How startups can run better landing page tests — Elaine Chen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Elaine Chen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Elaine Chen

From Xconomy

In today’s fast-changing world, new product teams are constantly pushed to do more faster. They need to run fast to keep up with rapidly changing market conditions. Oftentimes it means making decisions about what to invest in with very little information. How can teams validate hypotheses without over-investing on speculative engineering projects, and potentially losing time and money building the wrong thing?

It turns out that there is another way. In both B2B and B2C scenarios, you can often get a very good read on the interest and even purchase intent from potential economic buyers by running a series of landing page tests.

What is a landing page test?

A landing page test is a form of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) test, in which one uses a landing page as a way of gauging some aspect of customer interest and/or purchase intent.

While you can gather a tremendous amount of insight by running detailed, open-ended interviews with potential customers, at the end of the day you are still limited by what the customer thinks they will do, instead of what they will actually do. Purchase intent is frequently inflated when you test your product idea with people face to face, because they are often loath to hurt your feelings by telling you the truth. It’s emotionally much easier to just say “yes, this is very interesting!” or “Sure! I will certainly buy it!” rather than “you are talking to the wrong person – I have no interest whatsoever.”

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Some of the most successful platforms are ones you’ve never heard of — David S. Evans and Richard Schmalensee

MIT Sloan Professor Richard Schmalensee

MIT Sloan Professor Richard Schmalensee

From Harvard Business Review

When most of us think of multisided platforms, the ones that come to mind are those, like Apple and Facebook, that make heaps of money. Or unicorns like Uber that, if cap tables mean anything, someday will. Of course, anyone who really knows the history of platforms may recall the many that aspired to make gobs of money but never did and quickly died (think of the many B2B exchanges that never made it to the other side of dot-com bust). And don’t forget your brother-in-law’s great platform idea, which will make you both rich if only you would invest your life savings in his startup.

What’s amazing, though, is that there are many platforms that have created massive value, but have never made a profit, and don’t even strive to make money — on purpose.

Most likely, you have of one of the worldwide champs in this category in your wallet. MasterCard and Visa didn’t make, or even look, for profits for decades. MasterCard started as a not-for-profit membership association, in 1966, and Visa did the same, in 1971. Both associations managed their brands and ran the clearing and settlement systems for banks that issued cards or helped merchants accept cards. These card networks were allowed to charge their members just enough to cover cost and provide working capital. (For more on this, read Dee Hock’s book about starting up the Visa network.)

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David Morgenthaler – a man who knew where to place the lever – Joe Hadzima

Joe Hadzima Senior Lecturer, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship

Joe Hadzima
Senior Lecturer, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship

From The Huffington Post 

When I read today that venture capitalist pioneer David Morgenthaler had died one of my first thoughts was the statement attributed to Archimedes “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the world”. David moved the world in many important ways. As one of the first venture capitalists he used his own money to start Morgenthaler Ventures which he went on to build into a premier firm that invested in more than 325 startups. As a founding director of the National Venture Capital Association he helped shape the development of the industry, including leading the successful legislative effort to allow pension funds to invest in venture capital which vastly increased the capital available to innovative startups.

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Building Obama’s lean startup in America’s biggest bureaucracy — Elaine Chen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Elaine Chen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Elaine Chen

From TechBeacon

What do you do when tasked with making the US government work like a lean startup? “Just start,” advises Hillary Hartley. Or, as we say in startup country: “JFDI.”

Hartley is the cofounder and deputy executive director of 18F, a government organization that causes quite a bit of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, it’s a team firmly embedded within the 11,495-person General Services Administration (GSA), with a $23.9 billion operating budget. Yet its website explains that it’s “built in the spirit of America’s top tech startups.”

Launching a lean startup in the federal government

18F is one of the “Obama lean startups” created under the leadership of former US Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, who was tasked with the mission of remaking the aging and in many cases woefully outdated digital infrastructure underneath the government. The big idea behind 18F is to leverage world-class designers, developers, and product specialists from the tech industry to do projects with government agencies and show them how to work like lean startups.

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Cuba and entrepreneurship: An MIT MBA’s reflections — Alanna Hughes

MIT Sloan MBA Student Alanna Hughes

MIT Sloan MBA Student Alanna Hughes

Soñar no cuesta nada. Dreaming doesn’t cost anything.

As I conclude a study trip to Cuba, I am reminded of this expression that a Dominican colleague frequently used. Whenever I would “think big” – first as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and later as a social enterprise director in the Dominican Republic and Haiti – my friend Hector Romero had the ability to both encourage my idealism and remind me of the challenging reality with this simple phrase.

As someone who came to business school directly from entrepreneurship work in other parts of the Caribbean, I want to dream for Cuba. I want to hope that it is on the brink of something groundbreaking for all those in the island nation with an entrepreneurial bent. However, after having studied it more in-depth, and after having spent time in Havana, my optimism is tainted by some of the skepticism I’d perceive in Romero’s voice years ago. While Cubans as a society should dream big, the prospect of larger-scale innovation driven entrepreneurship, still feels like…well, a dream.

If Cuba truly wishes to become more entrepreneurial, it will need more than its bright minds’ aspirations. It will need to financially invest and politically change – both of which undoubtedly generate significant costs.

Like many dreams, increasing entrepreneurship in Cuba is grounded in some reality. When conducting behavioral science research to prepare for our time in Havana, I stumbled upon several examples of Cuban “hacks” to provide solutions to problems resulting from scarcity, isolation, and censorship. One common example is the paquete semanal – a collection of illegal classifieds, music, and TV series, among others – that is distributed on Cuba’s black market as a substitute for broadband internet. Other examples include metal meal trays repurposed as antennas and chargers built from non-rechargeable hearing aid batteries.

Beyond grassroots creative capacity, Cuba also possesses a highly educated populace that includes thousands of trained STEM graduates well suited to contribute to high tech businesses. Only about 200 miles separate Havana’s inventive and technical minds from Miami’s growing start-up scene and its gateway into other American innovation hubs. From a talent perspective, Cuba appears to hold a lot of untapped potential.

But will this human capital really be so easy to engage? Although our flight from MIA to HAV only lasted 45 minutes, it was clear as soon as we stepped out of Havana’s small airport onto its antique car trafficked streets that we had landed a world away. In spite of the hype we had heard in the American press about Cuba’s ability to “open up,” a lot of the gates currently remain under lock and key.  So few Cubans have regular access to the internet; they have only been allowed to own personal computers and cell phones since 2008, and wifi is only available in a handful of CyberPoints and hotel lobbies – at $5 per hour through pre-purchased cards.

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