Beyond the Pitch

Taivara Helps Startups Validate Markets and Build Businesses


Last week CB Insights updated their running list of startup failure post-mortems, bringing the total from 51 when the list was first published in early 2014 to 146.

This list of lessons learned is particularly useful to those of us in the startup business because the failures are primarily told by the company founders with a few by investors.

The number one cause of failure, say these folks who have been there and done that, is No Market Need.

That’s where Taivara’s experience, innovation process, and lean product development services are helping Central Ohio’s startups (and, for that matter, corporations).

An active expert member of First Connect, Taivara has been engaged with startups including TicketFire, Acceptd, MobileWait, EduSourced and many others from the early concept stage on.

“The single biggest thing we focus on early is customer and concept validation and creating an environment of experimentation,” said Brooke Paul, Taivara founder and CEO.

“Entrepreneurs are often focused on the idea that they came up with as a solution to a customer problem,” said Paul. “That may be the kernel of a beginning, but we turn their focus to the problem that they are solving, who they are solving it for, how painful it is, do customers really care, where do they seek solutions, are they paying for it – and then proving each point.”

And getting the answers to these questions is where many entrepreneurs can use Taivara’s expertise.

Start the customer conversation, listen, and then build

Paul is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor who also brings significant corporate experience. Being able to teach entrepreneurs the art of asking discerning questions and performing rapid experimentation are important aspects of Taivara’s expertise.

As he points out, building a successful company isn’t “just” about giving one or two customers what they want.

“Customers know they have a problem,” Paul said, “but a successful entrepreneur has to supply the vision for a marketable solution. You don’t get that from just talking to one customer. One customer will give you a particular need as opposed to a market need. You have to engage many customers to determine if you have a legitimate product and then prioritize features and continue to experiment to discover your path to a business that scales.”

And when it comes time for a viable product, Taivara not only helps install a process and new way of thinking, the company can help startups build the minimum viable, but highest value product and more.

And then the customer feedback loop begins again.

“We work with entrepreneurs to get their products launched. We help them with their business models, customer acquisition, and eventually raising capital,” Paul said.

Tips for Entrepreneurs

“Strike a balance between success and control,” Paul said. “Oftentimes it is really a challenge for the founder of a new company to relinquish portions of control to investors or other managers coming in. Take advice; be coachable.”

Paul said that he often advises his entrepreneur-clients to be willing to delegate as the company gets traction and grows.

“Entrepreneurs have to learn how to bring on the right talent and set up the conditions for success. I ask founders, do you want to be successful or do you want to have control. It’s rare that anyone can accomplish both,” he said. “Appropriately relinquishing control increases the odds of success.”

Paul urges entrepreneurs to have realistic expectations about the value of their company. “Do your best to identify people who can provide not just capital, but who can add value and have experience in the industry,” he said.

And that industry expertise can be a connection point for startups and the larger Columbus community, including First Connect advisors and expert providers like Taivara.

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