Jun 2012

Why We’re Business Model Scientists

When someone asks me for a detailed rundown of our business model, I usually push back. That’s not the right question to ask of a company at our stage in a market with this much uncertainty. Instead, I like to think of us as a laboratory of ideas, performing quick pilot tests and settling in on some key dynamics that will become our eventual engine of growth. Don’t get me wrong, we have a core vision centered around making mobile money more accessible for every business, but when it comes to a detailed business model, it’s too early to limit ourselves.

Here’s a quick summary of how we run experiments.

Almost a year ago, after several months of assessing the mobile money market in East Africa and meeting the market players, we sat down to devise a series of six market hypotheses. These are either major gaps we saw in the market or untapped opportunities. While much has changed over the last year, we are still moving forward systematically testing each of these hypotheses.

After defining the market hypotheses, we then set course on building a minimum viable product and a series of mini go-to-market experiments to assess traction. We try to align our market experiments on the same timeline as our product development – every two weeks. Our product team uses the agile development process and we are currently building more and more of Steve Blank’s customer development process into our market-facing team. While our market team is responsible for getting us more customers, they are also specifically tasked with going out and learning from the market. In fact, the market team runs a number of small surveys for us in preparation for upcoming experiments.

Based on this constant build, measure and learn philosophy, we meet every two weeks to ask how we’re doing and whether it’s time to pivot or persevere a la The Lean Startup.

This kind of constant experimentation is tough to learn and tough to act on.

I remember one of our teammates saying to us early on, “I’m confused, I come into the office every week and I have a new job.” While that’s a difficult change of workplace philosophy to manage, it’s also the reality of being a startup. Every Monday when we come into the office, it’s true that Kopo Kopo’s “job” changes in some small way and that’s ok, that’s why it’s so much fun.

– Dylan Higgins, CEO (@dylanhiggins) 


3 Responses

  1. Lema says:

    Proud to have been a student at one of Blank’s Entrepreneurship classes at Stanford