Internally at Upfocus, we’ve done a few book clubs. Our basic approach was to read a book in 4 parts, one part per week. Then, we’d discuss each part at the end of the week on a video call. Reading together was motivating. And, discussing each part allowed us to get more out of the book. It was much better than quickly plowing through a book by ourselves. But, at the end, there were always a few things that we wished we could learn more about from the author.
It got me thinking. If we got more people to join us for the reading, and made a big deal out of it—we might be able to get authors to join us at the end so we could ask them our questions. How cool would that be?!
Well, you’ll have a chance to tell us how cool it is or not, because we’re doing it!
Introducing Startup Growth Club
A book club + Ask the Author event
This book club is for anyone who loves to learn more about growing a startup. Here’s how we learn together:
Every other month we choose a book that we’ll read together as a group.
At the end of each week, we’ll have a live show where we’ll discuss the chapters from that week.
At the end of the month, we’ll have the author join us for an “Ask me Anything” session.
We’re a relaxed, group of startup enthusiasts who just want to have fun learning more about how to succeed. Some of us are curious about starting a company. Some are starting one for the first time. Some are serial entrepreneurs. No matter who you are, we’d love to have you join us for the show, comment in discussion board, or just enjoy seeing what other people have shared.
Our first book is Hacking Growth
Hacking Growth is a practical toolkit that teams and companies in all industries can use to increase their customer base and market share. It walks readers through the process of creating and executing their own custom-made growth hacking strategy. It is a must read for any marketer, entrepreneur, innovator or manger looking to replace wasteful big bets and “spaghetti-on-the-wall” approaches with more consistent, replicable, cost-effective, and data-driven results.
Hacking Growth has been translated into 16 languages and remains a best seller in the USA and around the world.
About the Sean Ellis
Sean Ellis is credited with coining the term “growth hacking”. He also introduced the ICE Prioritization Framework, and developing the widely popular Product/Market Fit survey. These are all part of the toolkit he used to help launch and grow several well-known startups including Dropbox, Eventbrite, LogMeIn and Lookout – each now worth billions of dollars and accelerate growth at established companies such as Microsoft, eBay and Intuit. Sean’s work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, WIRED, Fast Company, Forbes, The Sydney Morning Harland and on the MSNBC television network.
The Creator of the Product Market Fit Survey Method and Growth Hacking Is Partnering with Upfocus to Unlock Growth for Startups with Proven Methods in a Ready-to-Use Workflow
We are excited to announce the addition of Sean Ellis to our advisory board. Sean created the widely popular Product Market Fit test. His breakthrough method gave companies a way to measure product market fit as a leading indicator to drive growth.
Sean coined the term Growth Hacking and literally wrote the book on it. Hacking Growth has been translated into 16 languages and remains a best seller in the USA and around the world. Companies across the globe have used his high-velocity test/learn process that has propelled breakout growth success at companies such as Facebook, Airbnb, and Dropbox.
“Having Sean on our advisory board is a game changer. Sean has helped launch and grow Dropbox, Eventbrite, LogMeIn, and Lookout that are each worth billions of dollars now. The fact is that most startups fail, and the most common reason is a lack of product market fit. Upfocus is on a mission to change those facts by providing startups with a repeatable, efficient way to measure and grow their product market fit. Infusing Sean’s strategic insights and experience growing billion dollar companies into our ready-to-use workflow will be invaluable for startups.”
Justin Kistner, CEO of Upfocus
More people than ever have started new companies since the COVID-19 pandemic. Innovations in technology have made aspects of starting a company easier than ever before—from accepting credit card payments to managing payroll to building applications using frameworks. But, the fact remains that starting a company requires enormous effort and expertise. Arguably, a company’s most important process is deciding what to build. Upfocus is helping a new class of entrepreneurs improve their odds of success by giving them a decision management system for product development. Because Upfocus allows businesses to skip building a product process from scratch, they can put more of their energy into coming up with solutions and making their customers successful.
“I’ve worked with hundreds of companies to help them implement a test and learn process. What struck me that was unique about Upfocus is how they help companies after they receive feedback. They give companies tools to process results and to act on the insights. It eliminates a lot of manual effort and you don’t need to be an expert to benefit from tried and true techniques.”
