The term “customer discovery” might make you think of all kinds of processes.
Is it the part where you try to learn as much about your customers as you can? Is it the part where you go out and discover actual flesh-and-blood customers who will buy your products? Is it something else?
Turns out, it’s something else.
What Is Customer Discovery?
Customer discovery is a term used by two of the main figures of the lean startup methodology, Steve Blank and Eric Reis. They define customer discovery as questioning your core business assumptions. It is a way for you to validate your ideas and theories by going to the source – the customer – and a way to flesh out evidence supporting your product-market fit.
When Would You Need Customer Discovery?
In reality, you need customer discovery whenever you are designing a product or a service.
Let’s break it down into three distinct stages:
- You define a problem/market need (that your product/service is meant to fill).
- You develop a hypothesis about the solution (i.e., develop the product/service idea).
- You conduct an experiment to test your hypothesis (gather data from actual customers).
Yes, customer discovery is meant to validate your ideas – but it is more of a scientific approach than asking your friends, family, and coworkers what they think about your idea and whether they think it would work.
Let’s take a look at the four key steps to customer discovery, and see how you can use it to design solutions that fit your customer’s needs.
Step One: Come up with Your Hypothesis
This step encompasses stages one and two we’ve listed above: you are defining both the problem and the solution you are proposing to implement, and you are forming a hypothesis as to how the solution will impact the problem.
The best way to formulate your hypothesis is in a single sentence: my solution solves problem X. As simple as that.
You want to be incredibly specific with your hypothesis, and you want it to be accurate. Don’t just assume certain people have a certain problem. What if these people don’t see it as a problem?
That’s what customer discovery will help you discover, but in order to set off on the best foot possible, ensure you have a firm grasp of the issue yourself.
As for specificity: don’t just say, “I am solving the problem of lack of dog walkers by starting a dog walking service.” Instead, go for “I am solving a problem people living in this area have with walking their dogs from 9-5 by offering a safe, hassle-free, and reliable dog walking service”.
Step Two: Define Your Assumptions
As you can already tell, you were forced to make certain assumptions in step one. They may be correct, or they may be incorrect, and now is the time to write them all down.
You may be assuming that something is a problem (when, in fact, it isn’t), you may be assuming that your solution will help (when in reality, it won’t), and you may be assuming a certain demographic has this issue (which they may not).
Once you have your assumptions down, create a target persona in order to alleviate as much of them as possible. This is the person you are targeting, your ideal customer, the person with these problems.
Go into as much detail about your persona as possible, as it will help you ensure your data is sound later on.
Step Three: Test It out
Now that you have your hypothesis, an ideal customer in mind, and you are (in theory) aware of at least some of the pitfalls you may be facing, the time has come to test your theory out in the real world.
You are going to ask some people some questions.
The people you start with should be your potential customers. In our hypothetical case, dog owners living in a certain area, working 9-to-5 jobs.
Don’t ask people living in other areas, people who own cats and not dogs, or people who don’t own dogs but live in the area and work the nine-to-five. You have defined your audience – stick to it.
As for the questions themselves, you need to be very careful about how you formulate them.
You don’t want to ask, “Do you think this is a good idea?”. You don’t want to say anything about your idea, in fact. You want the people you’re asking to tell you what they would appreciate as a solution, and you are then going to build your solution based on their answers.
This is what customer discovery is about – creating a final product that matches the real needs of real customers.
To that end, your questions should be open-ended and not specifically related to your idea. Here are some examples:
- What do you currently do for…?
- Do you like the process?
- Is it working out for you?
- If you could improve the process, how would you do it?
- What is the biggest challenge about…?
- What do you like about it?
And so on.
The answers you get should help you outline your solution and make it a reality in the future.
Step Four: Evaluate Your Data
Now that you have plenty of data at your disposal, the time has come to go through it.
If you have done your homework well, you’ve likely discovered information you had no idea about previously. Someone has pointed out a solution or an issue you were not aware of.
This allows you to go back and refine your hypothesis and the idea itself, at which point you can do another round of customer discovery.
If, however, you’ve discovered your hypothesis was entirely correct, you can move on to product development.
Test out more than one hypothesis, and keep discovering until you are satisfied that you have come up with the best possible solution.
Customer discovery is certainly a lengthy and complex process, but it’s worth all the effort. It can significantly increase your chances of producing a solution that not only works but that is already sought after by a vast number of people. Consequently, your solution will be much more likely to become a success.
