Giving Your Users a Voice

There was a great article on Fast Company about the advice that Tumblr’s founder gave a new entrepreneur who was publicly launching his startup.

What made Tumblr Tumblr was that in its first years, we just focused on our core small 1% set of users, who were creating most of our content and really loved our platform. We really wanted to just build features for them, and by getting them so addicted–really focusing on making them happy–it would allow our platform to grow and blossom. Now, we can focus on the other 99% of users but only because we had started with such a passionate group of users.” David Karp

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Launching Discover Match

Connecting the right person with a job opportunity I am convinced would be suitable for them, is amongst the things that drives and motivates me! At IDENTIFI we are building a suite of services that helps us scale the rate at which we can make these connections happen. The statistic that more than 77% of people go home daily unfulfilled with the work they do, is a fact that gets me out of bed every morning with a yearning and drive to reverse this statistic!

Generation Y is the major segment of society that we assist and work with. Our research has shown that company culture, people and the workspace are critical components in decisions to take up particular opportunities. In light of this, we are in the initial phases of launching a new service called Discover Match. It provides companies with an attractive platform to display their company culture, people and workspace. This space helps companies attract talent to apply directly as well as follow the company for future updates.

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Identifii – What sort of person am I?

This is a guest post of an interview that I did with Phil O’Brien – an entrepreneur exploring the value of Personal Networks. He has a very interesting blog and I would highly recommend taking a look at it.

In my exploration of Personal Networks, I’ve come to the conclusion that the process starts with a fair degree of self awareness. I’ve always been a “self help” addict – and many years ago I became interested in psychometric testing after undertaking a Myers-Briggs MBTI test. Since then, I have worked with a business psychologist in a number of ventures – and it’s added terrific value. Interestingly, the most pleasing thing with psychometric testing is the synergy between the individual gaining self awareness, the team involved having a shared “score” to communicate around – and the organisation seeing the economic benefit of building long lasting teams with complimentary skill sets.

I recently stumbled upon a start up called Identifii, based in Singapore. It’s an interesting business that focusses on a young audience to make sure they start on the right career path. The key to this is helping with self awareness through psychometric testing.

I chatted with Identifii’s founder Usman Sheikh about his new business. First off, he gave me his vision for Identifii: “The right people in the right jobs results in a better world.” That’s a big idea – I like that!

Usman has recognised an issue – and wants to solve it. “The primary problem we aim to solve is one of incorrect career path selection. I graduated from college nearly 5 years ago and when I catch up with old friends, I estimate that over 70% of them, are not entirely happy with what they do on a daily basis. However, they are at a point in their lives, where change has become an extremely difficult option and the decision to ‘just to live with it’, is how they resolve the issue. Many of them selected career paths at graduation, paths which were not always suited for who they were, but rather paths chosen and based upon other factors, such as employer brand or monetary compensation.”

Identifii is focussed on Gen Y – the 16-25 year old college graduate, Facebook generation. In fact, after applying to be part of their Alpha test group, the only way to log-in to the system is via Facebook. So I dusted by FB ID off (an old git like me only uses it to keep an eye on the kids) – and gave the service a try. Five minutes and 20 questions later, I had my psychometric test done – and guess what, they had got me 100% right. See the analysis below!

I’ve been called many things in my life – but I think that I like “Colourful Storyteller” the best! From Identifii’s dashboard, I found out that famous people of my “type” – ENFP (Extrovert/iNtuitive/Feeling/Perceiving) – include Charles Dickens, Robin Williams, Sandra Bullock & Meg Ryan. Cool!! Top three career paths were Journalism, Public Relations and Entrepreneurship. I shared the comments with a couple of friends – and they chuckled at the weaknesses … “Lack of discipline in following through on important detail”, “propensity to focus on what’s achievable rather than what’s doable” and “tendency to become bored or side tracked after creative process is done”. How they laughed – got me in one!