Sean Ellis, Co-Creator of GoPractice
Upfocus is the quickest way to have a complete system for finding, growing, and maintaining product market fit. And, unlike a DIY system, there’s no ongoing maintenance. With Upfocus, teams can gather raw feedback in one place, distill it into opportunities, and evaluate possible solutions—all while following proven best practices.
Or, sign up for email about insights, frameworks, and best practices on nailing product market fit for startups. We aim for one email per month, but we only send emails when we have content worth sharing.
As a tool maker, Ken Norton’s latest post “The Tools Don’t Matter” stung at first. After a bit more reflection, I realized what he was saying.
In his post, Ken made the point that you won’t play like Serena Williams just because you use the same tennis racket. That’s true. But, that doesn’t mean Serena is going to show up to Wimbledon with any racket and win the whole thing. Similarly, a super talented product manager isn’t going to perform their best with just any tool. It’s more like the way Marc put it, Serena needed to be skilled to even know what the best racket was for her. Not the same as tools don’t matter, but Ken’s main point is still valid: If you want to be a great product manager, tools alone aren’t going to make you one.
In that spirit, we thought we’d take an opportunity to point out all of the ways our tools won’t help you be a great product manager. To put it another way, these are the skills you need to bring for the tool to be useful. Or, perhaps more importantly, these are the skills you need in order to know if our tool is right for you.
1. Upfocus won’t help you set goals
In Upfocus, you can assign a company goal to an idea you’re thinking about building. It’s helpful for your teammates to see that an idea aligns to a goal. But, just because you aligned an idea to a goal, doesn’t mean you’ll make a great product. There are at least two things that could go wrong outside of our tool:
Vision: Where the company or business line is going long term.
Challenge: The first Business goal you have to achieve on the way to your longer term vision.
Target Condition: A smaller problem you need to tackle on your path to accomplishing the challenge. These are set in terms of achievable, measurable metrics.
Current State: This is what the current reality is compared to the Target Condition. It should be measured and quantified before the work starts to achieve the first target condition.
Some additional advice Melissa shared with me when thinking about how to apply this strategy:
For product leaders:
Challenges = Strategic intents
Target conditions = Product initiatives
For product teams:
Challenges = Product initiatives
Target conditions = Options
Even with tools to create the elements of a good product strategy, you’ll still need the kind of skill that comes with experience. So, if you’re not an expert at this, you should seek out someone who is, like Melissa. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth your time to watch her talk about The Build Trap.
2. Upfocus won’t help you form new habits
Upfocus allows you to turn feedback from customers and coworkers into dev ideas that can be prioritized. We give you a workflow to make it fast to group feedback into themes. We give you prompts to help with things like effective problem statements and estimates. We make it easy to connect releases all the way back to the original feedback that inspired it. But, if you’re not gathering and summarizing feedback today, starting is a behavior change. And, forming new habits is hard.
We offer concierge onboarding to help you get started. We can send you notifications to take action. However, some companies are going to need more help than that. It might not be because you have a lack of discipline. It might be because you need other team members to get on board. This is why there are coaches for frameworks like Scrum, EOS, etc. If you need help with implementation, let us know and we’ll share some referrals.
3. Upfocus won’t help you come up with good solutions
Upfocus allows you to capture your dev ideas in a well structured way. We can help you spot feedback trends. We can guide you toward writing effective problem statements. The solution description, however, is just a blank text area. It’s totally your canvas to fill. Coming up with good solutions takes talent, skill, and practice. We don’t help with that part at all.
We may be able to point you in a helpful direction. Have you read Shape Up? It’s from the team at behind Basecamp. It’s a quick read and free online. They have some insightful ideas for how to iterate on solutions using:
Breadboarding – A mash up of an outline and a flow diagram, which includes:
Places: These are things you can navigate to, like screens, dialogs, or menus that pop up.
Affordances: The things users can interact with such as text, buttons, and fields.
Connection lines: These show how the affordances take the user from place to place.
Fat marker sketches – A low fidelity mockup. Sometimes these are embedded in an actual screenshot.
Even when you use Shape Up, it still won’t make you creative. It also won’t address your knowledge of what is technically possible/feasible. If you need help with that, consider taking online courses.
