I have been teaching innovation and entrepreneurship for several years and in each class, I try to extract innovative ideas and allow entrepreneurs opportunity to release their idea, hopefully into the monetization stage. I teach and model the lean startup grid for the business modeling, which we do with the class. But something just hit me when I read Alex Hofmann’s short article in the October-November 2022 Entrepreneur magazine.
Hofmann led the development of the app TikTok, until he left TikTok in 2018 to start other endeavors. He points out in the article, “The TikTok Approach to Innovation” that developing something completely revolutionary is not the only approach. You can “develop a product that people are somewhat familiar with, watch how they use it, and then lean heavily into building out the features they enjoy the most.” This approach has the higher chance of success, he says.
To clarify further he states, “I’ve come to realize that many of the best products didn’t have a clearly defined end goal. That’s because if I were to envision exactly where Summer or Wink were going, then those apps can only become as good as my imagination – and my imagination can never be as good as where our users will lead us!”
He says it another way, “We believe in co-creation. We put something out there and invite others to help us evolve the idea, so it becomes something they love. There is nothing like taking your passion and watching the world run wild with it.” Users of an idea will improve it if they have a general understanding of it and like what they see.
IBEC client Snowman Labs in Curitiba, Brazil understands this. “We know that together we can deliver successful results, innovate in various segments and, above all, make people’s lives even better…” Founder Danilo likes the word ‘interface’ which infers co-creation and collaboration allowing two, three, or four heads to think much better than one. Snowman Labs believes that real partnerships and trust are true drivers to success.
The lean startup thinking talks about a Minimum Viable Product, something that has just enough functionality and value proposition to attract early adopters who will provide feedback and help improve the product.
As I think about the startups I know, each one of them realized or learned eventually that it is best to watch and observe, give value to feedback and lean heavily into pivoting so as to please the customer. Entrepreneur and successful animal feed expert, Dave Kier, told me how they study the feed products and are always asking the farmer for feedback, and they then continue with adjustments. His success is felt with farmers in the USA, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
I once tried unsuccessfully to help a team planning a coffee retail and wholesale business in South Asia, who thought that just because they loved coffee, the business would prosper. It failed! On the other hand, the Baku Roasting Company listened carefully to the potential customers in an effort to find their pain point and help them solve their problem in the coffee space. It prospers today.
Remember Alex Hofmann’s advice, “your users are your real innovators.”
Larry W. Sharp, BAM Support Specialist, IBEC Ventures