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The funny thing is that every Lean Startup founder who delays shipping struggles with excuses like this. Most customers in any market (consumer, SMB, enterprise) do not want to take a risk. He's ignoring the important advice in Moore's Crossing the Chasm [1] and Blank's Four Steps to the Epiphany [2]: the people who will buy a very early stage product are a tiny fraction of your total market; you have to aggressively find them.

That process is definitely different in an enterprise market. For whole-hog adoption, giant companies will want a mature solution. So instead you find ways to derisk it. Maybe it's a pilot program with a larger player. Maybe it's proving out the technology in an SMB context. Maybe you just find one mom-and-pop hotel who pays you not in money but in their time and data. Maybe you start with a single floor or even a single hotel room into which you preferentially book people who you think will be early adopters.

The M in MVP is for Minimum, and that applies not just to the product, but to the context of use. You start as small as possible, just enough to test your hypotheses. The smaller your tests, the faster you learn.

He makes another rookie mistake here: "I still need to buy the same number of tablets to rent to hotels, and can’t even really discount the product that much." Lean Startups are not cheap startups. It cost Toyota millions to build the first Prius, but they did not sell it for millions. That's fine, because the point of your early MVPs is not to cover the expenses. It's to learn things, including about what people will pay. In Lean thinking you price based on value, not cost, and then work hard to minimize costs while maintaining value.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossing_the_Chasm

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Four-Steps-Epiphany-Steve-Blank/dp/09...




> The funny thing is that every Lean Startup founder who delays shipping struggles with excuses like this.

Honestly, that's the whole reason why I wrote that article. I'm struggling with that thought as well, but I don't think you're completely right on that.

> Maybe you start with a single floor or even a single hotel room into which you preferentially book people who you think will be early adopters.

This is exactly the plan I'm going with actually. But still, sourcing tablets, sourcing funds to buy them, and then developing an MVP takes time. It can't be too simple that it will be detrimental to their guest satisfaction, finding the balance is key, that's why the initial version is only room service.

> Maybe you just find one mom-and-pop hotel who pays you not in money but in their time and data.

Again, that's what I'm going after. Some people say that I should already charge them, and finding hotels that would pay for that at this stage is a waste of time, that's the point I was trying to make in the article. Finding a hotel that will pay with their time and data is exactly what I'm going after.


Ok? I'm glad you're doing more than is described in what you initially wrote, but I can only respond to the thing you wrote.

I think these struggles are very similar to what people doing B2C startups go through. Nobody has a fully marketable product on day 1. Early tests of the value prop are key, and people do all sorts of things to prove that the value really is sufficient to build a business on before they get cash in hand.

But I think it's always important to keep in mind that until somebody actually does pay, it's all just a fantasy. And it's also important to keep in mind that as entrepreneurs we really want to preserve the fantasy. You know your market better than anybody here, and it's your money you're spending, so use your best judgment. This could be the optimal way forward.

However, the inability to find early adopters could also be evidence that there isn't really a market, that you're selling a nice-to-have. Or it could be evidence that your company doesn't have the sales capacity to move the product, even if you end up making something good. Until you actually make some sales (and more importantly, recurring sales), you won't know for sure. So every time you find a reason to delay that moment of truth, you should be suspicious.


Thanks a lot.

> So every time you find a reason to delay that moment of truth, you should be suspicious.

I couldn't agree more with this. My worry is that this thought is going to make me approach hotels a bit too early that will be a waste of time. Finding the right time and the right stage is the key.

One thing that is not mentioned in the article is that my initial idea was to develop white-labeled app for hotels that their guests could download. I got someone to introduce me to a hotel owner, and he got me into his hotel. At that stage, I didn't have an app. I'm a software developer, but I didn't even know how to develop for iOS. After they agreed, it took me about one and a half months to learn iOS development, develop the client and develop the back-end. They kind of lost interest. Without getting into much detail, there were other issues with that idea, evident from my other visits to some other hotels, so I pivoted into this. And this time, when I go to a hotel, I want it to be at a stage where it's useful to the hotel, and where I can collect ROI data.

> However, the inability to find early adopters could also be evidence that there isn't really a market, that you're selling a nice-to-have.

I definitely agree with that too. I talked to hotel managers, and they are mostly very excited about the idea, but until they pay me, there is no way of finding out for sure. In the end, in-room tablets might not be a thing, but hotels will need to use technology to understand their in-house guests better, personalize their experiences and automate many things that the staff do now, I have no doubt about it.


IMHO the key is to not think about scaling and economics when you initially try out stuff. You need to find one friendly hotel manager who puts one tablet in one of their rooms, and have reception staff ask the guest on checkout how they liked the tablet offering. That is enough for you to get a feedback loop going. If after a few development cycles your product is exciting enough that the friendly hotel manager considers paying for it, then you think about how you can make it work for that one hotel (from an economic perspective). Then you approach your second hotel.

Of course, it makes sense to have a plan about scaling, but it is a mistake to already put everything in place to be prepared for scaling.

(Disclaimer: working in a startup, but not a founder)


That's an interesting point of view, thanks a lot!




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