do get in touch with us through pncamp.in.

On session day, the panel for the B2C track are:

  • Sampad from Instamojo
  • Amit from Walnut App
  • Sarang from Intouch App
  • Naman from FindYogi
  • Harshit from KPMG(UX)

The panel for the B2C track are:

  • Sampad Swain – Instamojo
  • Amit Bhor – Walnut App
  • Naman Saraogi – FindYogi
  • Sarang Lakhare – InTouch App
  • Harshit Desai – KPMG

To learn more about the format for the Product Teardown Session here.

Look forward to having you!

Guest Post by Santosh Dawara, DeAzzle & Volunteer for PNcamp.

 

Keep Calm and Attend PNcamp 2.0

You’re a dreamer? You’re a doer? You’re a doer-turned-dreamer? You’re a dreamer-turned-doer? If you are some or all of that, you are quite likely an entrepreneur!! It is no secret that a start-up’s journey is action-packed—identifying the right problems to solve, validating possible solutions, getting the product-market fit right, building an awesome product—figuring out the roadmap items to say yet to and say no to, scaling growth—and the challenge is to yet do it in a focused way. Sounds familiar? Worry not, we have one advice for you “Keep Calm and Attend PNcamp 2.0”.

keep-calm

If you are a discovery stage start-up, we have something specially tailored for you at PNCamp 2.0. Here are 5 reasons to NOT miss PNcamp 2.0.

Zeroing in on the product fit:

One of the biggest challenges a start-up faces is the right problem to pick to get product fit correct. There are many viable paths and how does one find the one. Learn to use the effectuation framework to help with entrepreneurial decision making in unpredictable environments.

Building the right product, building it right:

Having gone past the initial problem-solution fit validation, it’s extremely critical to build the right product, and to build it right, to build it fast. How do you define your MVP, how do you build a compelling yet rapid to build roadmap, how do you prioritize, how do you rapidly iterate? A track on building the right product for B2B companies by Suresh Sambandam address will cover “Building the right product”.   

Getting traction tips:

Finding right prospects, reaching them and converting them are key to getting early traction. Get insights from experts into mastering the sales funnel and process, campaign strategies, and hiring the right sales and marketing teams.

Product teardown sessions:

Beyond insights, tips and practical advice get ready for some coaching format feedback where selected companies will do a quick pitch for 10 mins and get feedback from experts. An excellent opportunity to not just learn from practitioners but also your peers and from their experiences and challenges! An immersive learning opportunity!

Building your own product tribe:

Join a social evening to meet and network with the experts and peers; and to make connections for life.

There are few seats left and you can grab yours here.

#PNCamp – No BS feedbacks and teardowns to build great products groundup

So, you got a startup. Great! You have a product ready and a few users/customers too, Awesome! I am sure you are super excited to take it to next level, right? But thats when the hurdles begin.

Users just do not understand it
Users don’t go beyond certain point
Our product is awesome, but Product lacks stickiness
I am not sure how to position our product
We have different kinds of users, how to deal with varied expectations of users
I don’t know where to find large number of userbase
I am a technical guy, I don’t know how to market it
User growth is very slow, we need some cool growth hacks

If some of these thoughts/challenges are lingering in your mind too, then you are not the only one. Trust me pretty much every startup goes through these hurdles in its early days. Sad reality is, vast majority fail to cross these initial hurdles and die early death.

“Almost every startup has a product, what they don’t have is users/customers”

If you are an early stage startup with a working product thats been used by a few users/customers and you are struggling through some of the above mentioned challenges, then look nowhere and block your Calendar for Oct 8th, 2016. iSPIRT is bringing PNCamp in Pune focused towards all the early stage startups.

whatsapp-image-2016-09-09-at-11-08-35-amPNCamp in pune is your grand opportunity to get candid feedback on your product and its marketing. If you are a startup with a prototype or product at an early stage with few users/customers but struggling to get further traction, then PNCamp is a great place where you could get an opportunity to showcase your product and seek feedback, inputs and suggestions on specific to your product. At PNCamp, experts will take product teardown sessions on following aspects.

  1. How to build a right product (great and useful product)
  2. How to market your product (product marketing, communication, KPIs)
  3. How to achieve 10X user growth (Use Analytics, customer feedback loop, sales tactics)

At PNCamp, India’s some of the most successful entrepreneurs are coming together to host one day focused camp and work with selected group of startups on their product, market and sales growth strategies. This one day focused action oriented efforts are equivalent to your one year of badly struggling to figure out things in dark.

Here is whats going to happen at PNCamp –

“You involve me and I learn maximum”. Keeping this in mind, PNCamp is structured in a way to maximize real action oriented learning. Its no Gyaan, No B.S. All real action, real stories, real candid feedback, real strategies, real action plan, real work toward real results. At PNCamp, successful entrepreneurs who are expert in their specific area of product, marketing, or sales growth will discuss their observations and learnings.

