Make sure you are actually solving the problem
While trying to achieve product-market fit we discovered that we were just a “vitamin” solution.
For a couple of years we have worked tirelessly on solving the parking problem that the majority of drivers in highly populated cities face: finding a parking space. If you are a driver, this is probably a major, daily pain of yours and our mission was to solve that in an “infrastructureless” manner.
Our AI-powered solution, spark, relied solely on already installed surveillance cameras. It used the video feed to learn how drivers park their cars and eventually it would provide routes to nearby empty parking spaces, through an app, in real-time, but with no actual guarantee that another driver won’t find it faster than you, thus causing frustration to already desperate drivers. This has made many potential clients pass on us.
Every interaction with a potential client would spark (pun intended) great interest and enthusiasm in the beginning, but the discussion would often fall through when it became clear that we could not deliver a “painkiller” product. It took us too long to shut it down, but we’ve learned some valuable lessons.
1. Understand your customers
Learn their pain. Experience their pain. See if the project you are building actually makes you forget about the pain.
It took us almost a year to understand what were the real pain points of our customers (city administrations & parking lot administrators). A year of building a product for a client we did not understand.
2. Get valuable feedback
In the beginning, your close friends and the members of your family will provide positive feedback, even though your product may not be something they would willingly pay for. This could led you on the wrong path. Look for unbiased feedback.
Iterate based on valuable feedback. Do not be trapped in following endlessly something that does not work. Improve your product daily and always keep in mind the problem that you are solving.
4. Stop building a product that clients won’t use
Do not be fooled into thinking that if you build it, they will come.
We’ve been turned down after offering a year-long subscription for free and the deal still fell through. Clearly we were not providing the value we thought we were.
If a client rejects you, do not assume that the solution is not fit for them, instead ask yourself “why our product does not solve your problem?”.
Even though we might have wasted time and energy on this product, the lessons that we have learned are helping us daily in creating better products and providing better services for our clients.