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Stop coding, start developing your product

by Matthew Adams

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For the past two weeks, we’ve been running an innovation workshop for one of our clients; in this case it is a well-established business with a great brand who are looking to diversify their offering. They are taking the intrapreneurship approach – bootstrapping (almost) standalone start-ups supported by the parent corporate.

We started with a very loose brief to create something “disruptive” in a particular (rather broad) market, and, perhaps inevitably, people immediately proposed “an app” to solve the world’s ills.

This sense that a digital solution is, in and of itself, disruptive, is pervasive in the start-up scene in London and beyond. We see it in the pitches to accelerators like Microsoft Ventures, and reflected back to us by our clients. And it just isn’t true. Or rather, it doesn’t have to be true, and it certainly doesn’t have to be part of your MVP.

With the disciplined Product Development process we advocate, we try to show how it is often the case that you can get to product/market fit (or, more importantly, a go/no-go decision) without building any new software at all.

This week, we’ve got to the point where we have defined the core of a value proposition, quantified a (surprisingly unconventional!) beachhead market, looked at follow on markets, and enumerated a whole heap of assumptions to test. This morning we’re going to see if the dogs will eat the food. We’ve devised a highly inefficient and (perhaps) un-scalable manual way to deliver the value proposition to the market, and the client’s team of 4 is going to spend the morning doing just that.

Ninja attacks a computer

No-one has picked up a code editor. There’s no landing page. No website of any kind, in fact.

But we are going to A/B test different ways of making the proposition. And money will change hands, less than 2 weeks from inception.

Technology will come, later; it will help us reduce the cost of customer acquisition, cost of delivery and, with Machine Learning insights over the data, help to create new value to share and more opportunities for disruption. It will be the mechanism for deep integration into a partner ecosystem, and global scale.

But not this week.

This week, we can start to move the mountain with a spreadsheet, an email account and the odd text message.

I think that’s rather exciting.

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About the author

Matthew was CTO of a venture-backed technology start-up in the UK & US for 10 years, and is now a Founder of Endjin Ltd, which provides technology strategy, experience and development services to its clients who are seeking to take advantage of Microsoft Azure and the Cloud. You can follow Matthew on twitter.