In case of B2B products, things such as the product quality, security, product learning curve, analytics, integrations, etc might be driving factors for initial success whereas in case of B2C products its visual appeal, user friendliness, pricing, discounts, customer loyalty, social appeal, etc could trigger the success. Hence each product need to be looked at it from various angles. At PNCamp, specific sessions are dedicated to deep dive in these areas. In B2B track, experts will discuss building a right product for B2B market, getting traction for your product, marketing strategies and sales funnel. In case of B2C track, the experts will delve into building products with focus on mobile an analytics, finding right KPI and organizing everything around it, product communication, and building a successful customer development strategy using feedback loop. After every session, a few select product startups will be given an opportunity to present their product, marketing strategy, or growth strategy. Experts and fellow participants will do a product teardown and give a deep dive feedback. In all 12 startups in B2C space and 12 startups in B2B space will get an opportunity to present and get detailed feedback.

Product teardown: In this section, select startups will provide a quick walkthrough of their product website/app. As each startup will get limited time to present, key is to stay focused on most critical or concerning area of your product. Experts and fellow participants will provide feedback on core functionality, usefulness, right fit of the product, visual and experiential aspect of the product. In the past, such product tear down has help entrepreneurs get amazing inputs in matter of minutes. Moreover it has opened up doors for more insightful beta users from the cohart. Product teardown session focuses on product flow, functionality, identifying specific KPIs and using analytics to derive insights, and immediate critical aspect that might be hindering product traction or stickiness. Founders will get actionable inputs that can be applied next day and see improvements.

Marketing/Communication teardown: Great number of startups have good products but fails on its marketing. Product marketing is all about positioning. It is all about clear messaging and creating a “hook” in user’s mind. Unique compelling product positioning is always a challenge, especially when your product has potentially multiple target segments. If your product positioning is correct, then it helps in driving marketing and create a growth strategy. In this section, select startups will get teardown about their marketing and communication strategy, how to build initial traction, building a customer feedback loop, how to think specific KPIs and organize things around it, how to use analytics to tweak marketing funnel, etc. Is the message clear and compelling enough to click with your audience, can it be improved further, etc. In the past, founders used the session feedback to improve their product message, website communication, emails, etc for which the group continued giving feedback.

Growth hack / Sales teardown: This is a piece everybody wants and wish for but is very difficult to achieve. Experts will ask select startups to present their current growth strategy and provide working session on building a growth strategy. B2B sales strategies, setting up sales engine, inside sales strategies, etc will be discussed along with tools and techniques. Useful tools, techniques and trends in B2C market, use of inbound growth hack techniques, from customer acquisition to conversion, retention and achieving viral growth will be discussed in detailed. This is a hands on session where startups will be asked to create a plan of action.

Get naked – At PNcamp, everything is transparent. So, one may think, “How can I disclose my trade secrets with entire group?”. Indeed its a valid concern, but its upto an individual founder whether and how much information they want to share with fellow participants. Our experience is that, getting naked has helped entrepreneurs more than shielding or hiding behind curtains. Plus, one unsaid rule of the camp is, “Whats said in the camp remains within the group”. Product nation is building a community of trustworthy entrepreneurs who are passionate about helping each others. Hence, its expected that you bring a transparency and will maintain confidentiality.

So, enough said about the camp and its structure. PNCamp, with this full action oriented day is looking forward to bring ton of insights to you through direct feedback and critical inputs to help you take your startup next level. This is a MUST attend camp for any early stage product startup. Do not miss this unique opportunity to catch the brains of experts and fellow participants through product feedbacks and interactions. So, if you are an early stage startup looking to take your startup to next orbit, then register yourself right away at www.pncamp.in Lets build great product nation, one prodct at a time! See you at PNCamp.

Guest Post by Abhijit Mhetre, founder at Canvazify. He is passionate about startup innovations and is a volunteer at iSPIRT

 

Announcing #PNcamp2(8th Oct, Pune) – Not bigger, but definitely better

In late 2013, the iSPIRT volunteer team I was part of decided that the best way to approach pn-camp-logo (1)the problem we had on our hands was to simplify it. We wanted to bring together a group of product people who were ready to ask each other the tough questions. When they came out of the event we were putting together, we hoped they’d be changed, they they’d find answers, and in the process, new questions as well.

And that is how we decided on the bootcamp format, which was so well received that we were inundated with applications. It was a great event, and we wanted to replicate it again. But other things intervened, and PNCamp had to wait. Until now.

This time, we are doing it way better. And in the experience of other events, we have decided to keep it small. So the bootcamp becomes an actual run through a difficult trail. No one can lag behind or hide. Everyone has to run, everyone has to move.

So what will this PNCamp focus on?
These things:

1. Product Market Fit
2. Product Management Principles that actually make sense in the real world
3. Sales and Marketing things you can go and do, like right-away

With a smaller, curated audience to ensure peer- learning, to learn from other entrepreneurs challenges and solutions, and to encourage deep, interactive conversations, we are going to be having focused group round tables. There will be no PowerPoint, no monologues; just tips, insights and questions from doers like you for you to ruminate on.

Are you excited? We certainly are. We’ll have a lot of updates for you soon. Watch this space. Please apply before 15th September 2016. We will confirm your participation by 25th September 2016. 

On Independence Day, India’s budding product entrepreneurs get the freedom to choose: Introducing the Product Nation Founders Hub(PNFh)

On Independence Day, we at Product Nation have an important announcement to make. This one was a long time coming, as we tried to classify, clear up, and target our efforts for the product ecosystem better. This update is mainly focused on the Playbook pillar, one of iSPIRT’s key initiatives, and will have effects on other fronts as well.