Considerations for Managing Your Startup’s Financial Health
Finances play a key role in your startup’s success. If you manage your startup’s finances well, you can grow your business. Conversely, if you ignore your startup’s financial health, your company can collapse.
Whether you’re a financial guru or dud, you need to manage your startup’s financial health if you want it to be successful. To do so, you need to consider the following factors:
1. Initial Financing
Initial financing lays the foundation for success. However, there is a finite amount of initial financing at your disposal. If you do not manage this financing properly, it can quickly run out.
Track your initial financing and how you spend it. Oftentimes, it helps to budget your initial financing. It can be beneficial to invest these finances in different areas of your business, too. By doing so, you can avoid the risk of putting all your eggs into one basket and losing your financing in one fell swoop.
Of course, in addition to securing initial financing, explore myriad opportunities to fund your business. One such way is through a business loan or other grants to help keep your company afloat. Regardless of which financing options you pursue, weigh their pros and cons. Afterward, you can make an informed decision about which financing options meet your requirements.
2. Personal Finances
If you’re comfortable doing so, you can also use your personal finances to fund your startup. Although this may feel like a risky option, you may have more skin in the game, so to speak, so you’ll be more likely to keep your business on track. On the other hand, it can put you in a personal financial bind.
It pays to separate your personal and business finances. Any money your business generates should go back into your company. Resist the urge to take too much money for yourself to recover any money you invest in your business as well. Otherwise, this can lead to poor spending habits that can be costly for you and your business. Also ensure you’re managing your personal finances with a fine-tooth comb, to ensure there isn’t any accidental overlap or accidental overspending in any part of your life.
Try not to become too reliant on your personal finances to fund your company. Remember, there is no guarantee your startup will succeed, regardless of how much you invest in it. Instead, prioritize crowdfunding and other funding options. Then, you can get money for your business without having to leverage your finances.
How you monitor your startup’s expenses and spending can have far-flung effects on your bottom line. With proper accounting measures in place, you’re well-equipped to get the most value out of your money, time, and resources.
You can hire an accountant who can become a vital contributor to your team. However, the demand for accountants is increasing. To find a quality accountant, you may want to consider full-time, part-time, and contract professionals. You can use online job boards to identify accounting professionals who can perform budget audits, prepare your taxes, and perform similar financial tasks. Also, you can leverage your professional network to engage with peers who may be able to put you in touch with talented accountants.
Moreover, it helps to find an accountant capable of analyzing financial data and generating insights from it. This accountant can produce reports that highlight your startup’s performance and help you establish goals. From here, you can determine the best course of action to ensure your startup fulfills its expectations.
The Bottom Line on How to Manage Your Startup’s Financial Health
Throughout the process of building your business from the ground up, know that it takes time for a startup to grow. By managing your startup’s financial health from the get-go, you can put your business on the path to success.
Treat your startup’s financial health in the same way you treat your own. Much in the same way that maintaining a balanced diet supports good health, it can be beneficial to identify the ideal balance of financing and investments for your company. In addition, it helps to track your startup’s financial health much like you handle your wellbeing. That way, if you identify any financial health problems with your startup, you can address them in their early stages.
Ultimately, you need to take care of your startup’s financial health day after day. In doing so, you can put your company in an excellent position to thrive now and in the future.
6 Reasons to Choose Business Formation Services for Your Startup
Have you finally decided to chase your dreams and take your business live? Laying the foundation stones of a business can be a momentous experience in an entrepreneur’s life. However, handling business formation procedures is not.
Read on to find out why businesses prefer to take help during the initial steps of setting up and officiating their business.
6 Reasons You Need a Business Formation Service
1. Zero Errors During Business Formation Procedure
A new business must always stand on a solid legal foundation. For that, you should ensure that all legal procedures are handled with precision from the outset.
Business formation involves a series of steps such as verifying the availability of your business name, preparing your articles of organization, filing documents, etc. One small miscalculation could lead to large consequences. Even seasoned professionals can make errors while handling the paperwork frenzy that business formation usually entails.
A business formation service will handle your paperwork procedures entirely and ensure that no human errors are committed. From paying attention to small details while preparing sensitive documents to handling their delivery, a business formation provider will shoulder the responsibility with extreme care and finesse.
