Minimum Explainable Product

I was having coffee with my good friend Jonathon Morgan, CEO of Popily the other day and got talking about fund raising.  I had mentioned to Jonathon that the marketing on the Popily had changed quite a bit since the last time we had talked in August, and was in fact, very similar to someone he had identified as an early competitor over the summer. It ends up that Jonathon’s pitch was getting hung up on how he pitched the service.

Earlier in the year, Jonathon and team had settled on marketing Popily as a data discovery tool to complement your expensive BI tools.  You’d use Tableau to find the answer to the question you already knew to ask, something the Data Scientist did.  You would use Popily to help you figure out what questions you could ask about your data.

Over the course of an hour, we ended up talking a lot about a concept that I call ‘Minimum Explainable Product’. Much like an elevator pitch, the MEP is that bare minimum that it takes to explain what your product or service does.  Unlike an elevator pitch, however, it’s purely focused on features, and doesn’t include value.

My product at LeadingReach has a lot of features, from workflow to referral management to patient engagement, but when I’m talking to doctors, my MEP is very simple, “We replace the fax machine for referrals and we keep patients from calling your office for driving directions and appointment confirmations.”  That’s it.  It’s 5% of the product but summarizes the two biggest features.

Much like Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Minimum Sellable Product (MSP), this approach works to really reduce what you do to its simplest forms.

For Popily, explaining how their product reduces the need to have a data scientist was too complicated and complicated VC discussions.  Switching to “beautiful charts from your spreadsheets and data” is easy for everyone to understand. After all, anyone that uses excel understands the value of beautiful charts.

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Advice on Startup Advice

I spend quite a bit of time mentoring startups.  In an average week I’ll have a handful of meetings and a couple of hours worth of follow up or homework.

On of my biggest pet peeves in mentoring is unrealistic expectations from someone requesting advice from me for the first time. I’m happy to meet with just about anyone.  I’ll listen to any idea and I’ll give you candid, unfiltered feedback.

I’ve noticed a trend recently where younger entrepreneurs show up with expectations that I am suddenly their startup champion.  Even before we’ve really explored what their product/service is, how it fits, etc, I’m getting peppered with requests for introduction, investment or product advice.

If you’re a fresh startup and asking me to meet with you, slow down.  Take the time to make sure I understand what your product or service does and why you think it’s important.  Come with a handful of questions that you think my background can help you with (hint: it should be product related).  Get to know me and let me know you.  At the end of the meeting, ask for a second meeting.

The second meeting is where we should both be able to define what actionable items I can a) help with b) am willing to do.

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