We are reviving some of the initiatives; to others we have added more rigour and form.

Depending on what stage(Discovery, Happy Confused) you are in as a founder you can leverage the iSPIRT programs accordingly. We now have a mailing list we call the PNFT (Product Nation Founders Tribe), where we will update subscribers on the Playbook and other iSPIRT initiatives. If you are not part of iSPIRT, but still want to receive our updates, please fill up the form.

This won’t make you a part of iSPIRT, though, and we reserve the right to extend invitations for smaller, more pointed events only to our members. Our programs like the RoundTables, PNcamp, and PNgrowth, are oversubscribed to, and therefore we extend invites only to curated startups.

Why on Independence Day, though? One, for purely sentimental reasons: our mission, after all is to make India a Product Nation. And two, we’d like to say that will better clarity, entrepreneurs now will have the freedom to choose which iSPIRT programs they want to be part of.

iSPIRT-Playbook LandscapeSharing some of the initiatives classified based on stages:

Pre Entrepreneurship – iKen
This is a boot camp aimed at folks planning a startup or who are in the early stages of their startup. It is based on a ‘by entrepreneur-for entrepreneur’ model and on the effectuation model put forth by Professor Saras Saraswathi. This is a 10-week exercise/task oriented course designed at gaining clarity and action. The participants do most of the work during the week and review happens at a 2-hour meet every weekend. Once they graduate, the community continues to meet to help each other through the journeys.
More details can be seen at ikenstartup.org
City: Bangalore

Discovery – PNcamp(8th October 2016)
This is a boot camp for product people, by product people. It is a day-long coming together of doers: ones who have been there, done that; and ones in the journey of getting there. Orchestrated by hand-picked facilitators, it promises focused, interactive, deep conversations within small, curated groups. PNcamp is a surefire avenue to find inspiration, insights and tips, and connections for life to tangibly get ahead in your product journey.  The 2nd edition of PNcamp is in Pune on 8th October. More details can be seen here.
City: Pune

Happy Confused – Playbook Roundtables
Playbook-RoundTable is one of iSPIRT’s most sought after community events. It’s a gathering of 12 like-minded product startups who are beyond the early stage. RoundTables are facilitated by an iSPIRT maven who is an accomplished practitioner of that particular theme. All RoundTables are conducted on a pay-it-forward basis. The only payment you have to make is to provide your undivided attention and active involvement in the process. Playbook-RoundTables are a dialogue and there’s no monologue. None.
Cities: Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad & Bangalore

Happy Confused – PNgrowth(25-27th November 2016)
#PNgrowth camp is a long term mentorship/peer learning program that is focussed and has only one one aim – category leadership. The second edition is being planned for 25-27th November and only 50 founders will get to be part of it. The theme for this year’s PNgrowth is “Achieving Good Scale”. We will be curating around 50 startups for PNgrowth this year. We have around 14 mentors who will be working with 50 curated startups for the next 12 months.
City: Bangalore

Product Tear Down sessions (Happy Confused & Discovery stage)
Product Tear Down session where SaaS founders offered their product to be teared down by expert SaaS founders and audience. The experienced SaaS founders publish guideline templates based on which they will provide feedback to brave startups. We hope to start this series on a monthly basis. Check details here
City: Bangalore, Chennai & Pune

Growth Stage – F6
A group of six founders whose startups are already making over $25 million in annual revenues, and are hungry to learn from peers about challenges unique to their life stage: namely, hiring sales professionals for tapping global markets and avoiding the mistakes that others have made. This group meets once in a quarter and is a closed group.

SaaS Community – SaaSx
SaaSx brings together best-in-breed SaaS entrepreneurs across India to celebrate, inspire & spark up the spirit of start-up ecosystem. It’s an exclusive invite-only bootcamp, created by SaaS entrepreneurs for SaaS entrepreneurs, as an opportunity to network, learn, and engage with the most passionate individuals in India’s startup ecosystem. We have done three editions and the next one is scheduled in the month of October.
City: Chennai

ProductNation Blog
We have an active blog where there is lot of information for Founders. Lots of learnings from PlaybookRTs have been captured here.

The key mavens who drive some of the Playbook Initiatives at iSPIRT are.

  • Aneesh Reddy, Capillary Technologies (Anchor for Sales Playbooks)
  • Girish Mathrubootham, Freshdesk (Co-Anchor for SaaSx/SaaS playbooks)
  • Manav Garg, Eka Software (Anchor for F6)
  • Pallav Nadhani, FusionCharts (Co-Anchor for PNgrowth)
  • Samir Palnitkar, ShopSocially (Anchor for PNcamp)
  • Shankar Maruwada, EkStep, (Anchor for PNgrowth)
  • Shekhar Kirani, Accel Partners (Anchor for Product Tear own session)
  • Suresh Sambandam, Orangescape Technologies (Co-Anchor for SaaSx/SaaS playbooks)
  • See a complete list of Mavens here

If you would like to apply for any of the initiatives at iSPIRT, please apply at http://pn.ispirt.in/apply

Amal Tiwari helped in designing the infographic & Sairam Krishnan assisted in editing this blog post. 

