Building a business the SXSW way

Chad Robley is a good friend and the founder/CEO of Mindgruve, a leading digital media agency. In addition to its roaring service business, Mindgruve is also working on spinning out a few products of its own. Chad is also the founder of Mindgruve Ventures, which invests in and helps to accelerate tech startups in San Diego. 

I missed SXSW (the massive Austin music/film/tech expo for the uninitiated) this year because we were hiking in the Himalayas but Chad was there for the whole week and was kind enough to share his take-aways from the gathering:

  1.  Develop relationships with your customer first and focus on the technology second. Too many companies do this backwards.
  2. When building a business, don’t focus on what you know, focus on what you don’t know: your customers. You want to build a business focused on their needs, not yours.
  3. It’s better to have 10 customers who love your product than 100 who like it. Optimize your business toward your most valuable customers.
  4. Figure out where the puck is going, not where it is. Market to who your customers will be a year from now rather than who they are today.
  5. Know your currency. What is the customer looking for more of and what are they willing to pay for? The team from Dropbox found that space was their currency. They learned that customers were using Dropbox for photos, which caused them to gravitate toward mobile. This drove their business in a new direction.
  6. Defining your market is more about defining your customer than your demographic. Just because you have two customers who are white women in their 40s doesn’t mean that those two women have the same customer needs.
  7. Live your business and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. The founder of Airbnb does not have a home. He lives in the rental houses his site provides to customers.
  8. Rather than think about social sharing among your customers, make it easier for customers to use what they are already using. Customer delight will lead to social sharing.

Advice to live by as you grow your business…