In teaching a class at a local University recently, I had blocked off time for people to pitch ideas and get instant reactions. The objective of the game was to try and give the students some sensitivity to how to get and categorize feedback. It went fairly well and I thought there might be a bigger experiment here that I could use in the future. Here's that story/experiment:
With all the connectivity in the world happening at such a rapid pace and with it estimated that in about 41 days, everybody except the pre-born will be on Facebook, the time was right for the perfect social device: The refrigerator. Think about it. We all love to socialize and whenever we have people over or go over to somebody's place, the party ends up in the kitchen.
So, here's how to make that even better. Hook up the fridge to the internet, give it a touch screen, and add social networking via a Facebook application. The FB app keeps track on what you and all your friends have in your fridge. You do your party planning/invites on the Facebook application and everybody's contents are tracked so you can figure out who can bring what to the party. You can have a scanner/bar code reader as well so the wine, beer, chips and other things not actually in the fridge can be accounted for. The fridge will keep track of the invites and help you line up recipes based on food allergies, tastes, etc.
I told this story to a bunch of computer science students, tech bloggers I know, and a host of other gadget nuts. All of them (mostly) started with 'cool' and then dived in on how to make it work.
I then proceeded to ask random people about this idea and got exactly what you'd expect: Yer nuts. WTF? And the ever popular "This is why you VCs are just a bunch of wackos, you back crap like this."
I'm bringing this up as these past several weeks, I've gotten into a number of intense design/product discussions with portfolio companies and new companies pitching our firm. I usually start with these questions:
- Who have you spoken to about these features?
- What's the target customer base?
- Do these groups properly overlap?
I'm amazed at the lack of overlap.
As you are going for your feedback, remember that I (or any VC) is a user group of one. We are not always the target customer so have the target customer feedback in hand or in the process of being gathered. Lately, anyway, it seems this is getting overlooked by folks here in Canada.
Ask the right questions of the right people.