When the Oil Wells Run Dry: The Industry That Can Save Us

This article appeared in Khaleejesque Magazine, INDUSTRIAL Issue, published November, 2015. It is published on this blog with the consent of the author and magazine. All credits and copyrights are reserved to Khaleejesque, 2015. Click here to subscribe to Khaleejesque, or follow them on Instagram @Khaleejesque 

Author: Hashim Bahbahani

Magazine Artwork: Reema Motib

5 min read.

On April 15th, 2015 there was an incredibly important global announcement that went unheeded by the Khaleeji mass media and general population. It was an announcement that could propel a series of life altering implications for every Khaleeji citizen.

The announcement, which was kept secret for months, was made by Tesla Motors CEO and founder Elon Musk. Musk revealed that Tesla had invented and commercialized the Tesla Powerwall, a new “home battery” powered completely by solar panels that could potentially power an entire house for a fraction of what conventional electricity would cost.

The goal of the solar powered home battery is to lessen the demand and reliance on petroleum and gasoline. In other words, with Tesla’s Powerwall, the world is a step closer to needing a lot less oil.

While Tesla’s battery on its own will never be enough to completely wipe out the demand for oil, it does signal the start of a realistic and feasible movement away from gasoline and into other more sustainable energy resources. The thing to remember about technology is that it grows exponentially, and there is no reason why that wouldn’t be the case with alternative energy. In fact, since President Obama took office, the United States “has increased solar electricity generation by more than twenty folds”, according to the White House official website. It is not unfathomable to think that the world could start harnessing alternative energy more efficiently, and almost completely move away from a reliance on oil in the course of the next twenty years. That is not as long away as it seems.

So what happens to our Gulf when our oil is no longer needed – no longer pumped – and all the oil wells dry up?

It is a predictable and daunting scenario. The Arabian Gulf is barren of valuable natural resources. The climate is unbearable, and the current infrastructure is unsustainable without a continuous influx of money and natural energy. Deprived of oil, the economy cannot support the current population.

We could be facing impending socio-economic extinction without even knowing it.

But there is still hope; there is still time.

Beyond investing in alternative energy, the Gulf must look to build an industry that is capable of surviving in a post-oil world; an industry that can vitalize an economy without depending on natural resources. But it also has to be an industry that is considerable and substantial enough to provide economic vitalization to the region.

The only industry that fits into that mold is the software technology industry, or as it is more commonly known “the tech industry.” This industry is built fundamentally on human intelligence. When it comes to developing software, there are no substantial hard assets in play, nor is there any significant reliance on natural resources. The rise of any tech sector is almost purely dependent on the capabilities of the people involved in it.

Undoubtedly, a strong tech sector can invigorate an economy. Today, two of the five highest valued companies in the world are software companies, Google and Microsoft; seven of the top thirty are highly involved in software engineering. In the U.S., the software technology sector provides the highest paying jobs, and consistently beats new employment figures for all other sectors, including oil and gas. Jobs in the tech industry are high in both quality and quantity.

But above all else, there is one factor that makes the tech industry our best bet for economic survival: speed. We, the GCC Nations, need to start realizing that time is no longer on our side. The biggest danger we face today is that we are in voluntary oblivion of the ever accelerating possibility of economic demise. If the demand for oil drops significantly, the ramifications will hit us hard, and they’ll hit us very quickly. Will we wonder at that time how we could’ve been so oblivious to our collective fragility?

Successful technology companies can give rise to a strong tech sector relatively quickly. The nature of software products allows technology tech startups to scale and grow at lightning speed. Take, for example, Uber, the real-time ride request platform. After only six years of existence, Uber has reached a valuation of approximately $50 billion. To put that in perspective, Uber is already bigger than gigantic companies that have been around for decades, like Deutsche Bank, Sony, Phillips, FedEx, and many more. Another example is Google, which, only after sixteen years of existence, employs over 55,000 people, providing those employees with unparalleled pay and benefits. The examples are endless.

If the right steps are taken, there is a real possibility that over the next twenty years the Gulf can transform into a new Silicon Valley and a breeding ground for global tech giants. A Khaleeji tech hub will also attract entrepreneurs to establish their startups in the area, and thus increasing the possibility of more successful tech companies blooming out of the Gulf. The main economic value for the region will come in the tax revenue captured from the financial success of these companies. Another important economic value will be in job creation, as large tech companies can provide high paying jobs at different levels and across a wide variety of specialties.

