Testing the waters: Our experiences as customers of start-ups – By Uday Disley

Being in the start-up ecosystem has its advantages, for one gets a firsthand view of new products and services which are at either a concept stage or at a beta stage. Now that the people in this ecosystem are most likely to evaluate start-ups from a business viability point of view, we at Viedea more often than not try out these products/ services as consumers. So has the experience been good? Well it’s been interesting to say the least, let’s see what we have here:

Enterprise Software company: Building an enterprise product is the holy grail for most in the IT products space, and there are plenty of them out there, trying permutations and combinations of various ‘features’, which unfortunately end up remaining just that, a bundle of features and not a wholesome product. We have used a software product of a start-up in the past, which had obvious issues of not understanding its users and their workflow well, and to top it had really bad UI. Whilst you may have the intention of building a great product, but one needs to understand that a hundred features, may not solve the core problem, which the product was to built to address in the first place. Verdict: Use this logic – Simple product = address core need = great user experience = happy customer

Printing services company: If somebody needs to build a great service platform, here is a case study. This printing services company came up about the same time we started off and we have been loyal customers since then (though not a volumes customer). What we like about the place is its clean approach to addressing a customer need and delivering the same with reasonably high service standards. Well let’s see what works for them – they have demystified printing for the consumer with a fairly interactive and easy to approach delivery mechanism, in other words the first time user is as comfortable as a regular user. Verdict: Consistency in service = happy returning customer

Consumer electronics company: Ok we have not been early adapters when it comes to consumer electronics, but that is set to change, as we took a big leap of faith and pre-ordered a tablet pc from one of the most talked about start-ups in the tech space. Well we have been tracking this company for the last six-eight months and if not anything else this is a superb study of how a product can be built, evangelized, supported and maybe even funded, by a community. For the community of supporters it has been an interesting and frustrating journey, for it has stood by this company through its development stage to product delivery stage, going through the teething problems of a start-up. Anyway the company has delivered the product in its first round of pre-order, where most of the users have been very happy, meanwhile the second set of pre-orders though much delayed, is eagerly awaited. Verdict: Hype and good response needs to be followed up with good customer support.

Apart from the ones mentioned above, we have tried various start-up food services, salons, online stores, bought bus tickets, books, with varying degrees of ‘customer’ satisfaction (or dissatisfaction). It’s a classic dilemma for somebody who follows the start-up ecosystem, while you want to support it to the hilt by buying and endorsing the product/ services, at the same time you as a consumer can’t stop yourself from criticizing a mediocre product/ service. Instinctly you feel for the start-up team and are able to relate to the teething issues that they might be facing, but at the same time you want them to succeed by pushing their limits. The start-up ecosystem needs supporters and critics to be consumers as well and in all fairness guess it just completes the loop.

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About Deepak
Venture Capital and M&A advisor, Entrepreneur, Startup enthusiast..

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