4. Upfocus will still let you make bad decisions
If feedback is scattered across help desk software, stuck in inboxes, and not summarized, you’re much more likely to satisfice, which is to choose or adopt the first satisfactory option that one comes across. People have all kinds of cognitive biases, such as recency bias, which over emphasizes the value of something we heard recently.
When we talk about the value of Upfocus, we say it helps you see your universe of options. And, since ideas are more systematically formed, it’s easier to compare them. The goal is that you’ll make better decisions compared to when the options aren’t clearly visible or comparable. You don’t even need to be perfect. You just need to increase your rate of good decision making. But, Upfocus is not an AI with decision making authority. So, making good decisions is still up to you.
Is Upfocus the right tool for you?
If are already experienced with:
Creating product strategies
Collecting customer feedback
Coming up with good solutions
Making good decisions when all options are in front of you
Fueled by the pandemic, Zoom grew from 10 million daily active users to 200 million in 3 months. At Upfocus, we help companies find, grow, and maintain product market fit. We were curious how well positioned is Zoom to retain these new users. At the beginning of April, we surveyed 62 Zoom customers. The results were worrisome because many of their new users are consumers, which transforms Zoom from a video conferencing solution for businesses into a consumer video chat application.
Here is what we’ll cover in this business breakdown:
Zoom isn’t as well-positioned for the consumer market.
Zoom only delivers the basics, and doesn’t yet have enough competitive differentiation.
Google and Microsoft are a threat because they deeply integrate with core business apps.
One way Zoom can keep its market position is to focus on shared experiences.
One question our Upfocus survey asks is “What types of people would most benefit from Zoom?” In order of popularity, here are the types of people Zoom users think the product is for:
Over half of our survey respondents think that Zoom is not just for business owners. In order for Zoom to keep its new daily active users, it will need to find and maintain product/market fit across all of those personas, while fending off two of tech’s largest players: Google and Facebook.
Gallery view is one of the features Zoom customers said they liked in our survey. Seeing everyone during group calls is nice, especially during a quarantine. However, that is no longer a differentiator for Zoom.
Survey respondents said they like Zoom for the following reasons:
Quick and easy to host a meeting.
It just works/reliable/stable.
Better quality than Hangouts/quality audio and video.
Gallery view and integrated chat.
The top three reasons are because Zoom actually delivers on the basic functionality of video conferencing. After that, the reasons are also pretty basic features.
Zoom’s leadership position is precarious because it’s very likely that tech behemoths like Google and Facebook will deliver reliable audio and video. In fact, they are ramping up investment now, so it might not take long.
And, while people like the ease of use and quality audio and video from Zoom, they still feel like it needs more work. Here are some of the responses we saw:
“The video quality is not always that great. Even when using higher quality cameras and equipment.”
“Make audio work even better. Foolproof.”
Zoom needs to improve its security, duh, and user experience
Zoom’s real challenges become apparent when we focus on what people dislike about Zoom. Just over half of our respondents said they would only be “somewhat disappointed” to lose access to Zoom. That’s a large amount of customers to be on the fence about a product. One third of those people said the top improvement area is security and privacy. Since our survey came out, Zoom has made some improvements to address these concerns.
Zoom’s next largest area for improvement is their UX/UI. Zoom is considered easier to use than some alternatives, but people still find it quite clunky. Some of these quotes exemplify the concern:
“Better design/UX? They seem to have mostly nailed the technology side as far as maintaining well-synced audio, high quality video, low latency. Their design and UX is generally pretty clunky though.”
“The UI/UX feels a bit clunky and outdated. While the “bones” of Zoom are really solid (reliable connection, consistent quality, no noticeable down time), it feels a bit outdated from a UI perspective.”
“Anything that helps first time users figure out their audio/video settings, do that.”
Since our Upfocus survey was conducted, Zoom has been making UX/UI improvements. Time will tell if they have gone far enough to please consumer customers.
Facebook emphasized multiple times in their Messenger Rooms announcement how easy it is to use. No meetings to create. No additional software to download. It has integrated chat. And, you’re already connected with family and friends on their platform.
