Ben Einstein of Bolt joins Nick to cover Hardware products that have succeeded where others failed, Part 1. We will address questions including:
- To start off, can you talk about your thesis and approach toward investing in hardware?
- What are your thoughts on hardware startups designing for one use case vs. building a platform?
- You’ve cited the example of Google Glass vs. Snap Spectacles. Can you highlight the key difference in the approach for each of these products?
- What two things has Snap done well w/ Spectacles that hardware startups can learn from?
- Another example you highlight, re. broad vs. narrow scope, is Apple Siri vs. Amazon Alexa… what are the key differences you’ve noticed in these two approaches?
- What are the key things that founders should take away from Amazon’s approach
- Design iteration is easy in SaaS, not in Hardware. How do you advise hardware startups w/ regard to iterating and design improvements.
- What’s your opinion of Kickstarter/Indiegogo as a way to validate customer demand?
- Rather than a $1M in sales on a crowdfunding site, what validation would you like to see from hardware founders?
- Ben on Twitter
- Bolt on Twitter
- Hardware Startups Should Lower User Expectations
- Part 2 of the interview with Ben
Nick: #Ben Einstein joins us today from San Fransisco. He’s Founder and General Partner at #Bolt, a seed stage VC fund that invests capital, staff, prototyping facilities and expertise in hardware startups. Prior to #Bolt, #Ben ran a product design and development consultancy where he brought a range of products to market in sectors including consumer electronics, high performance audio, sports goods and clean tech. #Ben, welcome to the program, and thanks for taking the time!
Ben: Thanks #Nick! It’s great to be here.
Nick: Yeah. Can you start off with your background and your path to venture?
Ben: Totally, yeah! Path to, to venture I think like many people is long, random, somewhat frustrating, which I think is pretty common in this world. I started a designing consultancy right out of school doing, you know, what, what the big business world calls NPI, what most people that we know in the venture world call new product development. And this is sort of typically a service business model just like the IEOs you may know as probably the best example of a company that fits into that category. And I think sort of approach companies like ours and say hey you know I’m looking for help designing this physical thing. And we would be paid either sort of a fixed rate or sort of service sort of contract for the, for the whole product. And, and as we started to do more and more products for bigger and bigger companies, we started to hear about small companies that were struggling to do the same things that big companies do in their sleep. And so we were sort of trying to figure out ways to, to, to work with these tiny little hardware companies. But they don’t have any money. Or at least the money that they have they shouldn’t be giving to us. And so the sort of core sort of thesis for #Bolt was around helping small hardware teams build their first product. And that really covers everything from sort of brainstorming and sort of customer involvement all the way up to prototyping and sort of first production run.
Nick: Wow! So you would, you would go all the way back to ideation phase, requirements, definitions, research, development, all the way through launch?
Ben: Yeah. So many, many companies that we would, that would work on this scope is pretty broad. And so early on it’s, it’s really all around sort of ideation and sort of concept development. Lot of customer interview and development in the very early stages. But really the sort of the meat of, of what we would do in my past life was really architected around, around sort of prototyping and, and early engineering and, and ID. And so you know some consultancies really focus on, on sort of, sort of user experience or user interaction. Some are more sort of engineering consultancies like #Synapse which are really focused on, on sort of mechanical and electrical engineering. And, and we are what’s called a full service shop, which kind of , kind of covers everything. And it, it, it, it makes you probably not an expert in any one field but pretty good at sort of holistically thinking about products, which turns out as really important for venture investing.
Nick: Got it. And do you have a specific focus area then at the firm, at #Bolt?
Ben: Not, not really. I mean, I think, you know, it’s fairly specific in sort of our, our core thesis or mandate is really architected around connected hardware. And so these are all companies that have a physical product in their sort of stack of what they do. A big part of that is, is, is architected around recurring revenue. And so we’re pretty much uninterested in the traditional sort of 30% gross margin sale at Best Buy. That’s a very, very hard venture business to scale as GoPro and some other have, have taught the, the venture world. It is very challenging to avoid commoditization and a whole bunch of other dynamics that become really tricky at scale over ten plus years. And so we really focus on companies where software and sort of recurring interactions are incredibly important for sort of both the company but also the consumer.
