On Jan 27th, our team interviewed a panel of 3 entrepreneurs from the Seattle area. They are Charles Dyer, Andrew Dumont and Anne Weiler. This panel had an interesting mix of background and industries that they were currently focusing on – including Technology and Healthcare. Our team focused on questions around motivation to become an entrepreneur, pricing the product, time to market, forming a team to build a company and marketing ventures.
The panelists were consistent on answering questions around “how did you become an entrepreneur”: Mostly, it was about an interest to solve tough problems, taking the initiative or the first step and creating a positive impact for customers. Anne and Andrew talked about how they set out to solve problems based on personal and primary research. In Anne’s case, since she understood the gap that existed in the healthcare industry through a personal experience, she built WellPepper.
Many times entrepreneurs first spend time and money to build a product and later find out that there isn’t a very big market for it. Andrew talked about how entrepreneurs can test their idea to gauge interest among consumers before building the product. He talked about a personal example where he set a website and mailing list explaining what the product was and asking people to sign up if they were interested. Once he found out that the market was not big, he did not end up building the product.
In terms of finding the first paying customer, Charles explained that setting up priority lists to identify the A list customer. Also he said it was important to put a price tag on a product and not give it away for free. This is because, if your customers get used to the freemium category, you can never make them pay for the product. This reduces the life time value of your customers. Finally he also talked about how it is important to prioritize the feature set based on customer segments as opposed to one big customer.
Finally the panelists talked about forming teams to start a company. They were all consistent in saying that it is important to form a team with people from various background/ skill sets. This will keep the cost of the company down as well as increase the efficiency.
In terms of takeaway from our panel discussion, we think time to market is also an important factor in the success of your company. As Andrew put it, “ If you are not embarrassed by your product, you are probably late in the game”. Our team learnt a lot about how entrepreneurs find their motivation, form teams and are agile to the changing market/ customer demand.
Team Members: Ingrid Osei, Manasa Ashok, Girija Sathyamurthy, Xinni Liu, Amy McLuskie, Siavash Yousefi