So what needs to happen for the dream of a Khaleeji Silicon Valley to become a reality? The task of establishing a dynamic tech industry is monumental and complicated. But it is highly possible nonetheless. In broad terms, there are three fundamental steps:

–   The current surplus of money from the oil and gas sector must be invested in building a technological infrastructure – internet and network systems, mobile connectivity, etc – to support software innovation. Additionally, governments must systematically invest in startups that might appear too risky for private investors.

–   Governments must revise rules and regulations surrounding software technology companies and e-commerce to allow companies to scale and grow to their maximum potential without unnecessary barriers.

–   Most importantly, the private and public sector must take a proactive approach towards developing and cultivating software engineering talent. In other words, we need to invest in producing better coders. Remember, the success of any tech sector is mostly reliant on human capabilities and intellect. The best way to produce world-class programmers is to provide Khaleejies interested in coding with the right education and training. It’s simple, but imperative. Recently, I co-founded “Coded”, the first coding academy in the Gulf, with a mission of offering world-class software engineering education to aspiring young men and women in Kuwait. Our hope is that Coded is the first of many local coding schools that aim to cultivate a new generation of topnotch Khaleeji coders.

Today, the Gulf is ripe to be a new global tech hub. There is an abundance of private and public investment funds, high consumer purchasing power, and a plethora of market opportunities. But beyond that, there is an ambitious and daring generation that is passionate about turning their dreams and ideas into reality using technology and software engineering. Investing in that generation is our only true hope.

There is a dark cloud hovering on our Khaleeji horizon, edging ever closer to us. We have willingly chosen to ignore it thus far, unconcerned with the storm it carries within it. But if we act purposefully and quickly, we can prepare ourselves for what’s ahead. And we might – just might – catch a glimpse of a silver lining.

 

This article appeared in Khaleejesque Magazine, INDUSTRIAL Issue, published November, 2015. It is published on this blog with the consent of the author and magazine. All credits and copyrights are reserved to Khaleejesque, 2015. Click here to subscribe to Khaleejesque, or follow them on Instagram @Khaleejesque 

 

Building Your Startup Clan: Three Traits to Look for in Early Employees

This article appeared in Khaleejesque Magazine, CLAN Issue, published September, 2015. It is published on this blog with the consent of the author and magazine. All credits and copyrights are reserved to Khaleejesque, 2015. Click here to subscribe to Khaleejesque, or follow them on Instagram @Khaleejesque 

Author: Hashim Bahbahani

5 min read.

“Would you take this job if you had a medical diagnosis that says you only have a year left to live?”

If you were asked that question during the job interview you attended for the job you currently hold, what would’ve been your truthful answer?

Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of $20 billion lodging rental website AirBnB, directed the “one-year-to-live” question to candidates for the first few core job openings at AirBnB.

The question, while perhaps disturbing and extreme, aims to gauge the candidates’ passion and dedication for the company. It might be incomprehensible to expect that anyone would answer “yes” to that question given the miniscule size of AirBnB at that time. However, after four years of running a startup myself, I can understand the importance entailed in the answer to that question.

In the startup world, where there’s always a ceaseless debate on the validity of every step towards success, there is a rare consensus on founders hiring the first few employees: get it wrong and your startup will fail. It is that bluntly unforgiving. That is because the first batch of employees will have the biggest impact on the longevity and future success of any startup. At such an early stage, their contributions and shortcomings can make or break a company.

There are several factors to consider when hiring the first few members of your startup clan, mainly: domain expertise, education, professional background, and personality. But because startups are unique organisms with specific requirements for their survival and growth, there are other more fundamental character traits that early employees must possess. In my own startup experience, I progressively became more aware of which qualities in a candidate truly matter.

The following three traits are what a founder should look for in an early employee:

 

Dedication- belief in the startup’s mission

Think back to Chesky’s question. What he’s really asking is “do you believe in what we’re trying to do here passionately enough to dedicate your life to it?”

No matter how trivial or profound the purpose of your startup might seem, every member of the team must wholeheartedly believe in the venture’s ultimate objective. Often, founders are tempted to look for “hard working” employees. But I don’t believe that there is such a thing as innately hard working individuals. Rather, hard work is an organic result of pursuing a grand mission. Therefore, it is more fruitful for a founder to identify individuals who fully share their passion for the startup’s vision and goals.

