I met a man last year who had left a comfortable job in lieu of pursuing entrepreneurship. He told me he wanted success more than any of his competitors, and because he wanted it so badly, he wouldn’t be amongst those 95% of startups doomed to fail. When I asked him where the idea for his product came from, he answered by telling me he didn’t want to work a traditional 9-5 and the idea of being his own boss resonated with him. He never answered my question, and that's because in his case, being an entrepreneur came first, and building a product came second.

I’ve heard this story many times - in the age of the “startup unicorn,” it’s easy to romanticize entrepreneurship. But I also know how this story often ends. Starting a business for the sake of being your own boss sounds sexy, but without a product tha fulfills a need experienced by a niche audience, growth isn’t possible.

Why? Because user innovation reigns king when it comes to creating products people want. The most famously successful startups were born when their founder had a specific problem they couldn't solve with any existing tool, created the solution themselves, and then commercialized it. Solutions like these are easily adopted and popularized because their sole purpose is to solve a problem.

A perfect example of what this looks like can be seen with the topic of our 7th Startup Spotlight, AnyRoad - an Experience Relationship Manager (ERM) for enterprises that leverage experiential marketing.

Brothers and co-founders, Daniel and Jonathan Yaffe, were both were working for businesses who relied on monetizing customer experiences when they realized typical CRMs were ineffective for collecting and analyzing data from events and other experiences.

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For Jonathan, the need for AnyRoad was evident while working for Red Bull after college. He spent his days engaging with the public by handing out Red Bull energy drinks, and throwing company sponsored events. He knew these experiences delighted customers, but realized it was impossible to calculate at their customer acquisition rates, or even measure the return on investment for these types of experiences.

Meanwhile, Daniel saw the need for AnyRoad after he started Drink Me Magazine - a lifestyle magazine and directory for beers, wines and spirits. It was here he saw first-hand how much wineries, breweries and distilleries depended on tours and tasting programs for marketing and generating sales. He inherently knew that these experiences worked to create brand loyalty, but didn’t know how to measure, track, or improve it.

The two brothers created AnyRoad to solve this problem for a niche that wasn’t being served. With AnyRoad, brands can learn more about their customers, A/B test and optimize their experiential marketing, and draw meaningful analysis from compiled data to inform future business decisions. The platform has been used to power 250,000 experiences by some of the world's most innovative brands, including Anheuser-Busch, The Warriors, Honda, and the Famous Grouse to manage, measure, and leverage the millions of visitors that visit them each year.

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While having a product that solves a problem is the first step in creating a successful business, the Yaffe brothers also understand that the timing of your solution, as well as the product development process are crucial to success - and their timing couldn’t have been better. In 2016 alone, there was a 30% increase in AdBlocker installs, which is just one indication of how today’s audiences expect more valuable engagement, such as experiences, over traditional forms of marketing that are viewed as distractions.  

As far as the product development process goes, the brothers stress that focusing on a continuous cycle of iteration and customer feedback is essential to spurring exponential growth. As they put it, “Google didn't start by launching Life Extension, self-driving cars, mobile phones, and Youtube. They began with a single product and perfected it with a massive following and built from there.”

To learn more about what Jonathan and Daniel are up to with Anyroad, visit them on Twitter.


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