Testing your idea, market, product or service, is key to knowing whether youâ€™re on your way to growing a sustainable business or if you need to go back to the drawing board. Thatâ€™s the lesson that came out of Spotting the Next Big Tech Trend, one of the sessions on the second day of Black Enterpriseâ€™s TechConneXt Summit.
Panelists Charley Moore, founder and CEO of Rocket Lawyer; Amber Senter, a cannabis marketing consultant; and Emeka Anen, founder and CEO of THRONE, shared their experiences with moderator Jon Gosier, founder of Cross Valley Capital, and an audience eager to hear about the trends in their respective industries.
â€œFrom the operational perspective, when youâ€™re thinking of going from a good idea to a good business, the word ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“testâ€™ is really important because you have to build your business on the back of several of theses. In setting yourself up to be successful, you want to have several theses so if you find one isnâ€™t working, you can pivot,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â says Anen, who founded a community where aficionados buy, trade, and discover new sneakers.
That testing doesnâ€™t always have to be a huge undertaking, and it should definitely not happen in a vacuum. â€œIn the cannabis industry you can test ideas on a pretty small scale and find out if theyâ€™re going to work or not,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Senter says, emphasizing thatâ€™s itâ€™s important to talk through your ideas with othersÂ and to have mentors to bounce those ideas off of.
Moore underscored that itâ€™s an ongoing process. â€œYou really donâ€™t know whether somebodyâ€™s willing to pay for something until they do.Â Find out if people are willing to pay for what youâ€™re doingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬â€the sooner the betterÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬â€and build on that knowledge.Â The fastest you can get to customer validation; if you have a business where you can get it in front of customers quickly and follow the process youâ€™re going to follow foreverÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬â€test and iterateÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬â€the better off youâ€™ll be,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he says.
The value of testingÂ increases if youâ€™re planning to bring on investors.Â ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚ÂIf youâ€™re going to be a venture-backed business, you have to think of what kind of return theyâ€™re going to want. So you need to test and understand demand,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â says Moore. â€œIs this something that a lot of people are going to want? And then ask, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Can we satisfy that demand? Do we have the scale?â€™ Both of those go into whether itâ€™s a great idea.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Anen says another reason testing is essential, is that despite Silicon Valleyâ€™s reputation as a place that encourages failure, black entrepreneurs donâ€™t enjoy that same leeway. â€œWe donâ€™t completely have the freedom to fail yet because weâ€™re so young in the space. But in theory, if you have the opportunity to sacrifice making a dollar up front to make 10 down the road, thatâ€™s a privileged position to be in,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he says. â€œIf you see that, I think itâ€™s a sign that weâ€™re growing as a community in the space.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â