Nick: Awesome. You’re speaking my language today. This is very similar to #New Stack’s thesis on,
Nick: I call it IoTR, IoT with recurring or, you know, hardware as a service or smart hardware. So,
Ben: Sure, yeah, I mean, I, I think they more similarly sort of mimic businesses and actually are pretty similar in, in pretty much every dimension. The one big caveat is that you have to be able to, you know, design, develop and manufacture a physical thing, which many companies and investors specially are really unfamiliar with.
Nick: Sure, sure. Well, good. Well, any, any other things on the thesis that, that we should touch on before we sort of jump into today’s topic?
Ben: Yeah. We’re really not thesis driven. Of course other than the sort of the detail I provided before about, about sort of hardware and sort of, sort of being connected and sort of software like revenue. I think that that’s a pretty, you know, pretty, pretty hardcore focus of ours. But, you know, B2B, B2C, enterprise, all of the above, super interesting to us. We’ve touched medical devices, we’ve touched autonomous vehicles and we’ve touched components sales like GPS and others. So we’re pretty open minded when it comes to the category that we’re really focussed on.
Nick: Awesome. Well, let’s start off with talking about use cases a little bit. So you’ve written about designing for one use case versus building a platform. What are your thoughts on this?
Ben: Yeah. I think a big part of investing, and again I’m, I’m new to the venture world, you know, this is a really my, my first when it comes to sort of institutional investing. And so, you know, I think a big part of the job that good VCs play is, is knowing how to sort of ask the right questions, and pattern matching of what works and what doesn’t. And it’s a, it’s a thing that I think you have to get pretty good at as a, as a VC, or at least that’s my thesis now. I’ve been doing this for four years, so maybe that will change soon. But I have pretty strong conviction that, that pattern matching is an incredibly important part of the venture business. And so I, I have a, you know, I built a pretty strong thesis that, that, that companies that really focus on solving a specific problem really well, tend to do much better than, than companies, and products of course, that are really trying to solve, you know, everybody’s problem a little bit. And I think that that, that thesis holds true with, you know, pretty much every company that’s ever sort of started, at least in the hardware space that I’m familiar with, there are obviously companies that, that do attempt to build a sort of a more general product that’s probably applicable, but those tend to be harder businesses to scale. I think there are certain types of companies where that’s really their focus. So if you think about let’s see a GE coming out with a new dishwasher or something, right, it’s a pretty sort of generic product that not really a lot of people get really excited about. And, you know, that could be an interesting business. But it’s just not the business that I believe that the venture capital community gets really excited about. So when it comes to building a sort of high gross potentially high margin, hopefully high margin business, I, I think it’s really, really important to focus on specific problems and, and building solutions that are really targeted at those problems.
Nick: Are you looking for a, a vision that allows for sort of the creation of, of more platform and broader things eventually? Or is, you know, a narrow use case as a, a short term and long term strategy sufficient?
Ben: Yeah, I mean, I, I think we’re open to a wide variety of entrepreneurs and their vision. And so more often than not the companies that we’re investing in they start with a single sort of product for a single solution or targeted at sort of solving a single problem. And, and as they grow that, you know, that road is long and winding. And so we are completely open to the sort of eventual platform approach. I do think it is incredibly hard/impossible to build a platform from the beginning. And there are very, very, very few companies that actually set out to do that from the beginning or at least that are successful at doing that from the beginning. And more often than not, you start off as a single product company solving that really specific problem. And, and it sort of grows out of that and it could turn into a really interesting platform. But almost always it starts off pretty specific.
Nick: Right, right. And you’ve talked about the example of #Google Glass versus #Snap Spectacles. Can you highlight the key difference in the approach of these products?
