Chainfrog is a Finnish technology startup, solving real-world problems with blockchains. Having developed expertise with this new and disruptive technology, they began by providing consultancy services but quickly spotted an opportunity to create a product - Blockbinder.
Keir, the founder and CEO, knew from his corporate and consulting experience that all organisations struggle to move data between their systems. He also knew that beyond the hype, blockchain could solve problems of trust, incompatible data stores, and keeping data in sync - problems which stifle growth, and in some cases even kill organisations. His vision for Blockbinder was an easy-to-use tool to allow organisations to keep their data synchronised between systems, without needing a Computer Science PhD, years of software development expertise or any knowledge of blockchain.
Keir faced a number of challenges:
- How do I find customers for this product?
- What exactly do we need to build?
- How can I focus my team?
- I'm a first-time startup CEO. What am I missing?
Struggling with these questions, Keir engaged eqsystems.io for consulting and executive coaching.
A way forward - Value Proposition Definition
Through a series of coaching calls, we quickly identified that the team hadn't yet clarified their value proposition. They hadn't worked out precisely who would use their product, what problems their users had, and how their product would solve them. It's vital to build this understanding early in product development, and to validate it constantly as the product is being built. Most startups fail because they're unable to create a product that people actually want - and without a clear value proposition is very difficult to target customers with marketing, and to persuade them to try (and buy) your product.
Chainfrog's team is distributed, with four people including Keir in Finland, and one (Jon, the CTO) in Cambridge, UK. Taking advantage of a trip to the UK first, we brought the team together in Cambridge in July 2017 for a day-long session to work on the value proposition using the Value Proposition Canvas, which the team could then test with existing partners and potential customers.
Translating into action - the plan, with milestones
The team continued to build out the product over Summer, and we brought everyone together in early September 2017 in Keir's Finnish cottage for two days to identify objectives and create a plan. Chainfrog had secured a place at Slush 2017 - Finland's answer to SXSW, which provides an excellent opportunity for publicity and exposure. The team realised that a real-world demo would be the most powerful way of demonstrating the benefits of the product - and this milestone would also provide a useful sense of urgency for them all.
We worked to clarify objectives and key results, to break down the work which would need to be done, and to identify risks and interdependencies - both with development and commercial efforts. By the end of the offsite, it was clear who was accountable for what, by when - and how everything would fit together to deliver the objectives.
Chainfrog has a clear value proposition for Blockbinder, represented in these three videos:
This has allowed them to focus their business development activity on a group of ideal customers, and they now have a number of deals in the pipeline. Meanwhile, product development work has intensified, and the first full release of Blockbinder will launched at Slush. Along the way, Chainfrog has continued to be recognised as an expert in blockchain applications, with demand growing on the consulting and advisory side of the business, and a number of patents granted or pending.
Gareth gives clear articulate explanations as to why starting a software business isn't just about building some good software, putting up a slick website, and waiting for customers. His focus on helping you to determine what the customer needs and why they need it by talking to them, establishing the values and beliefs behind the way you want to run your company, and that building a business/marketing/sales strategy can be done in a rational and scientific manner, are all backed up by steps and actions that you can actually take. If he wrote a book, I'd buy fifty copies and give one to every EVP, CTO and CEO I met.