Learning from failure, listening to customers

If there’s on thing I understand the value of it’s learning from failure, with experience of working on a start-up which failed to deliver on it’s initial promise to exiting from Shopping.com after a change in strategy. The good news is that failure is an important part of what being part of a lean start-up, when you go out and test customer assumptions through validation and experiment only to discover assumptions are wrong and you need to change strategy – pivoting to use the jargon.

Indeed the validated learning approach to quote our onsite mentor Gordon Guthrie, “gets companies only to build things customers want and helps startups get to cashflow and traction earlier. Most startups fail in cashflow – burning through any money (from funders, from founders, from family) before reaching a definitive conclusion on their proposition”.

The learning I had working last weekend came from an idea called Spare Space – based on the assumption that companies would want to rent out spare office space in the form of meeting rooms. But when we looked at the customer assumption from the supply side, it looked pretty obvious businesses would not want folks using their meeting rooms. (That said renting out desk space is a winning business in the US known as Loosecubes, where the co-working supplier benefits with creative mix of new business people). The issue comes with meeting spaces.

Spare SpacePhoto by Stuart Glendinning Hall

Fortunately the team found there were a good sample of pubs and restaurants that had meeting rooms which they wanted to get more use from. So the supplier side seemed sorted. But then the consensus as to the demand side seemed to break down, and the end pitch was for any meeting rooms which didn’t seem to work. Did we fail? Sure. But what I learned was the value of the MVP approach to focusing in on what the customer wants.

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