Startup Learning #3 – Digging Deep to find value.Grow and Thrive: Three Startup Learnings

Updated: Jul 23


It’s usually slide #2 in the startup pitch deck, the one right after “what problem are you going to solve”. Finding our business value took us nearly eight months of continuous searching, testing, and digging deep.

In week one, I reviewed the twists and turns along our journey to create a breakthrough product. Last week, I reviewed our drive to be different, and more importantly how we are communicating that difference.

Startup Learning #3 – Digging Deep to find business value.

Finding our business value meant shedding our intense focus on product value and delving deeper into fundamental industry norms, and in our case, the way the brain works.

The Product Value Illusion

I can’t count how many times we thought we had nailed down our business value, only to discover we just found another benefit from the product. I guess this makes sense. You get caught up in the excitement of creating something new. We were reviewing existing products, listening to our alpha and beta customers, and as my first post summarized, evolving our idea into a customer-centric solution. It seemed that every new “Aha” moment brought clarity and deeper understanding of the service we provide our users.

For example, qChange nudges or prompts 3 minutes before a meeting, via Microsoft Teams. It’s not via eMail; it’s not a global message but a selected and customized prompt based on the behaviors a user wants to grow. So, we understood our business value was being real-time and personalized. All great product attributes, but not business value.

Then we added the measurement piece. We thought, “No other system can measure leader behavior growth. Other systems only measure “How did you like the training?” or “Do you think you will be able to use what you learned in your current position?” qChange can measure Kirkpatrick Level 3; “Did your behavior change?” That must be our value! Once again a great, differentiating feature, but not business value.

What about pricing. The fact that we are 1/10th the cost of the average spent per leader seemed like a good start, but not sufficient. We needed to be more than just cheaper. We needed to find how we were better.

Digging Deep

Since our business value message was still not resonating with investors, we kept asking “why.” Not “why don’t you understand?” That wouldn’t get us anywhere. But rather…

Why did we focus on leadership development?

Answer: It’s a $366B global industry that most CEO’s suggest is a waste of money, but they keep spending money on it as “leadership talent is critical”.

Why do CEO’s think 90¢ of every dollar is wasted?

Answer: Because they keep investing in new courses and delivery models that in 30 years haven’t moved the needle on a companies’ leadership capacity.

Why haven’t these investments paid off?

Answer: This one took months to uncover. You hear about lack of customization, lack of real-time and push-vs.-pull elearning as possible culprits. But what we realized is that the learner is up against The Ebbinghaus Curve, otherwise known as the “forgetting curve”.

Hypothesized in 1885 it’s now summarized as follows:


70% of learning is lost in 24 hours, 90% after a week.

Retention requires repetition and use.

That’s why you may have heard that students only retain 10% of what they learned after a month. Now we’ve found a fundamental principle that we can test against. If we can impact a fundamental principle in a profound way, that’s a game changer.

And we do. qChange, with our Behavior360™ platform, increases retention to over 75%, a 7X improvement from traditional training. And when you add that to our cost being 1/10th the industry average per leader, we finally found a business value proposition that resonates.

Bonus Learning #4. A spark is great, but fires need fuel. To me, the energy and the probability of success increases when you include others on the journey. We could not have figured all this out without the trust of each other through difficult discussions and the help of others.

I’m so grateful for my Leader Experience partners @James Kelley @John Howes @Randy Adams, our summer superstars @Ella Marino and @Jennifer Miller, our development partners @Alexey Shabalovskiy and @Michał Piesto @Embiq and of course our qChange advisors @Vanessa Vershaw @Helen Edwards @Dave Edwards @Ernest Baskin @Peter Boumgarden. Your value is immense!


Rob Buckingham

COO of qChange

rbuckingham@qchange.com


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