Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Crossing the Chasm in Me

I am at a cross road now, if you are frequent reader of my blog (Thanks for reading), even the title of my blog is "Thoughts of Customer Development, Entrepreneurship, Project Management and Software Development", many of my blog posts still focus on Software Development topic, I am still very much a product development guy even gone through so many business books.

Is there any thing wrong with product development approach to launch a startup? I think this approach is not wrong, but a very costly approach when things getting ugly. For some products, it taken too long time and need too much efforts (could be few months) even to produce a minimum viable product. By the time you find out that it is not the product customer will pay to use it after customer validation phase, you may running out of iterations even to pivot.

I launched ProcessCanvas.com: A workflow builder that allow you to create online workflow in minutes two months ago to see whether is there enough customers need this kind of product. I launch this product is the result of Scratch My Own Itch, it is the first hand experience I gained over the past two years working as Business Analyst and Solution Consultant. ProcessCanvas.com is targeted to the following customer segments:
  • IT Consultant: Use it as fast prototyping tool to create workflow application demo/prototype.
  • Business Analyst/Business Process (ISO) Consultant: Create production workflow application for their customers.
  • Subject Matter Experts from different industries such as Insurance (Claim Mgmt.), Medical (Case Mgmt.), Customer Service (Help Desk) and Small Business Owner to create the workflow application by themselves.
Sadly tell you that the result of the launch is far from satisfactory (if not crying), I only received two e-mail addresses that interested in production launch of ProcessCanvas.com so far (where the e-mail sign up box is put at the end of process wizard by intention to ensure the user explored and used the tool prior to submit their e-mail address) out of 58 visits tracked by Google Analytics (I think actual visits lesser than 58 if excluding my own visits).

I had invested about 4 weeks to produce the process wizard and introductory screencasts (excluded time spent to produce the Grails Activiti Plugin), since then I invested another 7 weeks to produce the Form Builder plugin which just released version 0.1 on yesterday. It is foreseeable that many more weeks required in development to produce the working minimum viable product that support multi-tenancy and ability to create working workflow application.

I give myself a pause now from continuing time investment into ProcessCanvas.com and step back to review what had I done wrong so far:
  1. Invested too much time and effort to the product before knowing whether the product have market size that big enough to build a business on it. 
  2. Customers may not have the same problems that I faced. Even they faced the same problems, the problems may not pain enough until no choice they have to pay for the product to solve it. Over passionate about the solution without knowing it is real problem to paying customers is a problem by itself.
  3. Do I know how to reach the targeted customers? Frankly speaking, I have no idea besides posting the release news and announcement to the BPM (Business Process Management) community and hanging there (Developer is poor on marketing).
Some questions cracking my mind:
  1. How do I find out a product have big enough market size to build a viable business on it, with the least effort that maximize validated learning?
  2. Is the vision too big and too broad to fit into my goal as Micropreneur?
  3. Is the product too generic? If the answer is yes, how do I find a niche and pivot toward it?
  4. Are these problems worth solving?
  5. Am I targeted the right customer segments?
Next, I need to perform some finding and reading to find out the corrective actions to make the points listed above clear enough to further support my next decisions and actions. If failing is inevitable in my first web startup in order for me to learn, I wish to fail faster and lighter so that I can get over it quickly and start all over again in shorter time.

What do you think? Any feedback is very much appreciated.

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