Ben: Sure, yeah. I mean, I think it’s really important to, to focus on the fact that they have, you know, many, many similarities. And when you look at the, the example from sort of an engineering standpoint, they’re pretty much identical. You know, there’s a little bit more complexity on the #Google Glass side with, with, with sort of, you know, with a little projector in there and, and, and trying to display information. But other than that, you know, they have radios, they wear, you wear on your face like moulded plastic, you know, lenses, you know, batteries, a button or two, you know, a bit, you know, more or less the same piece of hardware. But the way people think about those products is incredibly different. And #Google Glass was started as this very sort of early adopter centric sort of tech oriented product. It had all kinds of social issues and I think, you know, many people still joke about it today. It also tried to do, you know, be sort of all things to all people. And it had walking directions and AI and it was working on some AR stuff and it just, you know, all kinds of things that they were trying to do. Well, it turns out that’s really hard. Whereas the #Spectacles example, you know, they get rid of most of the complexity on the sort of, sort of user experience side. And it’s incredibly simple. And I think they’ve executed incredibly well from my sort of brief experience with using it. I’m actually not a Snapchat person by really any means. But, but from, but from, you know, I think it’s sort of my job to play with some of the stuff and get a feel for, for, you know, sort of people’s expectations on a product side. And their expectations are frankly really low. You know, it is designed to, you know, take 30 seconds of video, you know, incredibly quickly and transfer it to a single network, you know, in a single app on your phone. And that, that sort of simplification makes it much more likely that the consumer that purchases a, a, you know, #Spectacles or probably other #Snapchat cameras in the future are really likely to be sort of exceeded when it comes to user expectations. And that is a, in my opinion, you know, critical to mention that, you know, products and young companies should be assessed on. So I’m, I’m, I’m a big believe in the way #Snapchat thinks, sorry, #Snap now,
Ben: thinks about, about sort of user interaction and, you know, in particular hardware. It’s really to serve, you know, to serve this, this end of, of sharing video from a sort of first person’s perspective. And it’s very simple and, you know, you can say it in a sentence pretty elegantly. Whereas describing #Google Glass to, you know, my parents or something, it’s not that easy because it’s trying to do so many things and, you know, to, to so many different types of people.
Nick: Interesting. Yeah, you’ve also talked about sort of the, the two things that #Snap did really well with #Spectacles that other hardware startups can learn from. One had to do with the customer base, the other had to do with benefits. Can you talk about these two aspects?
Ben: Yeah. You know, I, I think it, you know, really, really focuses on, on, on sort of two, two dimensions. And I think that there are many things that they’ve done well. I think in, in, you know, in, in particular they, they’ve, they’ve focused on a very specific type of person. And that type of person in this case sort of I think, I think, you know, marketing people call it generation z. But, you know, for my intents and purposes they’re people younger than me, you know. And their entire interface, not just the hardware but the whole, the whole experience of, of using #Snapchat as a product is really streamlined for types of people that, that, that sort of operate that way. And so it’s a fairly specific group of customers. The, the, the #Snapchat sort of Spectacles product, you know, separate from the, the app, is also really specific. And is designed, it’s sort of a sassy, loud product which is very uncommon when it comes to sort of early adopter tech products. And, you know, they’re in bold colors, they are, you know, for a while they were sold in these very interesting and funny sort of vending machines that would be dropped in a place for 24 hours and then taken away. Creates this demand for the products. So just it, again it’s every single thing to stop through not for, you know, what does every hardware company do. They didn’t do a crowdfunding campaign and then, you know, try to sell a bunch of units publicly and then, you know, sell direct online. And then try to sell through Best Buy, which is sort of the standard sort of template that most hardware companies, you know, in the consumer space, target. They were really saying okay what, you know, when we look at our customer base, what is the most compelling way to think about how to access those people and get them the most excited. And they designed this, you know, kind of corky bizarre experience that most adults, you know, myself included, don’t really fully understand. But that, you know, people that are really passionate about that product are incredibly, you know, excited and focused on. I think they also do a really good job at targeting, you know, sort of people that are socially, you know, sort of in, in the public eye and are really conscious of sort of social dynamics and all the things that go into whatever, being popular or being cool or being whatever. And, and I think #Google Glass does definitely less of a good job at that. So, so I think the sort of narrow customer base is really one big part of that sort of scaffolding that they’ve built. They’re also really, really good at communicating what they do. And again, because their product and, and sort of customer base are pretty specific, I think they get, you know, excellent marks when it comes from a sort of marketing standpoint. Nowhere on their website will you see oh you know it has this kind of bluetooth radio, this kind of bit rate, and this is the resolution of the camera, and this is how the button works. You know, it’s all sort of benefit driven.