Honesty- belonging to the clan

A startup is more than just a group of individuals working on a project. A startup is a family, with shared values, beliefs, and objectives. As it is true with any family, honesty is the backbone of collaboration and teamwork.

And while honesty in communication is imperative, there is an equally important form of honesty that cannot be understated: honesty in self assessing work-product. In a highly pressurized setting such a startup, it is easy and tempting for a team member to compromise the quality of their work because founders do not have time to check over every nook and cranny. Therefore, founders must hire individuals who share their standards of quality and excellence, and who have the integrity to autonomously hold their work to those standards.

That kind of honesty is what allows trust to thrive among members of a startup clan.

Curiosity- a willingness to learn

By the time I hired my sixth and last core employee at my e-commerce startup, I valued curiosity above all else in my team members.

True curiosity can often be mistaken for passing interest. There is a simple way to identify a sense of genuine and potent curiosity: look to see how much work and effort has been exerted in pursuit of an interest.

One of the people I was considering as a co-founder told me he was interested in becoming a triathlete. He had no experience whatsoever in the sport. He simply thought it was something he could do well. I was skeptical, and asked what he had done to pursue that interest. He told me he had already dedicated himself to a rigorous workout program, hired a personal running trainer, and had pinpointed a local triathlon in which to compete within a few months. I knew at the point that this person would not shy away from a challenge, and that he had the desire to constantly explore new opportunities.

Fortunately, I wasn’t mistaken. He led our business development team successfully, and has recently competed in an international triathlon competition.

In the ever-changing and dynamic world of startups, a willingness to learn new things becomes a team’s greatest asset. Founders must look for individuals who thrive beyond their comfort zone.

A founder is best advised to never compromise on any of the aforementioned traits when hiring, especially at the early stages of a startup. Those traits are always associated with highly motivated and talented individuals. A startup’s success hinges, above all else, on the core team; and a tightly knit team of dedicated, honest, and curious individuals is a force to be reckoned with.

Although it was spoken in completely different context, I can’t help but recall Margaret Mead’s famous quote:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

This article appeared in Khaleejesque Magazine, CLAN Issue, published September, 2015. It is published on this blog with the consent of the author and magazine. All credits and copyrights are reserved to Khaleejesque, 2015. Click here to subscribe to Khaleejesque, or follow them on Instagram @Khaleejesque 

RECAP: StartupQ8 Monthly Event (August ’15)

Every month, StartupQ8 hosts two speakers from the startup world to talk to the Kuwaiti startup community about some of the lessons and experiences they’ve went through, and talk about the startup they’re currently working on. Last night, the event took place at The VIVA Coded Academy. The two speakers were Ali Abulhasan, co-founder of goTap, a new payment ecosystem for Kuwait, and Saleh Almusallam, co-founder of Prodesign IT, the makers of FanScan (Instagram based app that has over 3 million downloads).

The two topics of discussion were mirrored around how a technical founder deals with the business side of a startup (Saleh’s part), and how a business founder manages a technical project and a development team (Ali’s part).

Both speakers offered valuable insights on their respective approach. For Ali, he admitted having initial trouble bridging the gap between himself and his technical team. One of the ways he mitigated that was by educating himself on some of the fundamentals of software as related to his field (payments) in which he already had previous experience. The other way was for him to board on developers who had the right mindset for a Tap’s philosophy of focusing on user experience. Ali admits that he would love to have more developers on his team, but that a lack of coding talent has restricted him greatly in that sense (we hope our Coded students can solve that problem!). To combat that issue, he tries to work with freelancers who might have the potential and intention to become full-timers at Tap.

As for Saleh, he faced a different dilemma. Saleh is a technical founder, and has had experience launching a few applications and websites. In his talk, he discussed the importance of learning on how to stay “lean”. He warned that the biggest pitfall for a technical founder was not in disregarding the business side, but rather the need to perfect a product before launching. Saleh advised the audience that “done is better than perfect”, alluding to the importance of launching a product early to gain feedback and data on usability. As for dealing with the business side, Saleh is a believer in first making something people love, than backing that up with venture financing and a strong business model that comes naturally with the product. He did, however, warn against sticking to a single revenue stream or remaining inflexible when it comes to changing the business model.

