Which customer to focus on: Thoughts from NDRC’s Investor Day

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It was my great pleasure to attend NDRC’s second investor day of 2016 last week when no less than twenty brand new companies were showcased.

Each startup is a business built around opportunities spotted because of deep domain knowledge.

Whether it was lessons learned about problems with agricultural feed compliance or data protection or getting legal documents notarized or booking a beautician we were treated to tons of great opportunities.

It was an investor day but few cheques will be written straight away. The Investor Day was about starting relationships and making notes of milestones as potential investors start drawing up shortlists of who they might invest in over the coming year.

There were two main winners of the day. First-off was Vizlegal, an innovative digital start-up which converts fragmented legal information into structured data and provides tools for the legal and other industries to use this information. Co-founders Gavin Sheridan and Jose Alberto Suarez Lopez received a €30,000 follow-on investment. The other was Glissed (formerly Pucker), an online marketplace for freelance beauty professionals, which secured €20,000.

As I met some of the inspirational CEOs afterward found myself saying the same thing to them:

“Time is money and how you spend your time is the most crucial decision you will make.”

At this stage, all of these start-ups need to start showing the same thing – traction.

When you’re searching for product market fit you need to show that you understand who your customer is, that they love your product and will pay for it.

It seems painfully obvious but it’s always worth saying: the best way to show this is by acquiring more and more of the same type of customer.

This is where the huge decision comes into play.

Exactly which customer to focus on.

I can’t think of any of the companies showcased last night who didn’t mention more than one potential customer persona.

Having multiple options is great but focusing on one is the best route to success.

Some really honest customer discovery conversations are a great way to get to the decision and I’ve yet to come across anyone who explains this process better than Rob Fitzpatrick.

Time equalling money means there’s a runway that’s running out for all start-ups.

Getting as far as possible before needing more money is the best negotiating strategy there is with investors.

Adding customers and being able to explain how many more you’ll be to acquire with their funding is the aim of the game.

The narrower your customer focus the more efficient your day becomes.

When you know your customers and only have one persona to focus on you get to make every meeting count.

You work your way up the food chain, call by call, meeting by meeting, conference by conference.

Every single shot you fire needs to be aimed at the same target so even when you miss you’ll fire closer next time.

In six months the startups who have been this focused are the ones most likely to have achieved the traction that will make them investable.

  • Picture by Shane O’Neill Photography
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