Ben: And, and it’s a, it’s a very, very powerful thing that most early stage hardware companies really struggle with. And they talk about, you know, all these specific features and how they work and, you know, you know, what the tech is behind them, etc. It’s really not the way #Snap thinks. And I think that that’s a really powerful sort of way to, to launch and describe a product.
Nick: Great. And then, you know, something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is Alexa and Amazon Echo versus Siri, you know. How do you sort of think about these two and how they have approached consumers differently and designed their, their user experience?
Ben: Yeah, I mean, i think again it’s a, it’s a pretty similar example where you, where you find, you know, a sort of broad versus narrow sort of approach in the beginning. Again, this is about the beginning, this is not about long term strategy as being really effective. And so, you know, again I want to highlight these are very similar, right. They are both speech platforms. They have very similar types of software that have to be written, you know. Many of the dynamics around, you know, how they, how they operate are actually, you know, from an engineering standpoint are actually, you know, pretty, pretty similar. But, but when it comes to sort of again, sort of scope specially of, of sort of product and customer, they’re, they’re, you know, they’re fairly different. And so #Apple, you know, announced this product which was amazing and can do everything and, you know, it was going to integrated into millions of phones overnight. And it’s this huge launch and, you know, everybody is really excited. It has incredibly high expectations. Alexa was, you know, I don’t know, I was on the private beta, I don’t know how many they were sold but it couldn’t be more than a couple thousand, that you had to, you know, know somebody to, to get it at least in the very early days and, and, and be a prime subscriber. And it, you know, it, it, worked rather than being on a phone which is in every kind of environment everywhere, it’s a, you know, physical product that sits in one place. It can, it can get a pretty good idea of sort of acoustics and, and you know, make changes over time. When it first launched it was, you know, it had a very specific set of features that were, you know, in my opinion, like pretty simple and actually not very interesting. And so, you know, I was playing music from Prime Music Now or whatever the hell it’s called, which I’ve never listened to before I bought the first Echo device. You know, it could set some timers and read the news and, you know, it was really basic stuff. But, you know, if you wanted to set a meeting or if you wanted to play music from Spotify or whatever, it just couldn’t do that stuff. It would say I don’t understand. And, and, and so the real difference here is again this is launching as a platform in, in, in #Apple’s case versus, in #Apple’s case versus launching as, as a product in, in Alexa’s case, and just sort of growing over time. I would argue now the Alexa platform is far more interesting than the Apple sort of Siri platform. And, and I think, you know, many, many people smarter than me that, that analyze the speech space, you know, would agree. And, and that, that really comes from sort of the software updates and adding to the back end platform, and, and really sort of setting user expectations and increasing them over time rather than setting them super high in the beginning and then trying to, to meet that which is really what Apple did with Siri.
Nick: Got it. So you think this, this first set of units that went out to Beta users, they were testing the number of requests they would get for things like Spotify or Pandora and, and decided to prioritize that higher in the, the, the development stack once they had,
Nick: launched the production?