2. Get Valuable Advice From Experts
Starting out into the dynamic world of business can be daunting, and a smooth start could set the right tone for your business’s future. Setting up properly is probably the very first challenge you’re going to face, and there are many critical questions you’ll need to answer.
For example, do you need protection for personal liability? What business entity do you want to form? What are the pros and cons of different business entities, and which one fits the bill for you? What tax structure are you willing to follow?
Having experts to help you navigate you through these complex problems can be a huge bonus, as it will give you a thorough understanding of legal compliances, the laws that protect you, the tax structure you follow, etc.
Business formation services usually employ experts and skilled professionals, so you can rest assured that your business will be in good hands.
3. Get Complimentary Registered Agent Services
Government agencies mandate that all LLCs and Corporations have a registered agent. Also known as the resident or statutory agent, this is essentially an entity that receives tax and legal documents on your company’s behalf.
The point is to have a registered address that serves as a point of contact between your business and the government. For many startup owners, it is a problem to have a physical location in the same state the business was formed.
A business formation service can provide you with an agent who meets state requirements and can be trusted with handling key business documents.
4. Easy Preparation and Access to Documents
Business professionals usually frown at paperwork, and rightfully so. It is a mundane piece of task that needs to be handled with extreme care nevertheless. When forming a business, you’ll be required to file the following paperwork:
- Articles of Incorporation
- Articles of Organization
- Operating Agreements or Bylaws (depending on your business entity)
- Paperwork for licenses and permits
While filling paperwork, you need to have full knowledge of what details to fill, how to frame your paragraphs, common mistakes to avoid, caveats to pay heed to, and much more.
Business formation professionals are experienced in this and can assist you through the entire process with their knowledge and resourcefulness. Moreover, they can provide you advice and services customized to your business’s needs.
You’ll be able to access your paperwork and monitor everything during the procedure while someone else does the heavy lifting and files it for you.
5. Find Time for Other Important Issues
A new business must tackle a series of question marks- how to get its first customer/clients? How to gain recognition? How much investment to procure? What talent to acquire?
The list is endless. Any entrepreneur would much rather invest their time on growth-related matters than tedious formation-related procedures and paperwork.
A business formation service takes these initial mandatory tasks out of your way so that you can focus on growing your business. You can entrust the responsibility paperwork filing and legal details to your business formation advisors.
Their entire purpose is to take unwanted work off of your plate so that you can pay attention to other matters at hand, thereby enhancing the productivity and efficiency of your business functions right from its inception.
6. Work Smartly by Getting Access to Premium Business Tools
Business formation services seek to make the process fast, easy, and smooth for their clients. Competitive ones offer business tools that provide extra value to their clients.
For example, you might get access to smart document creation tools. If you pay for premium services, many firms will offer quick filing and approval speed to fast-track the process for you.
Be Smart With Your Choices
One skill that entrepreneurs need to work on diligently is decision making. Oftentimes, you’ll have to decide which business operations to run in-house and which ones to outsource, based on a cost-to-benefit analysis.
It’s usually smarter to outsource business formation services, as they can help kick-start your business and save you from getting overwhelmed by uncharted territories.
Top 6 Cybersecurity Lessons Startups Can Learn From Healthcare Organizations
COVID-19 won’t be here forever, but cybercriminals will!
Leveraging the COVID-19 situation, cybercriminals are targeting SMEs and even large enterprises to steal valuable information. Many reports claim that cybercrimes have doubled in the last couple of months.
The healthcare industry is one of the latest victims of cybercriminals. According to Accenture, the healthcare industry has witnessed around 41% increase in cyberattacks. The report also says that the healthcare industry on average experiences 130 data breaches in a year.
However, as a healthcare IT consultant, I have recently noticed that healthcare organizations are ramping up their efforts to safeguard patient data. And for that, they are deploying many technologies, solutions and unique cost-effective ideas.
The technologies, solutions and ideas healthcare startups are deploying are so effective that other startups can learn cybersecurity lessons from healthcare startups. Today, in this blog, I will share the same. I will list down 6 cybersecurity lessons learned from healthcare organizations in 2020 during COVID-19.
How are healthcare startups avoiding cybercriminals? (Learning from other startups!)
Avoiding cybercriminals or ensuring data security is not a task, it is the process. And a process is always more complicated than a task. But here is how healthcare organizations are streamlining the process, the cybersecurity process.
