The Founder Has Left The Building…Part 1

I’ve yet to post many specifics on what I’m actually doing to start my company and commercialize NeuroCheck. There are good reasons not to share too many details on what’s happening at this stage. Some topics would bore people to death. Others are too sensitive to broadcast. Sifting through the possibilities, I’ve decided to write some posts on recent customer development activities.

As my Top Gun classmates will attest, we have been encouraged to get out there and test our business concepts by talking directly with potential customers. We have been exhorted to “get out of the building” and do some granular-level customer development research.  The inside joke for many of us is that we have no actual buildings to get out of.  We do, however, have established routines and barriers like time availability to contend with. In my case, my podiatry practice is very time consuming. For me, getting out of the building is more about carving out time. Since launching a startup requires one to use all available resources wisely, especially time, I have decided to pursue a three-pronged approach to customer development.  This first of a three-part post will cover my online market research efforts. This is only getting of the building in a virtual sense but you have to start somewhere.

Survey Says…

Confession: Yes, I used the Survey Monkey to get market data. I did this after discussing options with one of the market research professionals in the state. She noted that since my customers were doctors, market research would be very expensive.  It turns out us doctors don’t care much for participating in market research.  I asked about the validity of doing an online survey. She said that if I could get about 30 doctors to actually take the two minutes to do the survey, it would provide data as good as the pros. As it turns out, I basically got the same answer from Steve Blank himself.  I was lucky enough to have my question posed to him directly during a live video-linked lecture sponsored in part by MCED.  His one caveat was that you still needed in-person feedback to give a fuller picture of customer needs.

With the blessing of two experts, I got to work and developed a ten question survey. I then used my database of email addresses to start soliciting potential survey takers. I posted the survey in podiatry-related groups on Linked-In as well.  To limit bias, I didn’t send the survey out to close friends and asked respondents (who remained anonymous) to be brutally honest. I got my 30 respondents in about a week.  The results have been encouraging and informative.  For example, I now have better guidance on pricing for NeuroCheck. Overall, it was a worthwhile exercise which will improve the quality of my business model going forward. Long live the Survey Monkey!

Next post: Third party market research

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About Todd O’Brien

Dr. O’Brien graduated from Bates College with a BS in biology in 1986. He then attended the Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine and graduated summa cum laude with a DPM degree in 1990. After completing a podiatric surgical residency at VAMC Palo Alto and Stanford, Dr. O’Brien was employed at Sgarlato Labs, a biomedical start-up then based in San Jose, CA. He served in a variety roles there including product developer, project manager, technical writer and sales presenter. After three years at Sgarlato Labs, he returned to the full-time practice of podiatry until founding O’Brien Medical, LLC in 1999. He has since divided his time between running a podiatry practice and developing medical products. He has successfully licensed six surgical products and holds four issued patents. Writing credits include several articles in peer-reviewed medical journals, a chapter in a surgical text and a book on entrepreneurship for inventors. He is a past-president of the medical staff at Penobscot Valley Hospital as well as the Maine Podiatric Medical Association. He is a graduate of the 2012 class of the Top Gun entrepreneurship acceleration program administered by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development.