Having worked with a couple of start-up entrepreneurs in Lesotho in the past five years, I have heard complains such as “people do not understand my product”, or “Basotho do not want to support other Basotho businesses”, or “people like my product but are not willing to pay for it”. When you start asking such entrepreneurs whether they ever embarked on a market research prior to developing their products, the common response is that, they asked their close friends and family members about the product and they loved it, therefore, they concluded that their product is good! Though their close friends and family members are not their target market.
Design Drive Entrepreneurship (DDE) approach forces entrepreneurs to first empathize with their target market, and understand their needs, wants, fears and aspirations, so that they can design products / solutions that are relevant to their needs. It also emphasizes on building successive proto-types or samples so that the entrepreneur can test their products, improve on them based on feedback from actual target market until they end up with a product that will be bought and not sold!
So what is this DDE? Articles and books have been published on what is DDE (reference: https://yali.state.gov/course-767/#/). I personally define DDE as a participatory approach that puts the end-consumer as the focus of the solutions or products being created, and engages such end-consumer throughout the creation process.
How is Design Driven Entrepreneurship Relevant to my Start-up?
According to a research conducted by CB Insights, 42% of start-ups fail because there is no market need for the product or service developed.
Well, this is where DDE comes in! Since it emphasizes focus on the end-user, understanding the target market’s needs prior to designing solutions, and engaging the same target market in sampling and testing the product so that it adequately fits their needs. This means that the end-consumer is ultimately shaping and informing the experience of the products or services being developed, and since they are part of the process from the cradle to the grave; the final product resonates / meets their needs.
In explaining the importance of DDE in start-ups, Nitin Sethi, Vice President Digital at Indigo Airlines, says that, lack of customer-centric approach, user research and product testing is hurting startups the most. DDE can improve the success rate of startups. By embracing it in a correct way, one can fail fast and know exactly what is going wrong with the product or service from a consumer’s perspective (https://hackernoon.com/design-thinking-for-startups-by-nitin-sethi-of-quikr-fe01a259c9bf).
DDE, when done right, results in the launch of successful products that are bought, and not sold!!!!!!!