A Change in Direction

Every new company starts with a vision. Sometimes the vision is about how the product will look or what it will do, sometimes the vision is about a particular unserved market need that you know, deep in your bones, you can serve with a killer product. However it starts, the vision is big and bold and enticing. So you pull together a small team of people you know you want to work with and you roll up your sleeves and you get started.

First step is to define what your dream really means. What are the features you’ll offer? What’s the underlying product architecture? What will it look like? How easy must it be to use? This is the fun part. Then you start to map features to customer benefits. Why would someone use this? What would they expect? And then the important question: how much would they pay to get it? At this stage the dream turns into a complex set of inter-linked concrete decisions that will largely shape the product you bring to market. Here’s where we also examine products from potential competitors and substitute products that might provide similar benefits in different ways.

All being well, after a few months of intense work we bring the product to the point where we can show it to an early audience and ask for feedback. This is where dream meets reality. It’s a nail-biting time. Will other people see the benefits as clearly as we did? Will they actually have the needs we imagined?

What often happens is that the initial concept and market reality don’t quite coincide. We show the product to our limited representative market group and what we hear back is something like, “wow, that’s interesting. Now if it only did X…” If you’ve shown your product to ten different prospects and you get back ten totally different versions of X, you know you’ve got a lot of work to do. But if you get back several versions of X that seem to cluster around a common center, it may be a good time to think about pivoting. When you pivot, you modify your product to meet the market need you’ve discovered through your early market testing activities. Pivoting is about chasing the money. If people are telling you they’d adopt your product if only it did X, it’s usually a pretty good idea to figure out how to incorporate X into your product.

This is what’s happening with Brightmetrics. We started out thinking that executives really needed data visualization and trend projection starting with their financials. After several weeks of market testing we’ve discovered that although financials are important, top of the list for most companies turns out to be other operational data. For example, the ability to compare period-on-period sales figures across a range of categories. Spreadsheets just don’t cut it, but our powerful visualization technologies make it a snap for busy executives to see what’s going on with sales on a daily basis and make tactical decisions accordingly. Our first customer estimates that this will save them over $30,000 per year in man power they are currently using to manually create reports. In another case, our visualization of certain key indicators enables a company to provide its customers with compelling status reports.

So we’re pivoting Brightmetrics. Our core concept – visualization of key data trends – was right but our initial focus – financial systems – wasn’t what the market needed on Day One. Our pivot requires us to work a bit harder and add features today that we’d originally planned to add next year. But the reward is that we’re meeting a real market need and our early customers are becoming delighted recommenders. And that’s the basis for a great business going forward.

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