I thought back to when I was leaving school and had a difficult time choosing between a career as a civil engineer, social worker or photo-journalist. Luckily, back then I somehow selected the right career path – with Identifii it would have been so much easier!

I asked Usman why he had created Identifii. “I was at University finishing my Economics degree and thought that I would become an investment banker. Luckily, I did an internship before I graduated and realised it was not for me. I went off to Cambridge University (England) and got my qualification as a certified psychometric consultant. It let me explore how people made choices.”

“I then build a relationship with Psytech – a vendor of psychometric tests – and in 2007 they granted me a license for their products in Pakistan. One of the opportunities I had in Pakistan was to work with 200 graduating MBA students. These graduates felt destined to work at the big multi-national companies (MNCs) like Unilever, P&G, Standard Chartered, etc. I understood the attraction of the large brand and the paycheck – but realised that for 60/65% this was not a good long-term fit.”

Usman could see the opportunity – but felt it was not the time to pursue. He headed back to Singapore and worked with friends developing Hatch Media in to the leading Youth Marketing Agency in the country. He discovered a lot about the 16-25 demographic from his experience there – the Generation Y.

When he saw the exponential growth in Facebook in 2009-10, Usman realised that the time was right to bring Identifii to market. He knew his idea needed major distribution – and FB was the channel.

As with all start-ups, it’s not been plain sailing. He explained how joining the Founders Institute in Singapore was a turning point. He made connections, found mentors to help refine his ideas – and was able to secure the funding needed to start things rolling.

Usman’s perception of Singapore, South East Asia and the surrounding areas was compelling listening for me. “LinkedIn awareness in Singapore with the youth audience is close to 0%. People here are still choosing careers based on traditional pressures like parents wishes, brands and the paycheck size. I believe that there is an opportunity for SMEs (Small & Medium sized Enterprises) to stop the traditional flow of talent to MNCs. We aim with Identifii to job match young talent with more satisfying jobs in the SME sector.”

I was surprised that the Identifii platform only allows access via a Facebook log-in. Usman explained: “We chose Facebook as a way to filter who came in to the site. LinkedIn also has very little take up in the region. However, in the future we will offer a straight forward log-in process and customer validation with Twitter and LinkedIn.”

Usman has a very intuitive feel of the youth audience. “Graduates have typically 6-800 friends on Facebook – it’s a new personal asset that this generation just takes for granted. It’s ‘just there!’. These links through their lifetime will be the links that will create partnerships, job offers and other opportunities.”

Identifii is currently in Alpha testing. He’s opened it up to about 150 people who he knows – or in my case have registered interest. It’s already seen a viral effect with 2,000 folk now using the service. I must admit at the end of the psychometric test when you say “you’ve got me dead right” – it does make you want to get your pals to give it a try. Quite infectious marketing.

Usman’s target audience is a graduate 2 years out of university or college who has just realised they have taken the wrong career path. Identifii will be there to help them get back on course.

As well as the many job sites on the web, Identifii faces competition from newcomers like Roundpegg, OneDayOneJob and BranchOut. I think Usman’s focus in English speaking Asia is a good strategy – and we might well see it transfer around the world too. As he identifies though: “The biggest challenge is building our relationships with employers to provide jobs for Identifii’s users. We currently have 25 businesses involved – and are aiming for 200 employers by summer. It’s essential we can prove we can match the new found awareness with a suitable job.”

Usman is intending to roll out a whole range of self-assessment/psychometric tests for Identifii. He wants to “democratise” this sort of testing by making them free or low price. He also intends to make them fun – so that people enjoy taking part.

I really like Identifii – and Usman’s vision of making the world a better place by getting Gen Y in to the jobs that match them! Do give Identifii and their psychometric test a try. Please do come back here and tell me what “sort of person you are”!

Measuring through Dashboards


If you cannot measure something, improving it becomes close to impossible. Collecting key data metrics that assist you in understanding what is working and what is not, is critical to success. Dashboards are a great way to collect all this critical data in one place, to constantly review incoming information and make real time decisions to see what is working and what is not.

