Quite often on Dragon’s Den, you hear them say ‘you’ve designed a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist’. In the wider world, if that disqualified any business that offers something we don’t need or want, we wouldn’t be surrounded by gadgets we never use, and services we thought would be useful when we first signed up for them.
The best business ideas are both needed and wanted and, unless you’ve got money to burn, this needs to be confirmed through market research. Or ‘customer validation’ as Davina Pancholi-Ifould describes it in relation to her start-up journey (we’re all on a journey these days) as founder and CEO of Rightgig Ltd.
To be fair, customer validation is not just any old market research, it’s about testing real products with real customers in real environments. For Davina, customer validation is also… “developing something because you know someone is going to pay you for it because they want and/ or need it. It’s about getting out there with a clipboard and talking to people you don’t know – so not your mum!” That ‘something’ is Rightgig – an online marketplace to, in Davina’s words “Help companies decide who they should hire.” The online platform helps people looking for work or hiring, to match skills, motivation and personality to fit with different business cultures. As Davina observes “Some things, like skills, can be taught, but motivation and personality is also key to finding the right people.”
We’ve all probably seen the problems that can arise when people don’t fit in with the rest of the team. For Davina, the spark that ignited the flame that has become Rightgig was harnessing her love of technology to solve a problem that she and others had experienced when trying to hire. The ‘data matching’ idea was born and four weeks later, Davina was working fulltime on the business.
Lesson one – don’t hand in your notice too soon! Davina advises you do as much customer validation as you can before you leave the security of your paid job.
Lesson two – get outside support from people with a shared vision as early as possible. A lot of business success is about networking – about who you know. Gather your advisors and tribe!
“Business names are emotive, often the embodiment of the business values, so it’s important you’re attached to the name. That said, our process for developing the name and logo was pretty random. I’m very visual so it was a matter of putting things up on the wall at home. We wanted a name that was one word and was easy to say and spell. We put ‘right’ and ‘gig’ (thinking of the gig economy, and gig as in ‘job’) on the wall and Rightgig had a resonance with the property website.”
I’m sure the process wasn’t that painless, but… I was also interested to learn that the logo started out as a doodle with a coffee mug stain on top of it!
“We aspire to become the Google of job search” jokes Davina (or maybe she isn’t joking?)
That ambition is reflected in the care with which the customer verification goes on. The technological base will only be built once a focus group has approved it – unusual in the world of technology. A broader focus group of users are testing early versions of the platform and saying which features they’d like to see first. Those features will then be tested further “Each release is an opportunity to build awareness and do further testing on the basis of real data” explains Davina.
I wonder what other lessons can be passed on to would-be entrepreneurs, and not just those of the techy variety? The fluency of Davina’s answer implies she’s also been asked that before.
“Don’t give up your day job too early. [Try to] keep your home and work life separate – turn off your phone and laptop, shut the door. Most creative solutions come when you’re not working on them – my 60 second pitch came to me in the shower! Know your strengths and weaknesses. To me finance is dull, but I know it’s important – I’ve learned to love it. Social media is my biggest challenge and my time is probably best spent on other things – I’ll outsource it as soon as I can.”
Returning to the subject of customer validation, Davina has a last bit of advice to share. “You can’t talk to enough people – you can always do more. We know our recruitment solution isn’t for everyone but we had to learn this. I have no regrets.”
More information: https://rightgig.co.uk