Ben: Yeah. it’s a good question. I, you know, I can’t comment specifically about what #Amazon, you know, there did too. I, I can tell you I’m went to a, a, a private event that, that #Jeff Bezos held not too long after the first Echo device was, was coming out of Beta, and had said at the time there were 1500 people on the Alexa team. This was maybe a year and a half or two years ago.
Ben: And so it’s, you know, I, I can’t tell you exactly, you know, how that influences what they were doing. But I can guarantee you that they were a lot of people thinking about these kinds of things. And that goes into, you know, just to demonstrate how incredibly hard, you know, speech recognition and sort of action is when you’re trying to do everything. I can’t imagine the number of people on Siri, maybe it’s fewer, I’d be surprised when, when Siri was first launched. So I, you know, I think it just sort of a different approach. #Amazon is incredibly good at being a little bit under the radar and a little bit sort of like overly intensive when it comes to building, you know, products that are, you know, incredibly well thought through. And sort of like under marketing and kind of over delivering. And that’s like in, in, in many cases a sort of algorithm is, is really, you know, delighting people based on their sort of expectations versus reality. And I think there are, you know, countless examples of, of experiences I’ve had with #Amazon specially when it comes to sort of shipping and product quality, where they just sort of above and beyond without a need to. And, and I think this is a, you know, sort of one of those core examples.
Nick: Sure. And I, you know, I don’t think that #Apple was always that way. You know, I wrote a blog post recently about this, I called it Find a gateway drug. But I was comparing the, the Apple watch to the iPhone. And how the Apple watch came out with all these apps and all these services and kind of a platform offering. And it was confusing as to, you know, what, what are the, the killer apps here, what are the key use cases. Whereas when the phone came out, it was just a really beautifully done phone. The industrial design was great, the user interface was great. But there weren’t a robust set of a million apps, you know, those were incrementally delivered over time. So I feel like their approach for the two products was, was totally different.
Ben: Yeah, and, and I think in, in Apple’s case in particular, Apple is an exception to nearly every rule, which is, which I think makes them a very dangerous thing to compare other companies to. But that being said, like I, I think Apple, you know, has a little bit of a different dynamic in that they are the, you know, the largest hardware manufacturer in the world. They also, you know, spend a huge amount of money on development, which is pretty different from sort of the startup world that I’m really used to. And it’s really important to be aware of sort of user expectations and, and, and quality and, you know, driving hard with limited amount of money and limited people to make a perfect product that competes with Apple is, is basically impossible. And, and so I think it’s really important to like just remember that like what, you know, the startup dynamics are really different than Apple dynamics. And as Apple gets huge and has, you know, you know, whatever hundreds of millions of people using their products every day and, you know, billions in revenue and yada yada yada, their expectation to have to change over time to really, you know, satisfy the insanely high and incredibly unrealistic demands that, that the, the public and, you know, even investors sort of put, put on, on the company. And so I think the, the, the, the startup world is definitely luckily a little bit different.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, even your point about Amazon. You said that, that #Bezos said he had 1500 people working on that, I mean, that’s, that’s an incredible amount. I think my
Ben: Yeah, totally
Nick: investment partner backed a product called the Ivy,
Nick: you know, it’s, it’s hard to, to see how they could compete, assuming the strategy is sound on, on the accretive
Ben: I, I completely agree. And, and I think, at least the advice we give to our portfolio companies is you can’t compete and so you have to, you know, in, in, in the same dimension, right, you can’t hire 1500 people and, you know, raise a billion dollars and yada yada yada. I mean, I guess there are a couple of people that can do that, but that’s, you know, definitely the exception to the rule in the startup world. And so you have to, you have to change the game, and sort of like, you know, create unfair advantages for yourself. Oftentimes that’s focussing on a specific problem or, or, you know, using a different technology to solve that problem, or just sort of taking a different tack to, to, to the whole way of building the company. It is, it is impossible for startups to compete in terms of raw horse power against large, well financed, specially, you know, tech companies, you know, of the, of the, sort of, big four or five companies that are out there. You just can’t win that game. And the reason that startups exist is because they’re really nimble at figuring out okay I can take this other tack or I can, you know, try hiring this other person that’s really good in this one dimension. Or we can work on this little tiny subsidy of the problem that these five other people here, you know, have this huge problem with and let me try to optimize towards that. Trying to build a general consumer electronic device for everybody as a small, you know, small, small startup that’s underfunded and, and, and understaffed is, is more or less impossible.
