A long, long time ago, a conference came rolling into town called the Lean Startup Conference. Dan Martell, a famed Canadian entrepreneur with an LA connection, landed and delivered a rousing speech on “fast growth strategies”. I got caught missing the entire conference, actually.
(I was giving a talk of my own further south)
So when I got back the next morning, I didn’t recognize the middle-linebacker type with a fancy watch and dress shirt sitting in on our workshop about customer discovery (incidentally also by leaders I didn’t recognize, Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits). During an interlude he made a comment about how he ran a script to mine the contacts of every business owner who’d used Groupon in SF in the last year so that he could coldcall them. Being in the restaurant coldcalling business myself :-), I tapped him on the shoulder and inquired “How?” (about the convos, not the script) Dan turned to me and told me to Google 5 numbers and that he’d coldcall each of them to show me how. He said this aggressively. So me and a Steve walked out with him + 5 numbers like we were about to get a spanking or something. What ensued was captured via audio recorder and can be found in the Lean Startup collection here.
Not only did that encounter teach me practical coldcalling with zero inertia costs (Dan is all about moving quick), but based on his frustration with other entrepreneurs’ sworn-by value props, he made a money wager against FoodCircles. He said, “get 10 anythings to pay you $50 for ANYTHING, and I’ll give you $50. You have 10 weeks.” Eventually, he raised it to $150 and started fishing out cash. It was a surreal moment of peer pressure where everyone, including members of my own team, was egging me to take it. It was going against everything of how I thought restaurants would adopt the service. The key wasn’t behind generating revenue. The key was getting restaurants to
A. actually consider the value-add of a product (how hard do you really have to think about a free product?)
B. be invested enough, if they go for it, to give it it’s fair shot in use (instead of discarding it at a moment’s worth of “tediosity”).
Best part, according to Dan at least, was when they said No. Then I was to say, “Great. Now let me find out why.”. Then I could go out and get that “why” taken care of. Eventually I thought, “10 weeks? I can get 10 contracts in 10 weeks.” As week 9 ended (7.22.11), I had zero. We signed 12 restaurants, but it was all according to free or spec work. We got in the door with a free product, with aims to have them acquire new customers. We’d prove it out and then *POW* we’d make the ask. 10 weeks seemed like a good timeline to conduct some spec work then make some $50 or $100 asks. But we had so much trouble getting users to use a free product that got them free food, that restaurants got what they paid for (i.e. nothing.) It seemed like an absurd operation to head back into these places and ask for money when we hadn’t given them a single customer in weeks. (so we didn’t.) We started seeing people on the streets like restaurant clients. We rolled in a social-good model which added complication to the concept.
Did it work? Did Martell pay? Find out in Part 2 here.