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Impressions from Product Couch at Le Camping

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in the 3rd Product Couch, organized by the Paris-based association We Do Product Management. This 3rd edition, took place at Le Camping, which is one of the leading, and very first, accelerators in Paris.

In a nutshell, the Product Couch events place 3 product managers in front of a selected group of startups, and allows the startups to pitch their product and problems, to the products managers, who then provide feedback on everything from brand strategy, to marketing, and user experience.

As one of three product managers on the couch last week (along with Sébastien Casaert and Vincent Roussilhon from Priceminister and BlaBlaCar, respectively), I got to hear from BandsquareRealytics, and Agriconomie, all three of which are recent arrivals in the accelerator program. While each startup had its own specific problems, two elements were common to all of them:

  1. How should one prioritize features/functionalities?

  2. How does one get to know customer needs?

I’ve come across these two elements time and time again in trainings and discussions with startups (heck, even well established companies struggle with these on a daily basis). Both of these elements are very tightly linked – being able to prioritize properly, requires an intimate understanding of customers (or potential customers). Of course, it’s also important to understand overall market needs & evolutions, and check out what the competition is doing in order to prioritize. But each business has it’s own value proposition which, ideally, is not just a copy/paste job from an existing, successful competitor. So if each business is to distinguish itself and define its own unique value proposition, then it requires understanding what is valuable/essential to its customers.

This product couch event reminded me that for those of us in the User Experience and Product Management world, and particularly for those of us who work with startups, we have to show the value of doing things progressively. The value of crawling before walking. There is a natural tendency to want to do many things at once as a startup. And why not? The teams are very driven and full of bright, innovative ideas that will help different segments of the population.

But care must be taken not to try to have a product that speaks to everyone because one could just end up with a noisy product that speaks to no one. So for me, this event was a good reminder that as I work with different types of companies, I shouldn’t forget to encourage them to take a step back and work on their priorities. And it’s also a very good reminder for me too, one that I should also apply to my own business decisions as Infinvision continues to grow.

Thanks to the organizers, as well as the startups that participated in the event, for the re-enlightenment, so to speak.

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