Nick: Yeah. You talked about this piece about iterating early with, with small numbers of units. You know, I, I see a lot of SaaS companies that launch and they’re iterating constantly, right? And they’re, they’re doing new versions of, of their product and, and they can, they can do that from afar. But with hardware products it’s much more difficult. I mean, clearly the, the software side can be adjusted but once you get hardware units into market then it can be very hard to, to make changes quickly. So how do think about sort of the, the early stage customer testing, customer validation and, you know, adjusting the, the product on the go before you sort of go mass market?
Ben: Yeah. It’s, it’s a really good question, and probably something that hardware companies get wrong more than anything else, which is this really false belief which people, you know, are told by it must be investors and their peers and other people around them, that you have to build this perfect product first. And it’s really, unfortunately it’s just really wrong. And so there’s a lot of damage done, specially from sort of crowd funding oriented sort of products and companies, where they have this belief that I have to set these really high expectations and I have one shot to launch and if it doesn’t work out I’m going to fail. That, that way of thinking is, is just couldn’t be further from the truth. And it’s funny to me because investors in particular are really good at coaxing their software companies to not think that way. And it’s all about, you know, launching quickly and iterating and listening to users, etc. For some bizarre reason, hardware companies don’t get that advice. And so yes it is a little harder to iterate once you’ve shipped, but there’s a whole lot of time before you actually ship a product that you can make, you know, pretty good sort of guesses, you know, that really sort of, you know, intelligent guesses about what works and what doesn’t. And so we spend a huge amount of time with our companies, not on launch strategy and how to make ten thousand units, but really focus on making five units that, you know, you can find a couple of people that really love using those products. And so you, you just iterate in a different way. And so it’s not about iterating with the general public and doing new injection mould tooling every month and, you know, ramping up production differently. It’s really about product development. So you just sort of shift the sort of window of experimentation earlier and earlier. You will always learn new things when you launch publicly. That is inherent in any startup’s life at, you know, ever. And so it’s really, it’s really about how you incorporate those changes over time. And instead of the software world where you’re sort of constantly making those changes as, as you sort of scale, in the hardware world it’s a little bit more of a step function. And so you go through a big rev, you make, you know, a bunch of changes, you, you know, ship five, ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred thousand units, whatever it is. And then, and then you know, you say oh man, after we’ve sold ten thousand of these we’re going to, we’re going to, you know, make these five changes. And then you sort of make some tweaks to the tooling and you might add some components to the circuit board, and then you do the whole process again. And so, and so because of that dynamic I think people are a little bit sort of thrown off guard about what the right strategy is from a sort of development standpoint. But in my incredibly strong opinion, it’s really important to focus on how can you learn as fast as possible, specially as early as possible before you ship. And that dynamic is, is really the difference between success and failure when it comes to building a hardware company.
Nick: What’s your opinion on validating early customer demand with #Kickstarter, #Indiegogo, crowd funding campaigns?
