Report on Week 2 of Women 2.0 Founders Lab

In week one at Women 2.0 Founders Lab the focus was on setting up our lean start up companies. Teams were formed and business ideas were hotly debated. My team had on a strong direction when I came on board and it took me a couple of days to get fully behind what was being proposed, and I am glad I did.  Our business is to support international travelers with a mobile extension of concierge services. 

Within a week we had summarized our hypothesis and built a straw man business model reviewed by our super mentors Mike Rowehl, Jenny Fielding, and Jay Jamison. Feedback was diverse, for example, could this all be done on a SIM card? What are the associated costs of being in the rental market? What concrete problems were we solving? Who is the early adopter? It was fascinating to see how our message was received.

In week two we were encouraged to discover what the product had to provide to win the trust of consumers. We had access to a travel industry expert who graciously shared with us insights into the world of the concierge.

A casual coffee in Union Square led to a long and informationally rich conversation with a seasoned international traveler. From these two inputs we began to hypothesize about customer development and rapidly grew our knowledge base about customers by posting an online survey accessible through our website

The result of our first survey was not particularly helpful since we had not captured any demographic information about the people taking the survey. After an excellent presentation from Cindy Alvarez and Heten Shah from Kiss Metrics on customer interview techniques, see my post on Women 2.0 for more details, we wrote open ended interview questions for both concierges and international travelers. Our new goal is to understand distributor and customer pain points and use the  information from the interviews to inform our product development plan.

At our second review we presented a working prototype on a mobile device and a revised business model. Our super mentors Mike Rowehl, Jenny Fielding, and Jay Jamison and guest mentors Steve Blank and Vivek Wadhwa were full of ideas and feedback.

We were encouraged to look for the largest comparable companies and learn accurately the size of the market. We were told to put up numbers about who we might address and serve. We have to determine how we are going to illicit these customers and what the value of acquiring them would be in years 1, 2 and 3 –  and do this by next week of course!

The process of asking before you build makes so much sense, I am thrilled this is way we are being invited to develop our businesses. Any reservations I had about getting behind a project that felt ungrounded two weeks ago, quickly evaporated when we put the first prototype in the hands of customers. Now the real conversation of how we can be of service to the market can begin. The ability to have a conversation around pain points for customers with real problems and figuring out how we might solve them is very exciting, creative and intoxicating.

Come back next week and learn how we got on developing the next step of our business together.

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