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Ryan Fujiu (About.Me): Learn What Your Customers Want or Fail Quickly


By Ivana (Ivy) Gutierrez, September 26, 2013

Ryan Fujiu is Head at Growth at About.Me and is he is the person responsible for user acquisition. He held a lecture on the first morning of our Spark.Me conference, sharing his experience on founding two startups that – both – failed. 9 our of 10 startups fail, and Ryan believes he knows why.

His experience at About.Me has helped him understand why many startups fail. Ryan says:

Well, it most cases it’s because they don’t work on a product people actually want!

You need Customer Development and Ryan recommends reading The entrepreneurs guide to customer development by Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits. Primary goal of customer development is to focusing on your product and your customers from the get-go, with an emphasis on learning and discovery. Ryan believes in startups:

If more startups succeeded, the world would be a better place. There is an easy way to get a startup to succeed: Build what people really want!

How Not to Fail: Check your hypothesis

Building a startups starts with a hypothesis. You believe you have thought of a service that will solve an existing problem, or be useful to many people, or even if not that – you believe it’s just something many people will be interested in. Ryan is surrounded by a lot of ambitious entrepreneurs who are really into their products, they really believe that they can change the world with them.

Building your product only to find out you were wrong is expensive. It will cost you time and money. Ryan remembered his wine-recommendation startup that failed and, looking back, he draws this conclusion:

Before you launch, validate your hypothesis. Find out what people like. And find out what they don’t like.

How About.Me Talks to Its Users

That’s exactly what Ryan does at About.me: he talks to their users. It is how About.Me is developing and growing, all based on user feedback:

Through customer development we validated a bunch of ideas which we later implemented. Page viewing thing – although controversial, it was the most successful thing About.Me ever did. 100% growth.

It starts with a simple quiestion: Do you have your about.me link in an email signature? If a user decides to answer, they can start a series of short surveys through Survey.io that ends with an option to be contact for more information. Ryan occasionally talks people and chats to them about how they use the website and what features they would implement.

Start Small and Build Your Way Up

After you validate your startup hypothesis, Ryan advises you to release your Minimal Viable Product. You have to think about getting what is the smallest possible thing to introduce to public and test out the waters. It could be just a landing page: something minimal, which will bring traffic. If you’re not getting the views and if people are not signing up, it means you should go back and re-think the whole thing:

Get the data back, go talk to your users. Get some real feedback.

When Facebook reached 1 million users, they were mostly college students, Ryan says, so people from Facebook went to colleges and talked to them. At that time Facebook was essentially a phone book with a list of local students. Facebook realized that people want to know more about other people and what exactly they do were doing. That’s now News Feed was created, Facebook’s most important update.

Let your users tell you what your “News Feed” is. They know what they want.

Featured photo by Marina Filipović Marinshe.


Author:

Ivana (Ivy) Gutierrez

Our Executive Editor Ivy is a graduate student at University of Zagreb where she is studying Communicology and Journalism. She is interested in PR and all things digital. More information is available on her website Ivy's ink drops.

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