Previously on Arcadier Inspire, a virtual summit and competition for online marketplaces, founder of Enovution and startup mentor Cedric Menager elaborated on how startups can achieve success. As an experienced entrepreneur, Cedric shared on the three key factors of success, and dived deep into the factor of innovation. In his talk, Cedric zoomed in on the customer-centric perspective of innovation, and how entrepreneurs can create a product that best solves customers’ problems and brings them success.
Startup Must Have a Vision
Cedric spoke of three imperative factors that startups need to address. First of all, startups must have a vision. Without vision, you won’t go far. Many startups are aware that building a business requires strategy. Startups should also remember that strategy comes after vision. The vision is the foundation upon which decisions for matters like hiring and investments for the future are made.
Startup Need to Ensure Operational Excellence
Secondly, startups need to ensure operational excellence from the onset. Cedric emphasized that operational excellence is what differentiates successful startups from those that fail. To achieve and maintain operational excellence, entrepreneurs need to have focus and discipline. There are lots of tempting opportunities along the way, but it is important to stick to the ones that are relevant to the startup vision and strategy. Similar to large corporations, startups also need to put processes in place to measure progress and remind them to stay focused.
Customer Driven Innovation
Find an important problem to solve
Ensure that you have the right team to solve the problem
Build a solution with a durable competitive advantage
Thirdly, Cedric spoke about innovation in detail. Specifically, he spoke about innovation based on customers. It is not enough to have ideas. Many people have ideas, but the ideas that truly revolutionize the world are those that are the most well received by customers. Diving deeper into the topic, Cedric spoke of customer driven innovation and how deep customer empathy is a powerful drive for growth.
Cedric emphasised that it’s beneficial to always refer to the customer driven innovation cycle as a guide when it comes to innovation. There are 3 processes in the customer driven innovation cycle.
Find an Important Problem to Solve
Not only do you want to find a problem to solve, you should seek out the most painful problem. The best scenario would be to stumble upon something painful that does not have a solution yet. This would be a good start for your team.
Ensure That You Have The Right Team to Solve The Problem
Be sure that you are able to solve the problem. This means that you need to build a team that has the skills and capabilities to solve it. Cedric shared that in startups, human resources is often more important than material resources.
Build a Solution With a Durable Competitive Advantage
The moment you go into the ecosystem with a viable solution, competition arises. To survive and thrive in the long term, you need to build a durable competitive advantage so that other parties cannot easily enter the market and outdo your company’s performance.
When done right, these principles will be able to keep your company going. They may seem difficult, but Cedric’s solution is to apply the concept of design for delight. Design for delight is an innovation cycle and process that enables you to quickly identify problems, potential solutions and test them with the customers to find out whether they really solve the problem, or discover new solutions through the testing phase. Specifically, there are three phases:
Deep Customer Empathy
To be empathic and fully understand the customer, Cedric recommended the “follow me home” technique. Most businesses conduct surveys, interviews and market studies. These may be tried and tested methods, but more often than not, when people speak, they often don’t tell the truth. They may not be forthcoming or they may not be aware of the truth. It is as Steve Jobs said: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want.” However, when you follow customers in their workplace, home or other activities, you are able to identify the right issue and problem from their experiences. The pain, expressions and experiences of people can inspire ideas to solve problems that no one has ever discovered before. Through this method, you will be able to tell customers what they truly want.
Go from Broad to Narrow
Find the best solutions to what you have identified. Having identified problems and big issues that people face, you are ready for the second phase - go from broad to narrow and identify specific solutions.
In addition to what most companies do (such as brainstorming for ideas), the most successful companies pick out solutions that have the craziest and biggest impact. These two traits help in identifying what’s missing in the market. Your team can then move on to test your solutions.
Many entrepreneurs focused on the power of their solutions without considering the notion that their ideas may not be suitable. Cedric advised that we take a humble stance and assume that we are wrong.
Rapid experiments help you save and gain time and money. It helps you move away from wrong solutions that don’t fit user expectations. In rapid experimentation, entrepreneurs aim to quickly generate evidence and new learning with fast and cheap experiments through the use of prototypes. Prototypes can then be adjusted through rounds of experimentation before arriving at a minimally viable product to be pushed onto the market.
Additional Tips for Startups
There are many pitfalls that startups should be aware of. One of the most difficult challenges is to admit errors. It is difficult to give up something that you think is amazing, especially if you have put in a lot of resources in it. For that, Cedric suggested having a strategic board that is able to identify problems and call you out for errors that you may be blind to.
Another tip is to embrace differences. Innovation comes from working with people with different backgrounds, mindset and skills. Cedric warned against hiring people who think similarly. This could result in ideas that may appeal to the team, but may not be popular with others.
Never Too Late to Learn Something New/Different
Finally, for fledgling entrepreneurs, Cedric highlighted that it is never too late to learn something new or different. Entrepreneurship is a journey of discovery. Just as entrepreneurs strive to bring new and better solutions to the world, their efforts bring them experiences and new ideas to refine their startups. Stay open to learning and you will be able to become more successful.
Watch the entire Arcadier Inspire Summit talk by Cedric Menager here