Seeking a Program Evangelist for #PNCamp Program

#PNCamp Program, an iSPIRT initiative, is growing the Indian StartUp ecosystem by connecting founders and executives from high potential startups. We work with successful VCs and entrepreneurs to source the most promising entrepreneurs and help them on their journey. Once we have identified these startups, we build a multi-dimensional profile of each startup using surveys and algorithms developed by Stanford and Duke Researchers.  Using this data we connect founders with the resources they need, link them with mentors who can help them grow, and introduce them to peers who can provide advice. In collaboration with iSPIRT selected members are invited to workshops to build their networks and accelerate their startup’s growth. PNCamp Program is a living laboratory whose aim is to help startups accelerate the Indian startup ecosystem with cutting edge innovation science.

About the Program Evangelist Role

PNCamp is seeking a program evangelist to join our growing team.  The Project Consultant will be responsible for building relationships and trust with promising StartUp founders and executives. You should have a track record of getting things done with minimal supervision. In collaboration with our partners, your will be responsible for identifying, then emailing, calling and meeting with potential members. While membership in the program is free, this role will require you to convince founders and executives why they should join as members. Once they join, you will serve as a “data concierge” helping the startups provide the information we need to better match them with resources and connections. You will also be responsible for the day-to-day operation of PNCamp program, making sure emails are answered, tweets sent out, thank-you gifts mailed, and that our team is on the same page. People skills are a must. Entrepreneurial mindset is a must. This job provides you with an exceptional opportunity to get to know the most successful StartUps in the Indian ecosystem.

  • You will be the first full-time team member of the PNCamp Program team in India. The rest of the team is US-based so flexibility on early/late phone calls is required.
  • Comfortable with spreadsheets and love to dig into data. You may not know how to use SQL but you would not be afraid to learn.
  • Social media inclined
  • Experience organizing and running events.
  • 2 years of work experience at a startup or technology firm desired, but not required
  • 1.5 Year Commitment
  • Willing to relocate to Bangalore
  • Strong Presentation Skills
  • Programming experience and Design skills a bonus, but not required.

Please send a cover letter, resume, and two references to my email at rkoning(at)stanford.edu

101 Takeaways from the First ProductNation Boot Camp #PNCamp

The inaugural edition of PNBootcamp at Pune is the best thing to come out from iSPIRT yet – in my opinion.  For all the startups that missed this bootcamp, I strongly recommend staying tuned to pn.ispirt.in for the next playbooks and bootcamps.

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There were two themes in the bootcamp:

  1. ‘Discovery Hacking’ for those companies who have not yet figured out the product-market fit.
  2. ‘Scale Hacking’ for those companies who have figured out the product-market fit and are now looking to build a repeatable and scalable business model.

The participants were divided into cohorts of 15 and these cohorts took part in day long highly interactive discussions facilitated by practitioner entrepreneurs who have ‘been there, done that’.  It was very heartwarming to see the ‘pay it forward’ maxim of iSPIRT in full steam.  Successful entrepreneurs disseminated their hard-earned learning from their journeys with the intent to improve the product ecosystem in India and ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’.  Do visit the PNBootcamp website http://pn.ispirt.in/pncamp/ to look at the illustrious list of facilitators and volunteers.

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While trying to figure out how to condense the 50 pages of my notes from the bootcamp into a blog post, I felt that I could do most justice by writing down the top 101 takeaways.  Here goes:

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Discovery Hacking:

