Going for Seconds
Building a company for the second time (Part 1)
When we started Olapic in 2009 as a business school project, the tools and resources available to us were very different. We also had no clue what we were doing, but that's a topic for another day.
This time around, we are working at faster speeds, in part thanks to the processes we learned over the years and the tools we have at our disposal.
Starting with a customer discovery process
With Olapic, it took us four years to evolve from a blurry intuition of an idea to the product that found market fit. We never truly ran a customer discovery process. Well, we inadvertently ran one, but just in a highly expensive and inefficient way: we built stuff, tried to sell it, and then brainstormed why that had not worked, and tried again. We relied heavily on core business fundamentals, but we were pretty much in the dark, shooting darts and hoping to hit something.
With Remotely, we've taken a very different approach. We decided to allocate time up-front to run a proper customer discovery process to hone in on our ideal customer and value proposition.
At first, our process was largely unstructured: we reached out to our industry connections, talked to them about our concept, and gathered early feedback. It was very informal but helped us get smart about the industry and formulate the right questions to ask. During this process, we reconnected with Grant.
We first met Grant during the last years at Olapic. He was the founder of Flashstock, a company that was acquired by Shutterstock, and our paths crossed while we were both building our first (respective) companies. Like us, he was starting to work on his second venture and shared how he was going about it. He suggested we enable our process with technology to gather insights more quickly.
People often tell you “you just have to talk to customers.” While this is true, how you perform these sessions is equally, if not more important. Reading the mom test helped us become aware of our own biases when talking to customers, and distill truth from those conversations.
By the time we announced our launch, we had talked to 70+ people about our idea, documented our conversations, and drawn some valuable insights. How did we do that in a short period of time? We used specific tools that enabled us to scale a process quickly:
🧑🏫 We penciled a few hypothesis/problem statements with tentative customer segments based on our experience as operators of software companies, and our early conversations. We used resources like Crunchbase to create lists of potential customers that fit the different target segments.
📤 We then used Amplemarket to create an email automation process that would allow us to launch different "reach out campaigns" with specific segments in mind. Amplemarket can also enrich a set of company names with contact info of specific people within those organizations. We designed those campaigns to be as customized as possible, and not repetitive at all (we only did 1 follow up).
These are some of the stats to complete strangers:
Here are the stats to our LinkedIn connections:
Grain was a fantastic, yet serendipitous discovery: its founder, Mike, replied to my reach out and recommended using Grain for my discovery call (he said it's their number 1 use-case). We love Grain because it enables us to:
💡Focus on what's important during the meeting: free from taking notes (it's recorded!), you can focus your attention on listening and guiding the conversation so you can get the most out of it. During the call you can easily create time-stamps with brief notes, which help you navigate through the recorded conversation later.
🎞 Review and re-listen to past conversations: Re-listening to past conversations on a recurrent basis is a surprising source of insights you forgot to compile (I easily miss 20-30% of the gold nuggets in a convo). In particular, when you're armed with a new insight, re-listening to old conversations with prospects will almost surely find you additional confirmatory evidence that flew under the radar during your first listen.
⏩ Share with the team. While notes are great, and recordings can be useful, the reality is that it rarely make sense for a team member to re-listen an entire conversation (even at 2x speed). Instead, Grain allows you to quickly create clips from the recordings, helping you get the meat of a 1-hour meeting across in a matter of minutes. Clips also allow us to convey much more of the the nuance behind a customer statement.
With that, in 1 month, we had conducted all of our customer discovery interviews (and more), and shared the high-fidelity, high-bandwidth, relevant insights across our team. And we did all of it from our homes, during the Covid-19 lock-down.
Crystalizing the value prop on a tangible "product"
As we gathered hundreds of disparate pieces of relevant information from stakeholders, we needed a way to make sense of it. We needed to group and classify these learnings into high-level insights and concepts that could move us closer to defining a narrow value proposition and ideal customer profile (ICP). For that, we used Miro, which helped us work on a blank canvas and share/regroup somewhat easily (yet very time consuming) post-its and align the potential strategy paths that laid ahead of us. Mapping those out as a broad "product map" helped us understand the different opportunities ahead of us.
Listing all the learnings from every relevant customer conversation:
Grouping insights into themes:
As we narrowed down this value prop, we started drafting a "Sales Deck" that materialized our offering. With this Sales Deck, we would be able to entertain conversations or have a leave-behind that could tell the story without us being there. This became the first part of our MVP.
Once we had iterated on the sales-deck and had pitched a few potential customers, and understood the flow that better fit our storytelling, we decided to launch a website. With that website, we didn't want to source leads, but rather convey trust that we were a real business. We expected our prospect to check our email domain to verify we were for real. We needed to have an aligned message and needed to have good branding. For that, we partnered with Mendesaltaren, an amazing agency based in Spain that created great brand guidelines and got us up-and-running on webflow as a no-code hosting platform.
Armed with our deck and our landing page, we were ready to talk to a few potential customers.
But that's for another post! In Part II, we plan to cover our tech stack in more depth: how we are building a tech-enabled customer experience and CRM process from scratch, and what tools we're stitching together to service our customers.
If you'd like us to walk through these details, please like this post: if you don't I'll take that as a "this was super boring and I'm not interested in learning how you architected the scaffolding of your company!". If there are other questions/suggestions that you have, please fire away on the comments section below!