Why should a startup use its own products

Once a product has been built, what is the best way to understand your customers concerns and experience the product usage pattern? I ‘m sure all product managers talk to their customers regularly to understand and get feedback. They could have the customers respond to product satisfaction surveys or have focused group discussions.

But, this might still not be enough to unearth all the latent issues that your customers are facing. What then, is a good way to put yourself in your customer’s shoes ?

We believe it is by actually using your own product. As a proper customer.

While it may be a lot easier for a B2C product startup to have its people use its products, it is not entirely impossible for a B2B startup to do so.

At Aindra Systems, our valuable employees and stake holders use our SmartAttendance SME product to mark their daily attendance as they come into the office and start work. We haven’t installed any dedicated device, scanner or RFID booth for the daily attendance but all of us are using our smart phones to give our daily mobile based face recognition; biometric attendance. This has manifold outcomes. While the direct benefit is, using the product on a regular basis brings out all the corner case defects, that would have otherwise gone unnoticed even after all the testing that is done on the product before it is made live.

The next benefit is that, the whole team becomes empathetic to the concerns of the customer. Every fix and every feature that is discussed and deliberated goes through the ‘Customer filter’, before getting implemented. With this approach we should, hopefully, be able to address the issue of the “Curse of Knowledge in product design” as well. The effects of which have been wonderfully articulated by Ben Yoskovitz in his blog post.

I am sure most of the Indian B2C product startups are doing this regularly. But I am curious to know if the B2B startups are doing this and what are their experiences.

This is still an experiment in progress for us and we will share more of our insights as we go along.

 

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Does your Start-Up have the right culture?

What makes up the culture of a start-up ? Is it the presence of a youthful team ? Is it how the team interacts ? Is it in working long hours ? Is it the collective actions of the people in the start-up in reaching out to a common and shared vision ? Is it about displaying extreme passion and pride in what we do ?

We, at Aindra believe this is, but only some of the aspects of what should form the culture at our start-up. Have we got it nailed down and is it done and dusted ? I guess not. But we are working towards building it. And how can we dream of achieving a culture that both aligns with our value system and our vision of where we want to go ? It is of course, by having the right kind of people within the start-up. People who will be a part of the journey of building the culture at the start-up.

We have had instances where really motivated guys joined us with pay cuts. We have had instances when our early people, who left the start-up and moved to the US to continue with their higher studies continue to work with us remotely as interns, while they continue with their coursework. We believe this happens when there is perfect alignment of the underlying values of the people with the start-up.

While we have been lucky to have had an awesome set of people working with us, we also had unfortunate instances when there were misfits. Extremely sharp people who, unfortunately, did not have the cultural fit that we wanted in our start-up. When there is extreme pressure to hire within a short period, it becomes difficult to correctly gauge the cultural fit of the candidate. We have learnt the hard way, that this later could turn out to be an extremely costly mistake. When the values of a new hire does not align with our values as a start-up, then it is bound to create dissonance. And this dissonance starts becoming acute, until we reach a point and realize that it is better to let the person move on, and not spend both mental and physical resources to deal with the dissonance. We were in this unfortunate situation once and realize the enormous cost of dealing with this.

This alignment of personal values to the culture at the start-up, determines the environment at the start-up and become the driving force. While this could be true for even a large company, it could mean the difference between a start-up succeeding or struggling to make it big. There are highs and lows that are a regular occurrence in a start-ups early years. It is the collective culture that sees the start-up through these phases. And what is the best way to create a culture that you would want at your start-up ? The whole team has to live those values at work, day-in and day-out. Be ready to let go of critical people when this doesn’t happen, even at the cost of missing out on a milestone.

And most importantly, the core team has to lead by example.

 

What are we aiming for, as Culture in our start-up ?

  • Transparency in our work life
  • Honesty and Integrity while dealing with Customers
  • Personal attention to Customer issues
  • Camaraderie between the team
  • Freedom with boundaries and Flexibility with constraints

 

We would be happy to hear your thoughts on this and hear how you have built the culture at your start-ups.