  1. The most common mistake that startups commit is to build something nobody wants.  This is also the largest risk.  The most important question to ask is – will my offering remove customers’ pain point? One must first confirm ‘the need-gap’ priority.  Use tools such as surveymonkey, competitive analysis and customer interviews to see if the need is there and also if it is important enough that people will want to pay for a solution.  People might say that this is a great product, but they may not want to pay for it.
  2. Definition of a customer:  “The person who writes the cheque”.  Even if you have users, but no one wants to pay for your offering, then you don’t have customers.  The customer is the person who pays you, and can be different from the person who uses your product.
  3. Do not confuse validation of the problem with validation of your solution. Use the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to validate that your solution is indeed solving the problem for the customer. ‘Build, and they will come’ is not a sound philosophy.  It rarely works.
  4. If not even a single prospect is jumping out of their seats for your solution, then the product-market fit is poor.  It gets a lot harder after that.
  5. Startup journeys are typically 4-6 years.  You need to be in it for the long haul.  Startup journey is very hard. There are times when it can be frustrating for days or months at a stretch. Consider the opportunity cost and your level of seriousness before starting up.
  6. There are several distractions at each point during the startup journey.  Maintain your focus on two important things – Sell and Code. If you are not selling or coding, be 200% sure how that activity is going to help your startup.
  7. Building a business is bloody difficult. Learn from your peers and other people’s mistakes.
  8. Focus on prototyping instead of pitching. Focus on delighting your customers.
  9. Sell. Sell. Sell. Sell first even before building the product.  ‘Sales’ is serious business. It is the most important aspect of building a business.
  10. Investors are not always right.  They just have their point of view based on their experiences, just like everyone else. Build the business. Investors will follow.
  11. It is a myth that Sales involves lying and misrepresenting facts.  The best sales guys are truthful.
  12. It is a myth that one needs a business degree to do good business.  Some of the best sales people are techies.
  13. It is a myth that techies can’t sell. In the earlier days of the product, when it is not well known, it is the founder’s passion and vision that helps selling.
  14. Hiring a sales guy early on is a mistake.  Sales people should come later in the cycle when the business model is validated and you need to start scaling.
  15. You are in the driver’s seat. Never take eyes off the road, ever. Keep laser focus on your business. Avoid distractions like media and news about other companies.  There is no room for distractions in a startup.
  16. Startups are founded typically due to emotional reasons, which makes it all the more important to have a disciplined approach.  Also, friends and family encourage and we start off with a lot of personal biases.  As far as possible, decisions should be driven by metrics, score cards and analytics.  Create the discipline to value cold hard data over opinions.
  17. You have to be very scientific in your approach.  You need to have a good understanding of answers to the following questions:
    1. What is the problem you are solving? What is the validation?
    2. Who is your customer? What is your niche? Initially, you must target as narrow as possible and then expand to other target segments after you achieve success there. Become the king of a small hill first and then expand.
    3. How do you sell? What is your cost of sale? If your cost of sale is more than the Life Time Value (LTV) of the customer, then it is not going to be a profitable business.
    4. What is the size of opportunity?  This is basically to get a sense of how much your business can potentially grow to. This question is important for your own personal goals and also if you wish to approach investors.  If the size of opportunity is too small, it may not be worthwhile for you to try to build the business.
    5. Who is your competition and what are the current substitutes? This is important to see if people are going to use your product.  Remember that if you are automating something, one of the substitutes is doing it manually.
  18. Lean Startup Methodology works.  Every startup founder must be familiar with these concepts.  Great books on this topic are ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries and ‘The Startup Owner’s manual’ by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf.
  19. Use experiments instead of opinions.  Most of what we start with are “Assumptions” and “Opinions” and not “facts”.  No idea survives first impact with the actual customer.
  20. The only way to validate our opinions and assumptions is through clear metric driven experiments. Convert the assumptions into ‘verifiable statements’ i.e. numerical hypotheses.  For example, if show the paper sketch of my product to 10 potential customers, 2 of them will agree to give me a conditional advance order.  Then run this experiment and measure the response.  Based on the response, you must use your judgment to either persevere or pivot.  Design tiny experiments which can be run in the least amount of time.11268731253_d58684b4da_o
  21. Do experiments with an open mind.  Design the experiment to validate your assumption rather than just reinforce your bias.  Savor any surprise findings from your experiments as that new knowledge will help you make better judgments.
  22. Do all your experiments with your Minimal Viable Product (MVP).  You can add scalability, security and other aspects after you have got a paying customer.  A general rule of thumb is that it should not take more than 3-5 months to validate your assumptions.
  23. There are different kinds of MVPs with varying fidelities that will help validating your assumptions.
    1. Customer interviews and surveys. Low fidelity.  This might help in validating the problem, but it does not validate your solution.
    2. Landing page on your website + traffic driven using Google adwords. Also low fidelity, but helps in validating the problem and that people are looking for solutions.
    3. Concept videos.  Similar fidelity to landing page.
    4. Paper sketch.  A little more fidelity as now prospects can see how you are planning to solve the problem.
    5. Digital wireframes. More fidelity as they can visualize how your solution might be and whether it is of value to them.
    6. Concierge MVP or Fake-O-Backend.  High fidelity. This is where you manually process the customer requirements without putting any code or systems in place.  But the customer is able to use your service to solve his problem.
    7. Working prototype.  High fidelity.  Immediate feedback on whether your solution solves their problem.
    8. The product itself.  Highest fidelity.  Typically, MVPs should not have this level of fidelity.
  24. The cost of change (a.k.a pivot) increases exponentially as the product goes through idea, prototype and launch stages.  Also, the emotional commitment increases at each stage which makes it much more difficult to make those changes.  So try to make any changes as early as possible.
  25. Do not make large investments without validating your assumptions.  Among your assumptions, pick the ‘leap-of-faith’ assumption which is most important and validate it first.  If the ‘leap-of-faith’ assumption fails, everything else fails.
  26. If you are in the business of ‘marketplace’, you need to validate your assumptions from both the suppliers and the consumers.  Validate the supplier side assumptions first as they are the ones who will be making money in the marketplace.  If you cannot validate supply side assumptions, there is no need to validate consumer side assumptions.
