This year there was a lot of discussion on whether Slush is still a place for startups, or if it is being taken over by global giants. Regardless, one of the things we were excited about was that, for many of the participating companies taking risks is self-evident, scarce resources are the norm and the aim is to disrupt their respective industries. One speaker even said that when you launch a new product you should feel just a little embarrassed about showing your work, because that’s when you know you have reached your MVP.
While not all presentations were full of mind-blowing revelations, one thing became clear – there has never quite been an age like ours. Technology is developing at a faster pace than ever before and as a result new business models are popping up like mushrooms after rain. But at the same time, many industries (Finn-tech to give just one example) have miles to go when it comes to figuring out just how to adapt these new technologies and models in a way that serves both their customers and their employees best. On a positive note, this also means that there are numerous opportunities both in existing and undefined markets, for new ventures and value propositions.
Some of the most popular business models we are seeing currently are SaaS and subscription/freemium based models, even in the B2B landscape. While companies used to have one or two larger vendors serving their software needs, today more and more companies are taking chances on underdogs that cater to their exact needs e.g. Slack for channel-based communication, Meeshkan for faster training of machine learning, or money transfer solution Worldremit and banking robo-advisor Chloe on the B2C side.
As a result, the average vendor portfolio is expanding drastically, and APIs have become crucial. A smart move from the startup Meeshkan has been to integrate their software with Slack and piggyback on their broad user network – especially among their target customers, offering a leaner, easier way to train and test ML models. Funny enough Slack wasn’t even developed as a product to be sold to customers, but as an internal tool for a company that developed games. Now it is one of the most used channel-based team communication tools among businesses.
However, as Slack’s co-founder and CTO Cal Henderson pointed out, most software still focuses on individual productivity instead of enabling whole teams to be more productive. Hopefully LOGE can be one of the tools addressing this gap – expanding a greater understanding and common direction not only within one team but across several.
So, what exactly were the key learnings we want to take with us in to 2019 here at LOGE in order to start bridging this gap (thinking from a tiny B2B SaaS biz perspective)?
- Hold strong opinions loosely – Developing a software platform without a clear and strong direction will lead to nothing other than a product without focus. In this context having a strong opinion means having a clear vision and the balls to stand out and stick to it, regardless of the endless differing opinions out there. Yet, holding it loosely means understanding when to admit you are wrong or adapt your course when needed.
- Build a diverse team around you – be it internal or external. The Tech report for 2019 by Atomico and Slush clearly pointed this out as a weakness – lack of diversity. For us this is a clear one, as LOGE is built on the idea of people engaging and collaborating as equals regardless of their title, location, gender etc. Seeing as we don’t have the biggest internal team, we are focusing on building diverse partnerships with developers, designers, content experts and users. Working with passionate people with totally different perspectives and strengths is one of the most exciting things about developing this software. This point also helps us to keep the first point in check.
- Focus most of your efforts on customer onboarding seeing that it is the biggest driver of retention. Keeping it simple is easier than it sounds, but try to identify your users’ aha moment, and build to enable that moment. For us, the key action for users, the moment the user experiences actual value, is the group discussion. Everything before that we can consider the setup to enable this aha moment and we are working hard, to make this as simple and intuitive as possible. As said, this isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially with such a diverse user group, but we take this on as a positive challenge.
- Keep your users close and your potential and former users even closer. If you focus on developing your product according to existing active user preferences, you will end up developing more advance features which can lead to an even more problematic onboarding for new potential users. The key is to balance user feedback and new features with a) collecting feedback from former users to understand what active and former users have done differently, and b) observe first reactions and collect onboarding ideas from potential customers.
Looking at our product and customer base now versus even half a year ago, the change is remarkable. We have built in step-by-step guidance making the platform much more intuitive, clarified the data we collect and how it is displayed to participants to highlight the value and impact of LOGE discussions, and increased our customer base by 300%. For us, Slush was just the type of energy and boost in self-confidence we needed to feel proud of what we have accomplished and set the bar even higher for next year.
Next year we aim to take the next leap towards living up to our promise of being the future of organizational transformation.