From a Simple Email to Making One Million in 49 Minutes

On February 23rd, an email popped into my inbox and caught my attention. The title must’ve been taken straight out of Apple’s product launch playbook: “Pebble’s got something special tomorrow. Be the first to see”.

Pebble, who had a meteoric rise to fame by raising more than $10 million from 69,000 people on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter for its first product, the original Pebble Watch, was at it again.

The next day, the company’s latest smartwatch, the Pebble Time went on the Kickstarter platform, looking for adventurous early adopters and loyalists to put their money in and pre-order the new watch.

In the next 49 minutes, a record-shattering $1 million dollars was raised for the latest Pebble project. In the 48 hours that followed, the total rose to more than $10 Million dollars of pre-sold products from nearly 48,000 customers.

Around the same time as the Pebble launch, Mike Chen, a San-Francisco based entrepreneur comes up with a new idea. Why not offer a very rudimentary on-demand service that lets you quickly request whatever you need — however random it might sound — via text message. Pizza delivery? Easy. A new bicycle? Why not. Chen saw this idea as something that he’s always wanted to create to make his own life easier.

Chen put up a very basic site and named the service “Magic”. He shared it with a few friends who were quick to give it a try and pass on the message to others. Literally over the course of the weekend, the service made waves across the internet. By Monday morning, Chen had to assemble 18 family members and friends to help manage a flood of over 18,000 incoming requests.

Both Pebble and Magic have caught traction in seconds, representing just a few examples of new ways that business can be done when we think beyond the current and connect the dots with new business models and ideas.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or work for a large corporation, each one of us is similarly challenged with winning in the market and realizing a taste of success and purpose when real customers validate that what we’ve been working for actually resonates and adds value. In reality, and for various reasons, about 75% of products fail to earn any significant revenues in their first year.

The two stories above, however, shed some new light on ways to perhaps cheat the traditional product (or service) development cycle. After all, not many companies, large or small would turn down $10 million in product that is pre-sold before it even assigns a single person to work on the product.

There are three key takeaways from these and other examples that outline the change and the opportunity to see and think differently:

Redefine Your Meaning of Speed

The Internet is the ultimate accelerator. Almost everything either gets amplified, ignored, rehashed or acted upon in seconds. It creates entirely new opportunities to engage your customers, fans, and critics. It powers new business models (such as Kickstarter) that expand your reach and afford you opportunities that just a few years ago were not even imaginable. Ask yourself: Am I using this speed to my advantage, or is someone else using the very same speed against me?

Importance of Engagement

Engagement is a conversation, yet companies are increasingly excluded from many of the most important discussions because they choose to use new channels in traditional ways. In a sea of noise, it is increasingly difficult to hone in on a signal. Both Pebble and Magic were able to stand out because they didn’t just put a standard value proposition out there, they offered people a chance to engage, try something new, become part of the process and part of the movement. Ask yourself: Am I having conversations with customers or am I just pitching product?

Rethink your Approach

If you’re in a room somewhere, secretly developing your product or service and hope that it succeeds in the market before you even finish saying “Ta-Da”, the odds are clearly against you. Consider, getting out there, iterating, co-creating and prototyping with customers as you go along. Both the Pebble launch and Magic could have easily been a completely different story, however, both companies took the iterative approach, engaged customers and realized success.

Ask yourself: How can I co-create with my customers?


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