Recently we launched a new project that I am working on Identifii. I will be posting a detailed article on the venture next week. To track our initial alpha users, we have been using a service called Geckoboard. It does an awesome job of aggregating all of your stats into one place and displaying them in one location.

With the dashboard, we have been able to make real time decisions regarding how users are interacting with the system, what buttons they are clicking, whether they are doing a particular action we want them to, as well as a host of other base metrics we use to focus on engagement. If you are running a web app, online store, or even a large website, I would highly recommend you set this up for yourself.

3 Key Startup Questions

The early stages of business, are the most challenging of times, times that need to be overcome. When we start out with an “idea”, we have a set of assumptions that need validating. One of the most critical errors made at this point is assuming that all your assumptions are correct and building a product without adequate validation. This is a primary reason for the failure of so many businesses. Inadequate validation of any form during the initial stages, results in a slew of products or services for which there is no demand.

Sean Murphy has an interesting take on business at an early stage. His framework comprises of 3 questions, through which one needs to begin the validation process:

1. Are you talking to the right people?

A common strategy is to validate your ideas within your 1st degree network. Your friends, family and co-workers. This usually results in feedback that is biased and creates false expectations of the actual business need. Instead we need to write down detailed lists of potential customers and do our best to get feedback from people in that demographic. A lot of the time these interactions will lead to major and defining discoveries about whether the need exists or not.

2. Do you have the right features?

Startups have very limited resources and need to decide on the feature sets that they plan to launch with. What we consider a “cool” or must-have feature, could be something that a customer would derive no value from. It is hence best to abandon traditional product development strategies where you take a year to bring something to market. Rather, you should be iterating much faster and getting feedback from your target customers at regular intervals. Their feedback will help you identify 20% of the features which will account for 80% of regular usage.

3. Do those features translate into benefits that will be useful to them?

Finding the right answer to this question unlocks the viability of your business. Features that are added, need to provide substantial utility to your users. An easy way to test would be to ask your users whether removing feature “x” would lead to disappointment? The established norm is that if more than 40% of your users state that they would be disappointed, you have yourself a keeper.

These are some questions that need to be explored in the customer validation stage. This helps you to move forward towards finding a product-market fit, which is the final goal of the process. Once you have built a product that solves a clear market need and has a well defined customer set, there are a whole new set of questions that then need to be asked.

Have you used DropBox?

dropbox

DropBox is simply a file sharing tool with a drag and drop interface similar to native OS applications. I heard about DropBox a while back, initially during their launch and inception and Y-Combinator, and then through the acclaim it won at Techcrunch 50. At first I thought I did not need a file storage service as I was already with a ton of services where my files were hosted, and I could share them fairly easily. However, that was the problem! I had my files in way too many places, and the notion of logging into those services, uploading the files and then making relevant changes to those files was becoming increasingly more challenging. This facility has however turned out to be one of those services whose utility you only find out about once you start using the application. I recently got onto DropBox, I have been blown away by its simplistic setup and its seamless syncing capabilities across multiple machines.

Here are some reasons why getting a dropbox will make your life easier.

1. Sharing photographs and large files with multiple family members just became a whole lot easier. Sure everyone uses facebook, flickr etc. However, downloading higher res photographs and simply uploading them, making the folder shareable over Dropbox, is truly amazing.

2. Working with multiple partners remotely on several documents one at a time is challenging, sending files over skype, time and time again, gets really irritating. Working with DropBox to collaboratively work together on projects has made life a lot easier.

3. DropBox essentially creates a central repository for your critical data. For instance, you could upload all your proposals, invoices and other critical documents to DropBox, and access them from multiple platforms, your pc, laptop and mobile phone. It also makes it really easy for the rest of your team to access the most up-to-date documents without worrying about using a USB stick etc.

These are just some of the advantages I recently experienced using this service. If you work remotely with a team that is geographically spread out, I would highly recommend getting yourself a DropBox.

Are you already using DropBox? How have you used the service to make your business more efficient?