Pushkar Kale began having to be away from work for hours at a time during parent interviews for his child’s school admission. He was discussing this challenge with his (now) business partner, who owns his own manufacturing company, and agreed the process was especially difficult. In the manufacturing world, it’s hard — if not impossible — for managers to be away from the factory and keep things running smoothly, so he would have to constantly be on his phone.
With a background in both manufacturing and IT, Pushkar found this problem interesting. He began wondering if there was any way for them to develop software to help provide real-time data to the owners when they’re away from the company. The seed for what would ultimately become Trixware Technologies was planted. But before they made anything, Pushkar wanted to make sure their idea was one worth pursuing.The seed for what would ultimately become Trixware Technologies was planted. But before they made anything, Pushkar wanted to make sure their idea was one worth pursuing. Click To Tweet
Going Slow to Avoid Going Too Fast
Even though his partner had a manufacturing business and loved the idea, they decided to “take conscious steps.” Pushkar had been following Lean Startup for a long time. “The major takeaway for me,” he says, “is that we tend to fall in love with our own ideas.” But liking your idea too much can lead to moving forward too quickly, ultimately resulting in “failure or disaster.”
To avoid a negative outcome, Pushkar knew that they needed to check on the viability of their idea to see if there was any potential.
So they moved forward by speaking with their potential customers: manufacturing managers. They spoke with more than twenty different companies under a variety of domains. Their discussions not only validated their original idea, but also helped them identify ways to improve upon it before they even wrote a single line of code. Many of the companies they spoke with liked the idea of having the data available, but needed an affordable way to capture the data behind what’s happening on their shop floor.
With their customer research in hand, they prepared their first minimum viable product: an Excel-based file with a data entry screen and dashboard. They handed the simple file to their potential customers and collected their feedback. With the information they received, Pushkar and his partner were able to recognize which of their assumptions were right and where they needed to pivot their thinking. One critical pivot came right as they were about to begin product development.
They assumed that their software would be utilized on mobile phones. However, quite a few companies don’t allow mobile phones on shop floors for security purposes. They took this note in stride and developed a system where data could be entered by utilizing centrally located tablets instead. It’s an iteration that is being utilized today and, according to Pushkar, is “working absolutely seamless[ly].”
Your People Are Your Backbone
Today, as Trixware Technologies begins to scale, Pushkar is working hard to make sure they’re setting themselves up for success. For him, that means putting a heavy focus on his team — his people — rather than processes and tools. “If your team is in place, you can scale to any great extent,” he explains, noting that the ability to share their knowledge with new team members is paramount to their success.
That doesn’t mean they’re not thinking about their product. As they scale up, they’re working on growing their “technical complexity” as well, by offering multiple versions of their product: basic, advanced, and enterprise levels. This will allow them to appeal to different segments of the industry to reach a broader customer base.“Instead of focusing on what ‘wows’, focus on what really works and what is really needed.” Click To Tweet
A Good Partnership Leads to Great Success
Pushkar gladly attributes the success they’ve had thus far to their use of Lean Startup tools and techniques. He believes that if they’d approached the problem in any other way, they would have ended up with a product that would only be useful to a small number of people and they wouldn’t have seen the development and growth they have today.
He also gives credit to the collaborative way he and his partner approached this project and their partnership. They went into the business with clearly defined boundaries. Since his partner worked in manufacturing, he took the lead on figuring out what would be needed to improve the daily operations in a manufacturing facility. And, with his background in software and IT, Pushkar would figure out how these things would be implemented. Or, as Pushkar phrases it, “[his partner] took care of the “what” path and Pushkar took care of the “how” part.”
Looking back on their last few years, Pushkar reflects on the things that he’s learned along the way. His advice to budding entrepreneurs is “instead of focusing on what “wows,” focus on what really works and what is really needed.” He thinks that it’s easy to try to find the “wow” factors in an idea early on, but before you do that, you should have a solid understanding of what the end-users need. From there, you can build and fine-tune your idea into a product that you can sell.
Thanks to Shannon Lorenzen for contributing this piece. If you seek to bring the entrepreneurial spirit to your organization, Lean Startup Co. can help.