To find success in the startup world, you need a killer product that people want, but you also need to identify the best market for your innovative idea. These do not always come at the same time, but are crucial to creating a successful company. This is part of the reason we created the Cornerstone Program; to help student teams develop their startup ideas, and to find the best product-market fit. For team ShopMe, the Cornerstone Program helped them to identify how their innovative business idea could be harnessed by a different audience than anticipated.
We caught up with the team to discuss their progress and learn more about how they were able to pivot their idea in the Cornerstone Program to set themselves up for future success.
Q: What was the idea that you entered into Cornerstone with?
A: We started out with BookMe, an online scheduling tool for the automotive industry. If you needed an oil change or car repairs, you could go to the auto shop’s website and easily schedule your appointment. We were having trouble onboarding shops as they were unwilling or uninterested in introducing new software to their booking system. They were happy with their current workflow and felt their customers were used to how they did things, so there was little incentive for change.
Q: While participating in Cornerstone, you shifted your idea, can you tell us about that?
A: Through conversations with automotive industry users and their hesitancy to change, we discovered that this was not a viable market. Some red flags we noticed was the lack of excitement for the platform, lack of desire to communicate with us, and the fact that our product was seen as a nice to have and not a must. During our testing phase we left it open for anyone to join, and a totally new segment emerged.
We found that there was a group of artisanal vendors who wanted to use the platform as a way to schedule custom orders for their clients. Through customer discovery and interviews with these vendors, we realized that there was a whole other market that we could appeal to. They were eager to communicate, ask for updates on the platform, and ask for feedback on their sites. We decided to use the BookMe tool as an MVP to test out some additional features for this new audience, and then used the learnings from that to launch the ShopMe tool.
Q: Did this change in direction affect the team dynamic?
A: We were all still on board and committed to the idea. Once we decided to pivot, we learned to slow down a bit and refocus our team on different aspects of the idea. We were able to shift focus on growing different segments of the company and make each team member more accountable for their specific responsibilities.
Q: Can you describe your new platform, ShopMe, and what it provides for customers?
A: The premise of our product is to help our customers by providing them with a platform where they can capture all their purchase requests in a seamless manner, while also have a professional website to sell their creations. Right now, a lot of our customers are operating through Instagram messaging which takes a long time to fully capture and complete an order due to the high degree of customization. This is where we recognized the problem and how we can solve it through the ShopMe platform where we provide a free, customizable website to better communicate with customers and capture all the requirements for each order.
Q: What is the main thing that sets you apart from your competitors?
A: We simplify the ordering process for buyers who want a unique custom item. Vendors can capture all order requirements by allowing buyers to provide additional information using questionnaires, uploading media files (images, video, etc) and selecting different variants on products prior to processing the order.
Q: What would you say to people considering joining the Cornerstone Program?
A: Definitely apply, and take it seriously. There is so much to gain from this from program through the presentations, as well as the connections to other students and coaches. Pablo was a huge help for us in realizing the opportunity to pivot and focus on a new audience. We connected closely with another team in the program, and even became customers of theirs. We helped each other out and provided feedback and new perspectives that had not been considered.
Q: What’s next on the horizon for the team?
Right now, we are fully on-boarding our BETA testers and nailing down the customer data flow. We will finish building out the 3rd edition of our MVP which allow us to push it out to more users and grow the platform. We plan to use our current network and connect more with our BETA testers to help connect us to other potential vendors and bring them onto the platform. As we continue to grow and improve our product we will be focused on adding more vendors and showcasing the potential that our platform has to help these creators.
ShopMe is an excellent example of the value that thorough market research and customer discovery provides. Through the exercises of the Cornerstone Program, they were able to recognize that although they had a great product, they were not reaching the right market. Now that they have aligned with an audience hungry for their product, the sky is the limit for their growth and potential. You can follow along on their journey through their Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, or by signing up for ShopMe and experiencing the platform first hand!