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Herbert Bay, co-founder Earkick, Swisspreneur Podcast

EP #348 - Herbert Bay: Product Building from Start to Finish

Herbert Bay

October 19, 2023

2:20 - 4 lessons from 3 ventures

6:40 - The ideation stage

12:30 - An MVP cannot be simple enough

24:40 - User survey tools

27:50 - Do users know what they want?

About Herbert Bay:

⁠Herbert Bay⁠ is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor and board member. He co-founded the image-recognition platform kooaba, the AR company Shortcut and the mental health tracker ⁠Earkick⁠, where he is currently still active. He holds a PhD in Computer Vision from ETH Zurich and is the original author of the SURF algorithm, used for various Computer Vision and AR applications such as object recognition, image registration, classification, 3D reconstruction etc.

Throughout his decades of experience, Herbert has learned from his mistakes as a product builder, and shared some of his takeaways with us. The following points are advice that he finds universal for all entrepreneurs:

  • Ignore the naysayers: disruptive ideas will always be fought against. Ignore those people, and focus on your customers. (But if your customers are the ones saying no, then maybe it’s time to listen.)
  • Try to build something unique — the market is oversaturated enough as it is.
  • Don’t scale too early! If your rocket ship is missing a crucial piece, taking off is a really bad idea.
  • Focus on value generation from the start. Don’t just pick a cool idea; pick the idea that would bring about the biggest amount of positive change in the world.

Speaking of startup ideas, the ideation stage is full of potential traps:

  • Not having a clear goal, i.e., not being able to pick which of your ideas is best, or which aspects of your 1 idea are the most useful. Brainstorming is fun, but it needs to result in something executable!
  • Focusing on the solution, instead of the problem. Don’t be the founder who fell in love with their tech and then searched the globe for a problem that required it. Start with understanding your customers’ problem, and build your tech based on that.
  • Not being able to boil a complex idea down to a simple approach. Of course this is less applicable to truly complex, research-based, deep tech products, but it’s safe to say that more or less regardless of complexity, you need to be able to explain your product in a simple way. Customers and investors need to get it!

How can you choose between ideas? Reduce each of them to an MVP and test them. Then check which one has the highest conversion rate.

How do you know if you’ve reached product-market fit? Herbert likes Sean Ellis’ “product-market fit score”: ask your users how they would feel if they could no longer use your product — “not disappointed,” “somewhat disappointed,” “very disappointed.” If 40% or more answer very disappointed, then you’ve reached product-market fit.

When it comes to perfecting your product, Herbert is no fan of user testing (i.e., paying people to test your product), because the payment factor conditions people to be nicer to you than they otherwise would be, and because these people are most likely not regular users of your product. He recommends getting in touch with your actual users through surveys, cold outreach, etc. Set up a call, go into detail!

Memorable Quotes:

Any idea that is truly disruptive will have a lot of people against it. Ignore those people and listen to your customers."

If you would like to listen to our previous conversations with Herbert, check out episodes ⁠21⁠ and ⁠22⁠.

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