 

Stay tuned for more of our monthly events to hear more from startup founders and entrepreneurs! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Instagram @startupq8

Failure: The Cornerstone of a Successful Startup Community

This article appeared in Khaleejesque Magazine, ECONOMICS Issue, published March, 2015. A PDF copy of the article is available here. It is published on this blog with the consent of the author and magazine. All credits and copyrights are reserved to Khaleejesque, 2015. Click here to subscribe to Khaleejesque, or follow them on Instagram @Khaleejesque 

Author: Hashim Bahbahani

Print Artwork: Khaleejesque Team

4 min read.

I paused momentarily as I stood outside the meeting room, took a deep breath, tightened my left hand grip on my laptop briefcase, exhaled, and slowly turned the door handle to enter what I knew would be the last-ever meeting for our startup. There was only one item on the agenda: shutting down.

Even as I took my seat at the meeting table and drew a sip out of what seemed to be the blandest cup of coffee I have ever tasted, I thought one more time about reversing my decision to end our startup venture. In truth, I had spent more than a month agonizing over this decision. I fully understood the cold facts: our e-commerce platform for small businesses was not gaining enough traction or engagement, we were out of money, and we had little to show for after three years of trial and error.

But I also understood that shutting down our startup meant that I had to publicly admit failure and live with all the ramifications such an admission entailed. That, above all, was my source of agony.

In the Gulf region, thousands of startups founded by ambitious entrepreneurs have to deal with facing failure. Failure, after all, is the more likely scenario for a startup, statistically speaking.  This fact is fully embraced in developed startup ecosystems, where failure is celebrated and thought of as a rite of passage for entrepreneurs. In Silicon Valley, for example, “Fail Fast” is a divine mantra meant to encourage startups to rapidly try everything possible to make an idea successful, admit failure if it doesn’t work, learn from the experience, and take those lessons forward to the next venture.

This definition is a stark contrast to how failure is perceived in the Gulf region. Abdullah Asiri, founder and CEO of Saudi based startups ShopMate and Waqood Tech, remarks: “In global tech hubs, true failure is defined as stopping after the first unsuccessful try. If you don’t learn from the lessons of your first experience and apply them to the next startup (or the one after that), it renders the first attempt pointless. In mature startup economies, there is a lot of encouragement to openly discuss your failure in order to dissect it and learn as much as possible from it, and then try again.”

Asiri believes this encouragement is absent in the Gulf startup scene because there is a heavy punishment for failure.

“Here (in the GCC), it is very difficult for entrepreneurs to try again in a new startup because the backlash they confront from society after their first failure makes it unbearable to take another chance and risk facing such societal pressure again,” Asiri continues. “Moreover, investors here become much less inclined to invest with you if you have previous failures. In short, this pressure and punishment inhibit an unsuccessful attempt from becoming a learning experience. It makes failure permanent.”

Asiri’s comment on investor behavior in the Gulf region is critical. Venture Capital (capital invested in new or expanding businesses in which there is substantial risk) is the bloodline of any startup ecosystem. While society plays an important role in encouraging a tolerance of failure, venture capitalists (VC’s) and angel investors (an individual investor who invests in high risk, high growth businesses) have the biggest impact. If investors refuse to invest in a startup because of the past failures of its founders, then those investors are tangibly punishing failure.

In order to further understand how investors in the GCC, both corporate and individual, react to past failures from entrepreneurs, I spoke with Mona Al-Mukhaizeem, co-founder of Kuwaiti startup accelerator Sirdab Lab, and an angel investor herself.

“Investors in the Gulf are accustomed to low risk investments, such as real estate or debt bonds. They have limited tolerance for failure,” Al-Mukhaizeem remarked. “A strong Venture Capital firm or angel investor must possess a different mentality; one that is more realistic about the risk of failure for startups. Without such investor mentality, capital will never flow into the GCC startup economy.”

However, Al-Mukhaizeem, who has experience with VC’s in Silicon Valley, believes that there’s a gradual shift in the way investors in the region evaluate startups: “There is a new breed of angel investors and VC’s in the Gulf region who understand that nine times out of ten startups will fail. But the impact and reward from that one successful startup more than makes up for the shortcomings of those unsuccessful ventures.  Thus, this new generation of investors is willing to give promising startup teams multiple chances to succeed. It’s a very important change towards building a successful startup community.”

Al-Mukhaizeem has also noticed through her heavy involvement in Sirdab Lab and the GCC startup scene that founders who fail are finding more support and encouragement.

“In the past, we saw founders clinging on to floundering startups because they did not want to be portrayed as failures by their friends, family, and peers. However, as a sense of community and togetherness fosters in the startup community, more people are sharing their experiences with failed businesses. An optimal learning curve is only achievable if entrepreneurs have the chance to learn from their own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others,” concluded Al-Mukhaizeem.

