Better Faster Cheaper doesn’t need Market Validation

Market Validation. Validate  Everything….. That’s Bull. If your idea sucks… validate, if your idea makes no sense… validate.  If your baby is ho-hum…validate. But if you have an idea worth pursuing… if you have real secret sauce… if you have truly innovated… screw validation… batten down the hatches and go full steam ahead.

I’m working with a Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV commonly known as drone) company. Their product is designed for aerial surveys of Agriculture, Infrastructure,  Disaster Areas and Construction. It’s already a huge market. Their product is equal to all the major competitors in every way and superior in two big ways. It’s faster and can fly longer. It can do 2X the work as competitive products in the same amount of time.

Question? How many people should they interview to find out that people would like to do two times the amount of work per day and earn two times the money? Should they ask a hundred people? A thousand? Must a true innovator do market validation?

The inventor of the Television… how any potential customer interviews did they need to do to ask, If I could add a film-like moving picture quality to your radio would you like that?

How many people did Thomas Edison have to interview to find out that people would like to turn a switch to let there be light.  What were the chances that people would want to replace their dangerous candles and gas lamps with a safer, brighter more convenient source of light?

Henry Ford allegedly said,

“If I asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses” 

Do me a favor, respond to these questions in the comment section for Henry Ford’s automobile market validation:

  1. Would you like a way to travel faster than a horse and carriage?
  2. Would you like to be able to travel further distances than you can with your horse and carriage?
  3. Would you like to be able to travel without having to scoop horse crap all the time?

As a counter point, Henry might have done better if he surveyed his customers regarding color. Because Mr Ford allegedly said,

“You can have any color car you want as long as it’s black.”

That’s when the multiple-color-choice GM rested market leadership way from Ford.

IBM Mag Card System

My Early Market Validation Experience

My first real job in 1978 was selling for Lexitron… the first word processor with a screen. It competed with the IBM Mag Card reader. The Mag Card was a typewriter that could store a page of typing on a magnetic card. There was no video monitor, just a typewriter and a huge box that sat on the floor that could store pages on a magnetic card (see picture to the right).

The Lexitron allowed a typist to easily see and correct what they were typing on a screen. Because the printer was separate from keyboard and monitor (like today’s PCs), a person could type and print simultaneously, unlike the mag card which couldn’t print when doing data entry. The Lexitron could store up to 60 pages of text on a tape while a Mag Card operator had to sort and shuffle sixty seperate magnetic cards (see that picture up there on the top of a page? That’s a mag card. It was a magnetic version of a punch card. As a freshman in college Mr Cranky took Fortran programming. I can assure you that trying to juggle a bunch of punch cards sucked. Imagine dropping them like a deck of playing cards and having to put them back in the correct order).

Lexitron 1303

Selling the Lexitron was the easiest sales job in the world. Demonstrating to a prospect that an $18,000 per year secretary (they were called secretaries in those days) could do more than twice the work with a $24,000 Lexitron than they could with a $14,000 Mag Card was a no brainer (fortunately for me and my brain). With the Lexitron an $18,000 secretary could do $18,000 more work per year for a $10,000. The system payed for itself in 8 months.

That didn’t count all the soft benefits like since it was easier to use, a Lexitron operator couldn’t command as much salary as s Mag Card operator demanded.

The Mag Card was the Market Validation for Dr Stephen Kurtin’s Lexitron. He didn’t need to ask no stinking focus group.

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Market Validation

Here’s the learning in this or the not so “Deep Thought” thinking.

Eric Ries and Lean Startup Methodology says always Validate the Market. If your product is a better faster to an already healthy validated market, forget Ries. Don’t waste time and money. Skip right to developing your product and executing your go to market strategy. But if your product is a Segway, basically a cooler slower, more expensive Trikke, maybe you should interview a thousand people to find out you have an ugly baby.

If your product is something completely new… something that is a pioneer in a true blue ocean market; If you think you’re not disrupting an existing market, it means one or a combination of three things:

  1. Most likely no one needs it because you’re not Einstein and if someone needed it the need would have already been met.
  2. You’re kidding yourself. A two wheeled urban transport, the Segway is not a new product segment compared to a three wheeled urban transport vehicle. Some market validation might have killed this product disappointment.
  3. You are Einstein and it’s a new product category. In which case you now need to validate the market.

My thought is that most likely if you have to do market validation you don’t have a great idea… or you’re Einstein. My money is on you not being the next Einstein. Einstein wouldn’t read Mr Cranky.