35: Conducting Customer Development Interviews


March 29th, 2018

46 mins 2 secs

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About this Episode

As part of his new business journey, Derrick requested that customers schedule time to talk with him about Level, a team communication and management tool he is developing. Luckily, about 40 people signed up, and he has completed 14 of these calls. What are his customers saying? They confirm main pains they feel with current tools and are very willing to share their frustrations with existing tools. Derrick has not been surprised yet about their answers.

In Ben’s world, he is spending time on slinging and reading about Haskell. He is full of questions. Both Ben and Derrick are learning a lot every day, which is fulfilling and exciting.

Today’s Topics Include:

Level will not be a project management tool, but may have some project management capabilities
Derrick’s list of initial questions for customers: What is their company and role within it; the size of their team; what tools they use and when they adopted them; and the balance between chat, email, and project management in their organization
Derrick also asks customers: Why are they interested in Level? What problems do they want it to solve? What’s working well for them with Slack, and what’s not? What aspects of Slack do they use and don’t use?
Ideas for improvement have come from Derrick’s customers
Continuous integration is the clear winner for usefulness
Gauging willingness to switch to another tool, such as Level
Customers expressed using Level on a pilot basis for specific teams or projects and in coordination with at least one other tool
Being unable to post asynchronous, long-form discussions is a pain point for some customers
Paying for a tool would not be a big deal
Derrick plans to kick off his building Level series and build mock-ups for customers to view
Positive use of minimalist user interfaces
Debating whether to offer a pre-payment option for Level
Ben uses Ansible for the deployment of Haskell code
Ben is seeking a Dev Ops person to hire - must have strong opinions and can fix stuff
SaaS Renaissance? More developers are starting SaaS companies - a trend already on the way out?
Level will be SaaS but with an open source core
Tools SaaS companies will want to have and buy
Not Built Here Syndrome: Engineers who outsource non-essential parts to someone else
Pricing Pages as a Service: Shopify’s checkout page feels natural but still represents the company
Avoid rebuilding stuff

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Links and resources:

Ben Orenstein Website; Twitter
Derrick Reimer Website
Basecamp and Getting Real
Programming in Haskell book
C Programming Language by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie (K&R for C)
Ruby on Rails
Product Hunt
GitLab and Discourse
Stripe Atlas
Andrew Culver’s Bullet Train
Adam Savage: One Day Builds
MicroConf 2018