Ben: Generally not a fan, surprisingly. I think this is if I had a, a one magic wish it would be to convince my, my, my venture capital peers to stop forcing their portfolio companies to do crowd funding campaigns. It’s really, it’s really a stress on the system, which is, it actually hurts everybody. And so there are certain companies which crowd funding is an incredibly good fit for. And they tend to be, you know, gadgets often in, in the world that we call CPG, Consumer Packaged Goods. They are, they’re not really oriented around software, they’re not really oriented around recurring revenue. They’re more commoditized products, or they’re companies that really struggle to raise money from private investors. This idea that you’re going to go raise five or ten million dollars and then, you know, spend a million bucks on hiring, you know, #Sandwich Video to make this amazing video for you, and then do this big gigantic launch on a, on a platform like #Kickstarter or #Indiegogo, is, is really bizarre to me. And, and I don’t understand why there’s this need. It just feels like there’s this need from, from, from founders to do that to feel like they’re valuable. The best companies figure out how to do that on their own terms. And so they, they, you know, spend every waking minute trying, trying to figure out how to optimize, you know, conversion and understand where their customers are and find the right channels to find those people, and, you, etc, etc, etc, versus this like uniform you know funnel approach to like I got to do the sort of least common denominator launch strategy which is a crowd funding campaign. And so I, I think with many venture backed companies in the, in the sort of particularly in the consumer hardware space, the, the, the default strategy of going to launch via, via crowd funding platform is really not ideal. And, and I think, I think over the next ten, twelve years we’ll start to see a decline in some of those companies. That being said, I think crowd funding is an incredibly powerful platform for a huge variety of companies that just don’t fit into the sweet spot of sort of the venture capital landscape.
Nick: So you think it’s a vanity play and it’s just a focus issue? You know they’re focussing on, on the campaign instead of building out the product and iterating with real customers?
Ben: Yeah, I mean, I think it sounds maybe a little overly simplistic to describe it that way. But I think that at it’s core. I, I, I actually think that that’s more, more correct than, than not. And I think many investors say oh well like how many people are really going to buy this, you know, #Pebble smart watch or this whatever, why don’t you go do a crowd funding campaign and once you raise millions of dollars then I’ll give you my money. And it’s just an insane, lazy, you know, really unfortunate way of, of both financing and building companies. And so I would much prefer a, a, you know, a company we look at and say listen we built, you know, ten of these products, we gave them to ten people, these are videos of, of them talking about their experience and they’re all incredibly positive, than ten thousand people that were convinced from a video to spend a hundred bucks on a gadget. It just, it just, it’s so much more powerful to have someone give, you know, feedback on how their experience was actually using a thing versus someone buying into the idea of a thing, which almost inevitably will let them down when they get it. And so it, it’s just sort of this, I don’t know maybe it’s my sort of East Coast conservative roots of whatever, but just this idea of, of, you know, of, of getting direct feedback and, and learning how to make your customers happy is being way more powerful than, you know, I can, you know, spend that much of money and make a nice marketing video to get people to give me their credit card number.
Nick: Yeah, sure. I mean, to that end it, it proves the marketing but not necessarily the value of the product. Right?
Nick: Even if you can sell it but
Nick: are people really going to love it and enjoy it? I mean, I had #Tom Tunguz on the program and he was preaching about the values of SaaS and how
Nick: it’s an enforcement mechanism for SaaS companies to continue improving the product and making sure that it is providing real value otherwise people are going to select out.
Nick: And I think the same can be said for some of the things that you invest in as well as what we invest in, if there’s a, a recurring revenue stream, you know, customers can select out if the product isn’t continuing to provide value.
Ben: Yeah, totally. And, yeah, I couldn’t, couldn’t agree with that more. But, but companies that focus on marketing and launch by definition, there’s only so many hours in a day, are going to spend less time on focusing on delighting customers with a great product experience. And, and so I, that’s really what drives me crazy is this like shift away from the really hard, you know, really sort of valuable part of building a company, which is doing an excellent job of, of sort of delighting users and setting expectations appropriately. And so it’s really sort of antithetical to the way I view, you know, hardware companies being, being built. And I do my very best to, to change the minds of, you know, at least a handful of companies that we’re close with. It turns out to be really hard because their entire life system is telling them oh you’re only valuable if you sold ten million dollars worth of product on, on a crowd funding campaign. But I just, I just don’t accept that.
Posted in: Podcast Episodes
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- 130. How Amazon, Fitbit & Snap Won; Where Apple, Pebble & Google Did Not, Part 1 (Ben Einstein)
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