Fundamentally, startups are experiments of innovation. As is the nature of innovation, there must be multiple attempts before success is realized. For multiple attempts to occur, society, investors, and entrepreneurs have to perceive failure as a step in the learning ladder. As the Gulf community gradually shifts towards a “fail well, fail fast, try again” mentality, a more impactful and inventive startup community will thrive. Lest we forget, Edison burnt a thousand light bulbs before one finally lit up the world.

This article appeared in Khaleejesque Magazine, ECONOMICS Issue, published March, 2015. A PDF copy of the article is available here. It is published on this blog with the consent of the author and magazine. All credits and copyrights are reserved to Khaleejesque, 2015. Click here to subscribe to Khaleejesque, or follow them on Instagram @Khaleejesque 

Snapchat Vs Facebook (Part 2): The Real Advantage Of Being A Startup

4 minute read

 

In Part 1 of the “Snapchat Vs Facebook” feature, I briefly described the scene of battle between the two companies, and how Evan Spiegel and his Snapchat team won the war.

 

But Part 1 didn’t tell the whole story. Although Snapchat’s decision to focus on a core feature set was instrumental to its success, there is another equally important strategic insight that put Snapchat on the course to grabbing market share from Facebook (and Instagram). Simply put, Evan Spiegel understood that customer perception is the only thing that mattered when it came to why a customer favored one product over another identical product that preformed the same function. The key word there is “perception”; that customer might not be right, and the company might refute any customer claims, and make a substantial effort to alter that perception. Ultimately, however, customer perception is hard to influence.

The story of another well-known startup can shed more light on the importance of customer perception. Chatroulette, a website that randomly paired people in a video chat, experienced the good and bad of customer perception.

When Chatroulette became a hit in 2009, most experts doubted that the website would take off because users would fear that the website would store the video chats, and as such there was a trust issue between users and the company (person) running the platform. However, despite what experts predicted, the site continued to grow to the point where it had thousands of daily users logging in and video chatting endlessly.

How did Chatroulette gain the trust of users so quickly? It didn’t. Chatroulette had poor design, shady exterior, and a primitive interface. As such, users thought the website’s runner lacked the technical ability and prowess to store user information or videos. The customer perception was that this website is so basic that there is no way it was set up to source videos, hack their cameras, or infringe on their cyber privacy.

Ultimately, however, user perception changed. People started to perceive Chatroulette as a dangerous and unregulated outlet for perverted individuals. That perception lived on for too long, and by the time Chatroulette installed methods and regulations (banning explicit material and so on), it was already too late. Chatroulette user engagement dropped dramatically, and the website eventually faded into oblivion.

In Facebook’s case, Evan Spiegel understood that after seven years of global popularity, the social network was no longer a small startup operating out of a living room. Facebook has become a multi-billion dollar cooperation, with powerful means and capabilities. In that light, customers now perceived Facebook as a “big-brother” type of website that stored and leveraged user data for advertisement, and, perhaps, more. It is not uncommon to hear people talk about Facebook as a sort of “intelligence” operation with strong ties to the CIA and FBI (mainly, that Facebook was providing governments with private information disclosed by users).

While there is no evidence of such ties or any “spying” activities, Facebook continuously refutes these claims and unremittingly publicizes a thorough privacy policy. However, these efforts could not overcome the stronghold of customer perception.

Spiegel understood that Facebook Poke (Facebook’s answer to Snapchat) would not succeed because customers could not trust that Facebook wouldn’t “steal” ephemeral pictures and messages. Unsurprisingly, Snapchat came out with a strong, clear, and simple policy: “We do not store pictures, videos, or messages anywhere”.

Snapchat was new; there was no prior customer perception to fight and overcome. It could create and shape the way users viewed the company and the app, and it did that successfully.

As mentioned in the conclusion of part 1, Evan Spiegel understood that he had won the war with Facebook before it had even started. A more accurate analysis is that Facebook had entered a war it simply could not win.

 

Slice of Advice

As a startup, the biggest advantage you have is that you are completely new to customers. Understand how your customers perceive the competition (both negatively and positively), and assess any advantages to be gained from that perception.

 

Brace Yourself: Your Startup Idea Will Change

Be wary of emotional attachment; for a Startup, it can be a double edged sword.

