Customer Development Class by Dhruv Haria

Dhruv is a Fellow of the SLP London 2020/21 Cohort, and the Co-founder of Mirthy, a platform where over-60s can book activities such as talks, arts & craft classes, etc. hosted by other senior adults. He is a qualified Actuary by background, having graduated from Cambridge in Maths, a Serial Entrepreneur and a Mentor at Startupbootcamp.

I was the 2020/21 Class CEO for the SLP London Customer Development class held on 2nd November 2020. The aim of the class was to introduce the Customer Development framework at a high level, to provide practical hacks to perform Customer Discovery and encourage the class cohort to practice these in the breakout session with each other, and to show some real-life examples of data-driven Customer Validation.

Class Preparation and Delivery

I spent about one working day in total to pull together the class materials and presentation, using resources available online on the internet and examples from Mirthy. The customer discovery part of the framework is not very familiar to me, so that took some time to read up on and prepare appropriate teaching content. Rather than regurgitate theory that is widely available on the internet, I decided to make the class more practical with hacks, real-life examples and a breakout session to practice customer discovery interviews.

On the day, the class started with fellows greeting each other, and announcing any wins they had in the previous week, both personal or with their start-up. My book recommendations followed this – Outliers by Malcom Gladwell has been a huge inspiration for me, at times being able to relate my successes personally and professionally to Gladwell’s logic and insights on what makes one successful – I highly recommend this to all SLP Fellows to read if you haven’t already! The other is How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie – this book helped me navigate a Co-founder conflict in one of my previous ventures, by helping me understand the other person’s perspective and communicating in a way that encourages progress in relationships rather than conflict – again highly recommended for all entrepreneurs.

We then got stuck into some high level theory on the Customer Development framework, followed by some practical hacks on Customer Discovery, aided with real-life examples from Mirthy. The majority of the class focussed on how to conduct Customer Discovery interviews, an essential ingredient in the early stages of a start-up’s journey, with the breakout sessions providing an opportunity for the fellows to practice these interview hacks with each other in small groups of 4-5 fellows, for their respective start-ups.

The class concluded with presentation of some real-life examples of data-driven Customer Validation, the second part of the Customer Development framework. I used some of Mirthy’s analytics and summary data to show how we think about Customer Validation e.g. survey responses on how much consumers are willing to pay to attend an online talk thus enabling us to validate the price-point to charge, and more importantly ensure we are building a product they are happy to pay for – a step towards finding product-market fit. There was some final group contemplation and reflections on Customer Development before we bid farewell for the week and closed the class session.

Key Learnings

Overall, the feedback from the fellows indicates that they found the class material and format very useful, however they would have liked more time for certain topic areas.

Customer Development is a vast and important subject area for start-ups. There was a lot of material to cover in a short space of time. If I had to re-take this class, I would break up the class in two parts and only focus on Customer Discovery in the first class, with the second class focussing on Customer Validation and other topic areas such as Pricing, LifeTime Value and Customer Acquisition Cost, topics that the fellows wanted to also know more about.

I would allow for more time during the breakout sessions as the fellows found these helpful to practice the hacks for Customer Development interviews on each other for their respective start-ups. More guidance on how to conduct the customer development interviews e.g. an example interview performed during the main class would have also aided and improved the effectiveness of the breakout sessions.

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