I recently had the opportunity to talk to university lecturer and company founder Professor Günter Faltin about his approach to “entrepreneurship”. It was also about the required mindset. In this article I would like to go into the topic of “user focus” and how founders can lead their start-up to success.
Professor Günter Faltin recently explained to me his idea of “entrepreneurial design” as opposed to the usual “business model” concept. The concept of the business model reduces the necessary idea work in the development of a company with regard to the product to the word “business”.
The term “model” sounds like theory, although the concept has to be measured against its practical suitability. In contrast, “Entrepreneurial Design” is a user- and benefit-oriented approach to product development. It aims to create added value for the customer while promoting the business success of the company.
This approach puts the needs and desires of the user at the forefront of the design process of companies and aims to create products and services that actually meet those user needs in a meaningful way.
But what does it take to implement the principle of “entrepreneurial design”? In my view, it requires three elements that need to be prioritized from the start as part of the company’s development.
1. User Research
One of the key elements of entrepreneurial design is “user research”, i.e. knowing and understanding the (potential) customer. It collects data and insights about customers and potential customers to help design a product or service.
This can include, for example, conducting interviews, surveys and targeted focus group discussions, as well as observing users in their natural environment to understand their needs and problems.
The information thus gathered is then used to identify opportunities for innovation and to develop a product or service that truly meets the needs of the target customers. Misen used User Research eta to develop a range of high-quality, affordable kitchen knives.
The company conducted extensive research into the needs and challenges of professional and amateur chefs and used this information to develop knives that were both affordable and of sufficient quality for the target customers.
Misen also used this information to develop a sales and marketing strategy that resonated with her target audience, resulting in a successful product launch and a rapidly growing company.
2. Rapid prototyping
Another important element of entrepreneurial design is rapid prototyping. This is the process of rapidly building and testing different iterations of a product or service to gather feedback and make adjustments to the product or service.
This allows for an iterative design process where ideas can be tested and refined based on user feedback. Rapid prototyping enables a more agile and responsive design process, helping ensure that the end product truly meets user needs.
Saddleback Leather is an example of a company that used rapid prototyping to create a line of high quality, durable leather bags. The company began developing a prototype of its first product, a leather briefcase, and immediately solicited customer feedback on the product.
Using this feedback, they made adjustments to the design and reworked the product until they had a final design that met the needs of their target market and customers. This approach eventually helped them launch a successful end product and build a loyal customer base.
3. Design Thinking
Design thinking is the final element of entrepreneurial design. This approach encourages founders not to look at the identified problem of customers in the abstract, but from the concrete perspective of these users and to empathize with their needs and wishes.
He helps create products and services that truly meet users’ needs, rather than just trying to sell them something based on vague notions of their abstractly assumed challenges.
Ember, for example, used design thinking to create a line of temperature-controlled cups that keep beverages at the desired temperature. The company started with an extensive study of the needs and problems of coffee and tea drinkers in different situations and used this information to develop a first mug that can be controlled via a smartphone app.
This allowed users to set the desired temperature for their drink and keep it at that temperature for hours. By understanding the needs of the target audience and developing a product that truly meets those needs, Ember has quickly established itself as the market leader in temperature-controlled drinking cups.
User focus in the start-up: A final example
A final and good example of entrepreneurial design is the Warby Parker company. The company was founded in 2010 with the aim of making stylish, high-quality eyewear more affordable. The founders of Warby Parker noticed that most eyewear manufacturers sold their products at very high prices that many people simply could not afford.
In addition, people who wear glasses had to visit a shop regularly to buy glasses. To understand the challenges eyewear buyers face, the founders of Warby Parker first conducted a comprehensive study of eyeglass wearers and their purchasing behavior to understand their needs and desires when it comes to eyewear purchases.
Based on this information, they firstly designed a specially designed line of eyewear that was stylish, high-quality, affordable and sold exclusively online. In addition, the company introduced the “Home Try-On” program, which allowed customers to try on glasses in the comfort of their own home before purchasing them at no extra cost.
Over time, the offer has been continuously developed, for example through the development of an augmented reality app for virtually trying on glasses frames.
By consistently focusing on the needs of potential customers and by understanding these customers and their purchasing behavior, Warby Parker has not become just another eyewear retailer or a simple online eyewear retailer. But: A company that addresses the needs of customers with its range of products and offers solutions.
Start-up: Entrepreneurial success lies in the user focus
In summary, “Entrepreneurial Design” is a user-centric approach that puts the needs and desires of users first in order to develop a successful company with a meaningful “business model”.
User research, rapid prototyping and design thinking are the important elements to ensure that the end product or service really meets the needs of the target customer.
When founders understand and apply the principles of Entrepreneurial Design, they can create products and services that are not just pipe dreams or developed around the market or target customers, but instead correspond to the actual needs of their customers and thus enable the growth and success of their company right from the start align properly. Anyone who wants to understand this approach better should read the book “Entrepreneurship Handbook“ Warmly recommended.