Don’t do “unproductive change,” do some strategic work if you want to build a startup.

Arana (GG) Anantachina
4 min readOct 18, 2019

Fail fast, learn from failure, fail to succeed — I guess everyone in the field of design, innovation, startup or entrepreneurship must have embedded this kind of mindset and are all understood that their life is not continuing as a straight line. The point is, “not every change/ failure is a productive one” and “change doesn’t equal failure”.

[feel free to skip my story to the bottom suggestions]

Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash

Have been doing a startup project under a company for a year, starting from zero, using general methods/ framework as everybody probably heard of (Lean, BMC, MVP, user-centred design, etc.) Of course, it started from the exploration phase, where I looked for the opportunity in the area of food innovation. Discussing with my team and did consumers research, interview, survey, we found that there are so many many opportunities, new ideas of product, services, business. Our team come up with so many creative and innovative ideas. So how can we choose an idea to move on? we don’t know. At the time, we pick the idea that we believe will happen in the emerging trend soon and stand in the big market (packaged food). We kick-off from building a dish as a prototype. FYI, we have very small experience in the food industry except I’m a foodie.

Anyway, we keep going. We talk to a chef, ask for a consultation, ask him to develop a recipe. And there we go, we have a prototype. So what next? How can we know that people like our food? We do a tasting session, we ask for feedback. Some people like us, some people don’t. so the result was not standout enough. We decide to change the way of tasting. We assume consumers don’t like the look and feel of our food. So we change from the ready-to-eat version to a fresh cook version via online delivery while perfecting our brand at the same time. It looks better now! This time we decided to validate our MVP by actually selling it online. Order numbers started to grow, people seemed to interest in our food concept and brand. The pilot sale went quite well although we still more validation on the repeat customers and still need to seek the real customers profile who could be our early adopter.

So we thought that to see our customers, we do pop-up selling in an event. Try mini-operating and selling the fresh-serve version. The result is not too bad, we know and we see the real person buying our fresh cook food. We got insights of who like us, who could be our real customer persona. but then what next? Repeat numbers still don’t show up.

We decided to do online delivery again. This time with a promotional campaign. This time the results were good enough, but still didn’t make a wow. At this point, I started to think of another service model, not selling only food but it needs to be the food concept serving in a physical restaurant…

All the journey I’ve been running:

I didn’t kick off the project from a passion. I can’t answer to myself why I’m doing it, I didn’t realise what game I’m playing and what for and that’s why I didn’t set the strategy to walk or to win the game. I was drowning by the small pieces of information in every step, focusing too much on the concept, the product and try so hard to make it work so I didn’t get a chance to look at the overview.

By not knowing those stuff I mentioned, I passed so many changing points, failures in experimentation leading to reworking quite a few times. I changed so many times with different business model. So what I’m saying here is that, be careful guys, don’t change just for the sake of changing. Learning is great, change is great, failure is great, but not every change is necessary to happen if you don’t truly understand why.

Typing all this, I just want to say a few points,

  1. Set the goal and understand why you need to achieve that goal: don’t start doing without having in mind, what exactly you want to do, what is your passion and why you do it. Are you creating a wow product/service and sell it or you want to own a business, or you want to sell the business after running the company for a while. These are different games to play. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t explore, experiment and just tinkering with your idea. It depends on how many resources, money, the time you have.
  2. Plan a strategy for win, realise how you get there and keep going back to it and revise it: having a strategy to achieve the goal. This is not about crafting the best BMC or product concept but more about the bigger picture strategy of your startup. How can you win the game you settled? This strategy can change over time. Of course, it is flexible and should be open but you need to know where, when and why it changes. Data, feedback, customers will point you the direction. This is important, if you look at the wrong point or getting lost in the maze, you might change your plan and it might lead to re-working without realising it. This burnt your motivation. And this is what I call an “unproductive change”. I know that startup needs to be fast, but giving it some time to deliberately think about the data received and reflect with overview strategy could boost up or shorten the route to win too.
  3. Change doesn’t equal failure: I didn’t feel that I failed by all the turning points happening but I do feel unproductive. And if you stuck in this wheel of changing around without moving further for too long, that I feel is a failure.