 

PayPal went from nothing to a market cap of $1.5 billion in 4 years. The growth of PayPal was remarkable, and to this day, it is the talk of legends and myths in Silicon Valley. What most people miss about the PayPal story is the number of fundamental changes, or pivots, the company had to go through before finding product-market fit.

 

Here’s the Five Pivot journey PayPal went through to discover its “best use scenario”:

 

First it was an encryption platform for mobile phones. Then it became a “Cash on Mobile Phones” application. Then it became an email payments system. Then it became an email payments AND PalmPilot payment system. Then it reverted back to an email payment service with a focus on e-commerce, mainly for use on e-bay.

 

This entire journey took 15 months.

 

Once PayPal discovered its best use scenario, it focused all of its efforts on enhancing that service for users. In 2002, four years after a young team of entrepreneurs set out to build an encryption platform for mobiles, PayPal was sold to e-bay for $1.5 billion.

 

(Watch this video by Reid Hoffman, co-founder, as he describes PayPal’s blistering journey of pivots)

 

Pivoting is a science and an art. To pivot successfully, a startup must have supreme agility and blistering reactivity to customer feedback. The founding team must combine quantitative analysis with qualitative interpretation to fully understand what the market demands.

 

So why do most startups experience “pivot failure”?

 

The answer is that most founders treat a startup “like it’s their baby”. What that means is that founders get emotionally attached to the original idea, and convince themselves it’s a winner while ignoring all signals from the market. They are so emotionally invested in an unproven concept that they fail to recognize a need to change (or pivot). Emotional attachment creates blindness to reality and compromises objectivity.

 

There is no doubt that founders have to be inherently passionate about an idea, or they are doomed to fail. But that passion must be balanced with a flexibility to change according to customer feedback in order to reach the holy grail of product-market fit.

 

Slice of Advice

If you’re a founder, make sure that you and your team realize that your idea will most certainly require fundamental changes. Save your emotional capital to after your product has achieved product-market fit. At that point, you are free to pour your heart into it. Startup success requires agility, both in thinking and emotion.

The Power of Small Changes: From Bankruptcy to $10 Billion

For a startup, a small change could potentially lead to gigantic results.

 

There’s a well-known but often untold story about Airbnb, the worldwide platform for renting lodges and residential space. In 2009, Airbnb had been operating for about a year, and was facing doom and failure straight in the face. The Silicon Valley startup had flat-lined at revenue of $200 a month for a long period of time, and was starting to run out of cash very quickly (most of the cash they had was in the form of credit card/ personal debt).

At that point, the Airbnb founders joined Y Combinator and were advised to forget scalability and focus on customer satisfaction. With that advice, the team reassessed their website and embraced customer mentality to understand why users were coming to the website but not making bookings. The answer stared them in the face: the pictures of lodges and apartments posted by hosts were terrible. Really terrible. It was no surprise none of the customers were booking; the low quality pictures made most lodges look shady, at best.

Over the course of the next weekend, all but one member of the Airbnb team went to New York City to photograph the existing listings with professional cameras and equipment. The following Monday, all those photos were posted, and everyone at Airbnb monitored the results with little expectation that it would create any significant ruffle.

To their (happy) surprise, revenue in the week of that same Monday doubled to $400. In hindsight, that seems insignificant, but at that time, it was huge. It was movement.

It also put Airbnb on the right track towards growth. The result gave them a clear sense of guidance, and a better understanding of their customer base. It was a small change, but one that fundamentally altered how the startup approached problems. No longer did they adhere to the Silicon Valley mentality of “solving everything with lines of code” from behind a computer. Rather, they sought a new approach of “leaving the building” in order to go find and talk to their (potential) customers.

Today, Airbnb continue to embrace the “small, seemingly insignificant” changes because they have experienced firsthand the exponential power a minor alteration entails. In fact, their CPO, Joe Gebbia, believes that if it weren’t for that one change back in 2009, Airbnb would have fizzled out into the graveyard of forgotten startups. He also credits the “photography” solution as the feature that propelled them towards the $10 billion valuation they have recently achieved.

 

 

Slice of Advice:

Take solace in the Airbnb story if you are facing doom and gloom, and remember that when you think your product is dead, a minor alteration driven by a true understanding of your customers can revitalize everything. Dissect your product, and experiment with small changes to your design, code, or software until you find that “ruffle”.

 

Video: Airbnb Co-founder discusses the embrace of the “small change”

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