Emagin co-founder Mohamad Vedut on the value of customer feedback
Going to market is, for most businesses, the whole reason for all the time and effort spent developing a product, and it can be terrifying. Studies show that up to 42% of startups fail because there is no market need for the product, and 14% because they ignore their customers. We sat down with Mohamad Vedut, co-founder and COO of Emagin to find out what it was like to bring a product to market and to get some tips.
Emagin is an artificial intelligence company that provides water utilities with an operational platform to help them better optimize, understand, and look at predictions of how their system will behave in the future. The goal is to provide useful insights and recommendations in order to drive down energy costs, prepare for emergencies, enhance process control and address knowledge gaps within the field.
The Emagin team entered the Velocity Garage in 2016 as a team of students working on their company while still in school. In 2017 they hit a period of huge growth when they were part of the Imagine H2O Accelerator in San Francisco. Their time in the accelerator helped them scale their business, technology, and team in a complementary way. After a significant investment from a global investor, their growth increased. Upon returning to the Garage, they skipped Stage 2 (product development) entirely and went directly to Stage 3 (sales) to maintain and increase their growth.
Thanks to Emagin’s growth spurt, Vedut is a great source of knowledge about what is important when bringing a product to market for the first time – and it’s not bringing a “perfect” product. To him, there’s no such thing as a perfect product because customers’ needs and preferences change on a regular basis. Vedut says there are two things to keep in mind:
“First of all, understanding your customer is super important. It’s not about what you think your customer needs, it’s about what your customer tells you they need. Second of all, you have to address the feedback your customers give you. It’s the most valuable knowledge you can get because it’s coming straight from the person who will be using your product.” – Mohamad Vedut, Co-founder & COO, Emagin
Emagin works in an iterative cycle. All of their teams – developers, designers, business development, and sales – feed back into each other in a loop, allowing them to take feedback from customers and use it to make changes to their product which they can then sell as the next iteration. Having just wrapped up some of their largest pilots with some big customers, they are now in the feedback part of the loop and can speak to the value of using customer feedback to improve their product.
“I think they were very wowed – the wording was literally WOW – the customer was really blown away, and I think that’s because we catered it so well to their needs.”
For companies approaching the daunting task of bringing their product to potential customers, Vedut has two more pieces of advice. Number one, it’s about domain expertise. In all sectors, but especially in specialized ones like water, it’s very difficult to sell a product to businesses in that area if you don’t have the knowledge and expertise in that area yourself. His second piece of advice is similar to what he mentioned before – always have the end user in mind. Go through the workflows of how the end user will use your product, not how you think it should be. If you build and customize your product to your customer, you will have far more success earlier on in your selling efforts.