- Determine the cybersecurity risks level
Not all healthcare startups are on the radar of cybercriminals. Thus, it is a rational idea to determine the possibility of a cyberattack or to determine the cybersecurity risks level. This process enables organizations to know the threat level – whether they are on the radar of cybercriminals or not.
To find the cybersecurity risks level, healthcare organizations simply link the type of data they store to the motive of cybercriminals. For instance, if a healthcare organization stores medical images of patients and not the patient’s personal and financial data, they should not invest more in cybersecurity.
But if a healthcare organization stores many valuable data of the patients, accommodates less-trained staff and works with legacy networks, they should worry about cybersecurity as their cybersecurity risk is high.
Learning for other startups: You should invest only after confirming that you are the potential target! If you do not store any crucial data, you don’t have to allocate your resources to cybersecurity.
- Find the loopholes through technical assessment
A network has many open doors or errors which work as the opportunities for hackers to get access to databases. They usually scan the network and attack the ‘fragile part’. Thus, it is important to find the loopholes in the network and fix it to close the entry doors for the cybercriminals.
Carrying out the technical assessment is the best way to find loopholes in the network. It is designed to yield the vulnerability in the network. A technical assessment does not only aim to find the vulnerabilities, but it also aims to quantify and prioritize the vulnerabilities.
So, now when cybersecurity experts know the loopholes which cybercriminals can leverage to attack, the cybersecurity experts can easily avoid the attack by fixing the loopholes.
Learning for other startups:
This is the best method to avoid cyber attacks. You should find the open doors in your network and close it to prevent the undetected entry of hackers into your network.
- Software configuration assessment
A healthcare organization uses a number of software to streamline operations. They also use a lot of complex software. Sometimes, the poor configuration of these complex software creates easy paths for cybercriminals to attack the enterprise network as cybercriminals are many times using software to get access to the network or a server.
Learning for other startups:
While installing software on a computer device connected in the enterprise network, make sure the authenticity of the software and do not change the installation setting or software setting without the proper knowledge.
- Quick incident response
Regardless of the efforts healthcare organizations put to safeguard the network, cybercriminals many times find ways to penetrate the security measures. In such a scenario, only a quick incident response is hope.
Healthcare organizations always pay extra heed to incident response. They form a team which quickly takes control over the network and close the paths for attackers before they cause havoc.
The incident response team utilizes many security tools to monitor the network in real-time. If they identify any unusual activity or the system alerts them, they quickly put best practices to work to prevent cybercriminals from getting system access.
Learning for other startups:
Always work best but prepare for the worst. Cybercriminals can anytime, anyhow bypass the security of your system. So, be proactive and prepared.
- Train the staff
Generally, staff working in the healthcare organization lacks the knowledge of the cybersecurity which leads them to click on any malicious links or commit any costly mistake. Thus, healthcare organizations are putting emphasis on staff training. They give basic knowledge about cybersecurity and their deployed network to the staff and keep testing the staff’s cybersecurity knowledge after a fixed interval.
Learning for other startups:
If your staff does not follow cyber hygiene, things can easily go messy as staff members have network access and they spend the majority of their time around it.
- Always deploy feature-packed security solution including firewall
To ensure cybersecurity, deploying software security solutions as well as hardware security solutions is the basic requirement. But a premium security solution works more precisely and efficiently than an affordable security solution. Thus, healthcare organizations generally deploy premium feature-packed security solutions, especially a firewall.
A feature-packed firewall costs a bit more than the basic firewall. But a feature-packed firewall is worth the money. It does not only safeguard the enterprise network but offers many flexibilities and real-time network data to the admin.
- Admin can know the connected network and find the data usage of each network.
- Admin can know the top sources of threats to a network.
- Admin can know the most affected network.
- Admin can impose content filtering to prevent users from opening irrelevant sites.
- Admin can know every single activity of the users on that network.
Learning for other startups:
An ‘affordable security solution’ is the myth, actually!
In a nutshell:
Cybersecurity is the challenge for any startup serving in any industry. An ever-increasing number of cybersecurity attacks clearly depicts that it is a much bigger problem for startups than COVID-19.
However, there is one industry that is pulling out all dots to curb the coronavirus as well as cyberattacks. In this blog, we have discussed 6 ways of how healthcare organizations are safeguarding crucial patient data.
These ways are,
- Confirm the level of cyberattack risk
- Find the loopholes in the network and fix it
- Do not configure the software without proper knowledge
- Form an incident response team
- Train the staff
- Opt for feature-packed security solutions
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