  27. First do the value experiments to figure out if there is a real need your product is solving.  Once you have figured out that you are building something that some is willing to pay for, then run pricing experiments to figure out the right price for your product.  Pricing experiments can also be done using A/B testing.  For different sets of users, try different price points to figure out what price you want to finally decide. Simplicity is generally a very good thing, particularly in pricing models.
  28. Ideally, get an advance purchase order or a letter of intent (LOI) before writing any code.  This also validates that you have found a buyer.  Sometimes, we might a ‘user’, but that person may not have the buying authority.  In those cases, you might be building something that is difficult to sell.  It is better to sort out ‘who is the buyer’ assumption as early as possible.
  29. For startups, it might be sometimes difficult to get an advance purchase order.  In those cases, validate the buyer assumption by seeking non-monetary commitment from the customer. For example, if a pilot needs to be done, the customer might be able to offer you accommodation and food in their guest house and also commit the time of some of his employees.
  30. Focus on one BIG problem at a time. For example, do not try to solve a BIG technical problem and a BIG sales problem at the same time.  Focus on doing a few things well, instead of doing a lot of things.11268730054_1041491b59_o
  31. Make it very painless for the user to give you feedback.  This is the most valuable thing during ‘Discovery’ stage. Use this feedback and iterate.
  32. Always have a way for the customer to get a free trial.  There is no substitute to the user actually using the product to validate your assumptions.  And reduce the friction to trial as much as you can.  Make it as easy as possible and don’t make the user think or read.  Case studies, videos etc. help. But they will not buy till they experience the product.
  33. If your offering is a service (as opposed to a standalone product), do not give it for free.  If people do not want to pay for a service, it means the need is not important enough.
  34. Till such time that you have found the product-market fit and have got paying customers, do not hire a sales person. Hiring sales people is a scale problem, not a discovery problem.
  35. It is usually good if your product idea comes to you because you are facing the problem yourself. This accelerates the validation of your assumptions and reduces the risk of making mistakes.
  36. Customers will buy the product if it solves their problem, not because you are good at selling. The product should be able to sell despite a poor sales experience.
  37. Getting the target customer right is very important.  Avlesh Singh of WebEngage initially felt that engineers were his customers as it would automate work for them and keep the marketing guys at bay.  But he realized that engineers were not buyers.   They didn’t have the budgets or business reasons or the willingness to buy their product.  However, the marketing folks were really interested in their product at it solved their business need.  They also had the budget and they could see return on investment.  It would also make them less dependent on their internal engineering teams. Pivoting the customer segment from ‘Developers’ to ‘Marketers’ was a major turning point in WebEngage’s journey.
  38. Pricing model should be based on customer’s perceived value, not on some technical aspect.  For example, instead of charging for number of HTTP requests, it might be better to charge based on number of surveys completed.
  39. Derive your price based on market dynamics (current manual cost or pricing of competition) and not on your incurred costs.   Build some differentiation in your offering and use that for price arbitrage.
  40. For techie founders, one thing that needs particular attention is that techies are highly opinionated and look at things in black and white.   We need to get over our strong views. One way to achieve this is by meeting and talking to different kinds of people and getting their perspectives.11268700366_a652a671ca_o
  41. By writing good content on your blog site, you can attract customers and establish thought leadership.   If a person spends 8 to 10 minutes on your web-site, it is very likely that he will sign up for your free trial.
  42. Quora is a very good forum to attract customers.  Provide genuine answers without shamelessly promoting your product.  People hate it and you can also get blocked on Quora for directly promoting your product. One tip is to include your product name in your Quora user name – that way when people see your name, they see the name of your product too.
  43. What works for some other company might not work for you in your context.  There are several factors at play and it is difficult to figure out. The only way is to run various experiments and see what works.
  44. Think in terms of how the end user is going to use your product.  The human element is very important.  You must know your user well – really really well. Know the context in which the user is going to use the product – the user’s demographic, life style, social life, aspirations, work life schedule, how they work, and their aspirations. Create personas of the users.  There are free templates available online to create target personas.
  45. Feedback from users should shape the product.  It is common to see several bug fixes or new features between version to version. But rarely do we focus on customer delight as the focus of a release.  Customer delight should get more priority than new features.
  46. You must observe how the user uses the product to get a deeper understanding. If you ask customers pointed questions, they will give pointed answers and hence it is not very valuable.  Engineering, business development, product mgmt and UI teams should all experience first-hand how the user uses the product.
    1. Never ask customer what they need – instead observe what they do.
    2. Never ask for their feedback – instead watch them use it.
    3. Never just listen to what they say – instead observe their behaviour.
  47. There are free tools for capturing the user behaviour. They help you record the user experience through a web cam when they are using the product. Search for them online and evaluate for yourself.
  48. Sign up folks from your target segment. Call 5 folks on a Saturday and observe their behaviour with the product.
  49. Be frugal and save money. Do not splurge during initial days.
  50. Startup people have to be hands-on. Should be ready to roll up the sleeves and do all kinds of work.11268807103_4aa0e9f56f_o
  51. You have to persevere. You will hear a hundred “No”s before your first “Yes”.  Tip: People seldom refuse a cup of coffee.  Ask for that small coffee meeting. If the customer sees value in your offering, he will give you more time.
  52. Hiring good people is good. If they are good hearted, better.  Focus on getting a team that can run as fast as or faster than you.
  53. Luck is more important than competence.  Competence is a must, but you need luck also to be successful. There are several factors which are not in your control but can have a major impact on the outcome of your company.  However, you must run like the devil is behind you and not just wait for lady luck.  When a lucky event happens, you must analyze it to figure out why the lucky event happened.
  54. Sales, product management and engineering are three important pillars of a startup.  Ensure you have specific individuals who are tasked with each responsibility.  The same person can play multiple roles, but you must be clear on who is playing which role.
  55. You must qualify the companies/individuals who will be suitable for your product. Not everyone is going to be your customer.