If you visit Zoom’s website, all of the content is focused on business use cases. This makes all of the consumer customers they picked up vulnerable to competition.
Facebook, by contrast, is already focusing on the consumer side of the experience by offering AR effects like bunny ears, and new AI-powered features like immersive 360 backgrounds and mood lighting. People want more than video, they want shared experiences.
Survey respondents said they want Zoom to offer more shared experience features like:
To be fair, Zoom customers could use Snap Camera to add AR effects to their Zoom calls. But, it’s a missing element in their native experience.
One fun element that Zoom has released since our Upfocus survey is the ability to add a background. Zoom backgrounds give customers a fun opportunity to express themselves.
Google and Microsoft are a threat because they deeply integrate with core business apps
While Facebook is flanking Zoom on the consumer side, Google Meet is coming for its business users. This means Zoom will either be fighting two battles or will have to focus on one. Survey respondents offer a bit of a backhanded compliment to how easy Zoom is to use. Here’s how they put it:
“Generally easy installation for those not particularly tech savvy.”
“…It is a great product. Initially I had to figure out how to invite others to the meeting as that was not intuitive…”
Translation: it’s less sucky, but still needs work. Google is trying to make it easier for business users to host meetings, especially it’s Google Suite users.
Meet’s integration with Google Calendar makes it button push easy to add chat. In fact, it can be added automatically, so no thought is even required. If Google can continue to improve their audio and video quality, then their integrations will allow them to capture market share from Zoom.
Microsoft Teams is built around, well, teams
Up until now, we’ve mostly focused on Google and Facebook. However, on the enterprise business front, Zoom is also competing with Microsoft. Microsoft Teams has deeply integrated video into Outlook and chat. And, since Teams are literally the list of coworkers on a team, invites are super easy. Grouping files, messages, and more is much easier since Microsoft knows your coworker contact list groups.
Zoom customers can get around some of the lack of native integrations through plugins. It will be interesting to learn over time whether those plugins are too much friction vs. the attractiveness of the native integrations.
Zoom can stay on top by delivering shared experiences
Zoom is still in a leadership position, so here are some things they can do to stay in front. The most obvious is to improve their security and privacy as well as their UI/UX. But, really, that’s just clean up work. To improve the attractiveness of their product (and create a moat around their newly acquired customers), Zoom could elevate their solution from a “video conferencing app” to becoming a “shared experience space”. The big opportunity to differentiate from all other video apps is to recognize that people use video simultaneously with other activities. Getting the simultaneous part right is a huge opportunity.
Enable shared experiences around games, movies, and music
If users could do these activities simultaneously without having to use multiple devices or overlapping, delayed audio; it would be a compelling feature that would drive extended usage. Here are some responses from Zoom users requesting shared experiences:
“and (at least in these quarantine times) a feature that allows you to watch a movie together via screenshare while still being able to talk with each other.”
“…inter connected to Smart TV (might already be)…”
Consumers also will explore shared experiences in virtual environments. One commonly suggested idea was the ability to watch movies and TV together. XRSpace is offering such an experience by allowing users to watch a movie together in a virtual cinema.
Zoom could also improve their experience for power users. Here are 3 key things we learned from their users:
Make breakout rooms easier to use
People really like this feature and not all video chat services offer breakout rooms, but our surveyed users said it is not intuitive. In my personal experience, many times I mention it on Zoom calls, people weren’t aware of the option, or they heard of it, but didn’t know how to use it.
Moderators want more options
For example, survey respondents said they want to be able to disable all virtual backgrounds at once. They want to be able to mute people by groups. Hosts are the power users. They drive the group interactions. Focusing on their needs, will lead to other people using the product who aren’t power users. Keeping hosts happy = moat around the business.
More options for arranging elements on the screen
People like the gallery view, which is why both Google and Facebook are copying it. But, people want more options for arranging the order and size of the feeds. Also, people like Zoom’s integrated chat and screen sharing. And, they want to be able to see feeds, shared screens, and chat all at the same time.
Powered by Upfocus!
To gather these insights, we ran a product/market fit survey with actual Zoom users via our Upfocus software.
After we captured the responses, we were able to use our software to extract feedback themes and to capture observations to make sense of the results.
If you’d like to learn more about the approach, contact us.