Week 3 of 13: Hypothesis Testing

Until you test the hypothesizes on which your business plan is based, you don’t know how crazy these hypothesizes really are.
This week, I managed to finally get some interviews with consumers completed. These were the interviews that I had set up during last week’s emails and phone calls. Speaking to both researchers in industry and in academia, it was a whirlwind week. I laid out my hypothesizes for these consumers, the ultimate judges of my proposition. How did they respond?

This was not the first time I was speaking to consumers. I had previously spoken to some end consumers in March. A Marketing Research Methods class had also done further interviews during the Spring Quarter. Both of these sets of interviews were more exploratory in nature. In this third iteration of interviews, my main goal was to present some fleshed out ideas and also, where appropriate, demo the prototype that a software engineering class from the Spring Quarter had completed.

I spoke to researchers in industry both in person and over the phone. One these researchers had recently become a victim of the downsizing that many R&D labs have been undergoing due to the recession. Meanwhile, another firm boasted that they were spending more on R&D than ever before. A particular woman I spoke to on the phone exclaimed that she had an awful employer – her only reason for speaking to me must have been to warn me away from ever working there. Perhaps most extraordinary was meeting someone who had attended the same middle school as me in the UK. The varieties of circumstances were fantastical. Driving on the "wrong side of the road", the travel was exhausting too.

Perhaps because all the academics I spoke to were based at Northwestern, there was less variation in the circumstances of the academics. It was clear that some professors were superstars and had carte-blanche autonomy to do as they pleased. The administrative staff seemed at times to struggle with this. It transpires that consulting is something that is discouraged, though in some areas parts of the university it is rampant. Academia also has interesting and divergent priorities to industry, particularly with respect to publishing intellectual property.

I’m still digesting what I’ve learned from all these interviews, but one thing is clear: the hypothesizes that my business idea is based on do completely hold. The incentives are not completely aligned. For some people the conflicting priorities of what academia and industry prefer stifles the creation of value that I propose for both parties. However, I am not completely dismayed. I believe this is part of the process. After a previous iteration of talking to consumers, I refined my target customers from anyone in industry to researchers in industry. Following this set of interviews, and the latest feedback, I now need to refine another part of the business plan. My only worry is whether I'll run of time and money before I have a business that holds up when the hypothesizes it is based on are tested.