Scale Hacking:

  1. Scale hacking is all about aligning and finding the business model after getting the product-market fit. The key to scale hacking is to find out what is working and do more of it.
  2. Initial sales happen because of the founder’s passion. Sales people need a template for selling.
  3. If you have a lousy product, nobody can sell it.  The product should be great and the positioning should be right. Folks should be willing to buy it in spite of the sales experience.
  4. There is no template for scaling.  You need to explore different avenues and channels. Some of them will work for you and some of them won’t. Even when some are working, you should be exploring new channels as you might be missing out a very good revenue source.
  5. You need aim to be in the top 3 players in your market if you desire to scale. You first have to be a player on par with competition.11565850805_891d74a239_b
  6. You might have to change your sales pitch multiple number of times based on reaction from the market.
  7. When the customer can visualize the benefits of your product, it makes a huge difference.  E.g. if you say that the user can jog after taking your medicine – it can be visualized by the customer and have a bigger impact than just saying it will make you healthy. Visuals are very important (good graphics). Do not expect the customers to extrapolate mentally.
  8. You have to show customers the solution to their problem. For example, freshdesk creates a site called customer.freshdesk.com and puts their logo there so the customer can see how the solution will look like. Also, they show role based dashboards based on who they are giving the demo to.  Different people like to see different things and you need to customize your demo to how it will help them.
  9. Marketplaces are something you should definitely consider for scale hacking. E.g. Google app store.
  10. Integrations are the new SAAS channel. E.g. integrate with salesforce, basecamp etc. Then write a blog on how the integration works. Write to the business person at the Salesforce side and ask them also to promote your integration.  Typically, they are also interested in promoting something that promotes their product.
  11. Positioning is very important in the mind of the customer.  For example, though Freshdesk does several things – the core positioning is that it is a customer support solution.  For example, they provide invoicing, chat, time sheet also, but they do not position them as separate products – it is all under the umbrella of customer support.
  12. Unassisted buying (e.g. purchase directly from the website) can get you only small tickets. If commitment is higher, customers need to talk to a live person and you need to invest in field sales.
  13. Importing from competition is a 1.0 feature.  Do not postpone it thinking it is not your core work. From customer’s point of view, it is very important to have his current data migrated over to your product.  Otherwise, they may not even bother to try your product. Make it very easy for your customers to come over to your solution.
  14. Customer’s attention span is very small. He might sign up for your product, but forget about it.  For example, a customer might provide his email id and sign up, but might not even bother to go to his Inbox to click on the verify link.  Hence, engaging leads is very important and focus your energies on getting them to trial your product.
  15. Nobody likes to talk to a sales guy. Have a title like ‘account manager’ etc. and this person says that he is trying to help out with the evaluation.11268639314_bf2074fbe3_o
  16. Webinars are very effective for scale hacking.  Offer a free webinar on a related topic and soft sell.  There has to be enough meat in the webinar content itself which will be attractive and worthwhile for the attendee.  In webinars, people do not want to hear your pitch. They want to see thought leadership and practical advice for them. If you can, have customers speak at your webinars.  This is better than someone from your company speaking. For example, the title of a webinar can be ‘CMO of company X speaks on how to maximize ROI on Y’.
  17. Once you start scaling, you must have support staff available in the time zone of the customer. This is very important due to global competition.  In India, companies have different shifts of support personnel working from India but during the business hours of the customer’s time zone.
  18. Pricing is a challenge.   You should look at the current cost for the customer, price charged by competition and come up with your own pricing.  If it is too high, it scares customers away and if it is too low, you end up leaving money on the table.  But this problem is unsolvable.  You can only do price experiments to figure out the price of your product in the market.
  19. ShopSocially moved to small monthly subscription + cost per social action. This way they have a very low entry cost for the customer and as the customer uses more of their product, they will pay more.
  20. Try to get a marquee customer in your portfolio.  It will have a huge impact on your credibility and growth.  Suddenly, prospective customers will look at you in a very positive way. So you need to be flexible on pricing during the initial days.  Give discounts in exchange for case studies and testimonials. Or give discounts over larger timeframes. E.g. 3 months free if they purchase a 1 year license.
  21. Evaluating a sales person is tricky, unlike an engineer where the results can be directly attributed to the efforts.  Tip: Shadow your new sales hire for 3 months to judge for yourself if is good for your business.  If there is a mismatch, let go of the sales guy as early as possible. Otherwise, the cost to your business is huge.
  22. Always collect data on how people are using your product, which features they are using and which they are not. This should be one of the main ingredients for product direction decisions. If the product manager is sitting in a cube, then it is not good. He should be talking face to face with customers and getting real world feedback.
  23. When you are trying to move customers away from a competitor who they have already purchased, you need to protect the customer’s investment so far.  E.g. when a customer had 6 month license still left with your competition, you should offer 6 months free on your product to protect their investment.  However, see if you can have the customer pay for the first month and then the next 6 months given free.  This ensures that they are serious about switching to your product and have made a commitment to you.
  24. If you are in a commodity market where there are hundreds of competitors, then execution is the key differentiating factor. Of course, it goes without saying that the product has to be very good. If you are in a niche market, then value proposition is more important than execution.  You might not have the best quality and completeness of the product, but if there is not much competition, then you should focus on the value proposition more than the execution of completeness.
