Product Management Entrepreneurship

Do it. Fail. Learn. 

In 2015 I started an entrepreneurial journey. In the end I did not succeed with launching my product. However, it was an intensive year with lots of lessons learned. In the following reflection I'd like to share some of those lessons with you. 

The business idea

The problem I detected was that many people struggle to find the right bike. A bike that suits their needs in terms of use cases, quality, and size. Eventually, purchasing the right bike is a very consulting intensive business. The cycling market is dynamic and diverse which makes it somehow messy. In the end, I believe buying the right bike is much more difficult than buying a suitable car. With the latter you just adjust the seat and you are all set.

This is the reason why the idea to launch a digital bicycle consultancy had been born. I called it Radweiser. This text shouldn't be about the details of the business concept. In a nutshell: I developed an approach that evaluated the suitability of cycling components based on the users needs (use cases, dimensions). From this point one can calculate the likelyhood that certain products would fit the user. The service is free for users but makes money with providing leads to local bike stores and online shops (afiliate marketing). 

Risk management

95% of new product ideas don't make it to market maturity. This is something you should be aware of. In particular, as an entrepreneur you may be biased towards your business idea that it stands above others. Of course, you should be optimistic and believe you can make it into the market with your product. In the end, your optimism fuels your motivation and this is a big asset. Anyway, handle the risks associated with your product development professionally. 

There are mainly three kind of risks associated with your project:

  • value risks: can your product be profitable? 
  • validation risks: is a critical mass interested in the solution you provide? Are they able to work with and understand your product?
  • feasability risks: do you have the skills it needs to go from idea to product?

My neckbreaker had been the feasability risk. I underestimated the complexity with building a web app that implements the algorythm for the product selection process. Moreover, I underestimated the effort it takes to collect the needed product data. With a clear focus on my risks and seriously tackling the mentioned questions I would have saved a significant amount of resources in terms of time and money.

Planing and evaluation

As your own boss and with the mission to build your own business the quantity and diversity of tasks can be intimmidating. You need to tackle tasks from various areas like product development, finance, accounting, legal, marketing, human resources to just name a few. You better have distinct project planing skills or the possibility to delegate tasks aways. 

When it comes to project planing be sure to set some milestones with an attached time frame to it. Evaluate rigorously and accept consequences. One of my milesstones was to have a minimum viable product in the market that proofs my business concept and earns money. This is why I eventually came to an end with this adventure. Don't be afraid to kill your darling. The alternative is, that you run a high risk of losing all your available resources.

Enjoy the ride

Even though going on a entrepreneurial journey is involved with many risks it provides life changing and learning opportunities. The fact, that you can be your own master may give you a big boost in terms of a new feeling of freedom and energy. I was able to work easily between 10-12 hours per day for long stretches. I learned a lot of new skills (e.g research, coding, data analyzing, online marketing) and most of the time, I didn't even perceive it as work rather as a destiny that was quite enjoyable. 

To make the most out of you entrepreneurial experience I suggest you have enough financial resources to be independent from revenue of your product within the first year. Otherwise your fears and doubts of failing are likely to exceed the mentioned joy of your journey. Evaluate whether it may be a good opportunity to earn some money with a part-time job. I had the chance to work a couple of hours per week as a freelance consultant. That made my journey definitely more easy-going and also provided a smooth transition back into another job once I needed to accept that I was not able to eliminate the risks associated with my business idea. 

Further resources 

I hope this reflection about my experiences may be of help with your own journey. If you have any further questions feel free to get in touch. I am happy to help and provide you with more insights. Besides that, I can suggest the following resources:

  • Die Zeit der Smarten Experten a book in German from Brigitte and Ehrenfried Conta Gromberg. It is about business model creation with a focus on becoming an smart expert in your domain and tools that help you to monetize your expert knowledge.
  • Getting Things Done or the Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. The author provides a comprehensive and battle-tested methodology to manage your tasks in an effective and productive way.
  • Company of One written by Paul Jarvis. He explains why it is very appealing to stay small as an business. He knows what he talks about as he is also one of the two owners who develop Fathom analytics a web analytics tool that sets new standards in respecting privacy of users.  
  • Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio. He makes a great job in analyzing and documenting his principles that led him to enourmous success with his financial products. I particular like his problem-solving methodology.