Milind Kopikare’s Bio
Milind Kopikare is a Product executive who has helped build products from zero to a multi-million dollar business for many Silicon Valley companies including Qualtrics, Google, McKinsey and Marvell Semiconductors. He is currently the President of Great Learning, an ed-tech company that is transforming skill and job based education for the global workforce.
Prior to this, he was the VP and Head of Product for Qualtrics and grew the Qualtrics SaaS business to a $400Mn ARR and helped towards an eventual acquisition by SAP for $8Bn. In the process, he also helped start a whole new business category called Experience Management. If that’s not enough, he also teaches Product Management and Entrepreneurship as a Professor at the University of Utah Eccles School of Management. His current research is in the area of using Data Science and Machine Learning for product research and while at Qualtrics, had launched the world’s first AI driven tool for product and market research called Expert Review. He has been granted 20 Patents. Milind is also an alum of Kellogg (Zell Scholar), Stanford (ISL Scholar), and IIT Bombay (President’s Gold Medalist).
Idea and Product Market Fit
Ideas are fun. Exciting. When it comes to establishing a business on an idea, you have to be sure it’s the right idea. There’s a difference between having an idea and having the right idea.
First, you need to make sure there’s a need in the market. Then work backwards. What’s the problem? After you’ve found the problem, you can begin to think of an idea to solve that problem. As Milind said, don’t get a hammer and go shopping for the nail to hit. Identify the nail, then build the hammer.
So, how do you do that? Follow these two simple (maybe not easy) steps:
- Identify your target market
- Identify their unmet need.
There’s a difference between wants and needs. But needs are hard to articulate. In his highly applicable and relatable example, Milind talked about how if Ford had asked what people want he may have returned with feedback like “more horses.” But by focusing on the need– to get from A to B as fast as possible– he was able to reimagine transportation as people understood it and truly deliver on an unmet need.
This story really helps highlight how people aren’t the best at judging what’s possible. That’s your job as the entrepreneur and innovator. And finding that unmet need is what will help unlock your creativity and develop a truly unique solution.
It also helps to consider how aware people are of this pain. Are they comfortable and content in what they’re doing? Are they acutely aware of the inconvenience in their life? Talk to everyone across the pain awareness spectrum. You’ll get a great amount of feedback that will help drive and influence your creative process. One caveat to point out is that this could lead to different target audiences. Double and triple check to make sure that pain awareness levels don’t change your target buyer.
How do you identify the unmet need?
Talk to people. Talk to your future customers. Make sure to ask a good variety of questions; questions that have nothing to do with the product you want to sell. Questions that are based around the individual’s life. Ask about what’s going on before the problem might present itself. What’s the status quo? What’s being interrupted? What are the emotional and social aspects that they’re trying to change or fulfill?
Keep asking why. Toyota is famous for a story about asking why. Top level executives would come to the floor and check on things. In an effort to understand and refine the business, they would often stop to ask an employee “why.” That was then followed by 4 more whys. They believed it took that many to reach the bottom of a decision or problem.
So as you ask questions like the following, don’t be afraid to dig deeper. Ask them to tell you more. Ask them why. Say things like “keep going.” Or simply repeat their last phrase or the last 3 words with a question mark at the end of your statement.
Where do you spend most of your time? What are you not able to do because something is taking up your time? What do you wish you could do?
The trick here is to not be distracted by the obvious. Think about what the jobs are to be done? What are the emotional and social jobs that need to be done? Unseen. Unknown. Those are the jobs your need to find. You’re not looking to solve the obvious problems. That’s why you’re asking why so often and digging so deep. It’s the only way you’ll uncover the non-obvious to help you solve the social and emotional problems.
This seems to be a trendy topic of research and reading for many top executives. And for a good reason. Understanding humans is not easy. But there has been a lot of good research done to help you peak into why we do things, what motivates us, etc.
To help you do this more specifically for your business, make sure to use a range of techniques. Talk to your customer. Friends and family aren’t necessarily your customer. Make sure to interview and observe the right people even if it’s not convenient.
Observations can be so powerful. There’s so much that we do that is either muscle memory, common place, or inconsequential that we wouldn’t think to include when verbalizing an answer to a question. Though it may seem tedious, observing your future customer can provide you with some good insight that interviewing may not.
Many are familiar with the go-to summer money maker most American kids have tried once in their life: a lemonade stand. It’s a battle to see
Shout the loudest
Bring your price down
This happens a lot! And it’s a lose-lose game.
- The product– the drink. Milkshake.
- The production– the ingredients. Coconut milk.
- The buyer– grandparents. Grandmas.
- The consumer– kids.
Exotic. Around the same price point.
The buyer can be different from the consumer. In those instances, you have to appeal to both.
Asking, when you’re thirsty what do you like to drink most, can mislead you. Walk in their shoes. Be them. Now that you know that, try and solve that problem with the product you want to develop.
- Market opportunity
- Who is the buyer?
- What is their unmet need?