  25. Think hard on how you can leverage your happy customers. Ask for referrals. At every sale, try to leverage. Ask your referrals to write guest blogs on your site, case studies and testimonials. Photo testimonials are better than just text as they are more credible.
  26. Leverage influencers. They can tweet about you.  Follow influencers and include them with @X so they will notice you. Try to get them to follow you.  Share signups and success stories through social media. As the company grows, you need one person dedicated for social media and working with influencers, establishing connections etc.  Bear in mind that influencers love praise. It also helps if you can get thought leaders from academia writing about you.
  27. Write thought leadership articles and blogs – maybe twice a month.
  28. When you sign up a customer in a vertical, find out the competitors in their space and try to make them your customers.  Folks pay more attention if they know their competition is using your product.
  29. Set up Google Alerts on keywords so you get notified of new stuff. Then go there and leave your comments. Mention.me is another site similar to Google alerts.
  30. LinkedIn groups is a good source of leads. Answer questions there. Also post questions yourselves on challenges in your domain.
  31. There are tools like pardot, marketo, data.com for follow-ups. Use them if you see the ROI on them.
  32. Conferences are not so great from a lead generation point of view. But they are good for showing your presence in the market place.
  33. Don’t innovate on the business model, particularly when you are a startup. Go with tried and tested ones. Select the right sales model for your product depending on the kind of product and price of the product. Look at how your competition is doing it. Usually, it is better to follow their model during the initial days and then experiment later.
  34. A recommended reading for all startups is “Most startups should be deer hunters”.  Essentially, there are three types of customers – elephant, deer and rabbit.  Catching elephants is very tough until you are of certain size. Catching rabbits is very tough to survive as they are spread too thin and even if you catch one, you get only very little meat. Hence try to catch deer – which are right sized for you.
  35. For cheaply priced products, educational institutions are a good place for doing pilots and getting feedback.11268730903_6c278bfcf9_o
  36. In scale hacking, have a good sense of metrics on customer conversions.  How much revenue is being generated, from how many customers, out of how many evaluations, out of how many leads, out of how many visitors?  Measure, track and improve the rate of conversion at each stage of the funnel.
  37. Once you have had success with your first product, you should consider other products for scale hacking.  Build newer revenue streams based on the incoming cash of existing successful products
  38. Hiring cross-continent is a very big leap-of-faith for an entrepreneur.  You need to be very careful with the first set of people you hire in a different geography. Culture alignment is key to global success.
  39. Taking funding for scaling is a very good idea.  Investor money is like rocket fuel. You can either go up or fall down fast.  You can go from ‘darling’ to ‘donkey’ quite fast with VC money.
  40. All news is good news when you are small.  So don’t shy away from publicity of any form. Of course, do only those things that you are comfortable doing.
  41. Requirements should be driven by customers, where ever possible, instead of internally imagining and creating requirements which might not be of any value to your customers.  When a sales person gives a requirement, ask ‘why do we need this and how will it help’ five times.  If you can find a good answer, then the requirement is a real need.
  42. When deciding on which new requirement should be added to the product – consider the return on investment. This is commonly overlooked.  Usually, the latest incoming requirement is given more importance at the cost of an older one.  Have a methodology for choosing requirements – based on factors such as number of customers requesting the requirement, the ROI that the sales team believes this will generate and if the sales team is willing to stick out its neck for this requirement. Always use data to make product decisions.
  43. During scale hacking phase, ensure you have continuous customer feedback. Have a customer advisory board of your key customers and have a relationship manager who works closely with these customers.  Get their inputs on new features you are planning to build.  Having a good relationship with them also helps you know the pulse of the market, get inputs on competition and getting strong case studies and testimonials. Meet with key customers periodically.
  44. Channels are extremely important for scaling.  Be clear on how the channel can make money off of you.  Partners should benefit because of you. Either directly by making money or leading to sales of something else.  For example, in non-SAAS products, system integrators make money by implementation, customization and support.
    1. Partnerships are for successful products.  That way the partner can sell easily.  They want a winning product. If the product is new and complex and it has a long sales cycle – partnerships might not be of use to you.
    2. Partners can help you enter large enterprises as they are already on the vendor list. They can ‘white label’ your offering.  Getting on to the authorized vendor list of large companies is itself a very complex and time consuming process.
    3. Consider partnering with frameworks – e.g. building an add-on to an existing framework which has a good marketplace.   That way, your discovery problem is solved to a great extent. Many companies die because they struggle to reach their prospective customers.
    4. In SAAS kind of offering, traditional partnerships do not work as the partner does not make good money upfront. They do not want to wait for a long time to reap the rewards.  SAAS partner ecosystem is not there yet.
    5. Partnering with platform players like Microsoft, SAP, Oracle is a good idea in principle. But even there, promoting a startup’s product is not easy.  They have very high qualifying factors for them to select your product for promotion. For example, you need to already have thousands of users.  Partnering with platform players is a great strategy for scale hacking once you have a critical mass of users.11268764013_3a299b8f4f_o
  45. Engineer driven products are typically not so great in user experience. It might be worthwhile to hire/outsource to a UX expert. These days, coolness of UI is a very important factor.
  46. Mobile centric or mobile first is a very sound strategy for growth.  It is easier to find early adopters.

Conclusion

I hope that at least some of the 101 takeaways provided new data points in your startup journey.  While there is no silver bullet and each startup has to go through its unique journey, there are several common themes that are generally applicable.  And we can learn from those who have trodden the path before us.

Many thanks to iSPIRT and all the volunteers and facilitators of the Product Nation Boot Camp for this wonderful initiative.