F=ma | Force = mass X acceleration
How Vox Q.I. accelerated its acceleration
About this series
This is the Force series, articles by Innovation Within and AlchemistX about how the power of the Lean Startup methodology and a rigorous implementation of it helps startups succeed.
The Mass (Startup background)
In 2020 JD Rico and Sergio Villa were successfully running Digitalist Hub, a digital media outlet, but consistently running into the same problem: Their clients, all of their clients, were constantly hurting for more and new types of content.
The more they talked to marketers about it, the more widespread they saw the problem was. It quickly became apparent that the problem was endemic in the digital media world.
JD’s background in Business Intelligence (BI) tools led him to build automated tools to solve this problem.
Thus was born Vox Q.I., an AI-powered content intelligence platform for marketers. It enables marketers to gather diverse content and use it to develop new materials at speed. Using QI marketers are able to research diverse online materials, then use it to produce new content much faster.
Not only are marketers who use QI able to produce content at higher velocity (critical in business today), they are also able to produce a much wider variety of content, because the curation AI is able to search the internet much faster than any mere mortal.
They knew they were onto something valuable, because almost every marketer they talked to wanted something like what they were planning.
What they didn’t know—and they knew they didn’t know it—was whether this would make a viable company. In the language of startups, they weren’t sure they had Product Market Fit. The list of what they needed to know included:
- The size of the market
- What types of marketers suffer the problem the worst? (customer segmentation)
- How much would those marketers pay for a solution?
- What was the exact right toolset they could launch to maximize adoption but minimize the time and resources needed to get to launch?
- How to prove to investors that they had an investible idea that was relevant to prospective customers?
What they did know was how to find out. Get into an accelerator that would help them form the company, prove their business model, and determine the features of their initial product (Minimum Viable Product or MVP). They also wanted an Accelerator with a strong network of investors.
The Acceleration (What AlchemistX and Innovation Within Did)
Search brought them to NECX, an accelerator working with Silicon Valley’s startup ecosystem to offer an 8-12 month program for entrepreneurs starting their new venture, in partnership with AlchemistX, the corporate and government services division of Alchemist Accelerator, one of the leading accelerators worldwide.
AlchemistX works so well because of the accelerator’s deep belief in the art and science of customer discovery, the Lean Launchpad method of business creation, and the extremely hands-on approach of AlchemistX’s deeply experienced and competent coaches and mentors.
“One of the reasons we like working with AlchemistX is because they don’t just throw you in the deep end and see if you can swim.”
What JD and his team didn’t know yet was that Alchemist also had an advantage, The Discovery Platform from Innovation Within. It helps the Alchemist team be more efficient in guiding companies to speed up their journey from ideation to revenue.
“There are no other tools like this. Before we were managing three or four spreadsheets and Meistertasks, and a bunch of other tools.”
The Discovery Platform is the Lean Launchpad method realized in software.
The Lean method, with its focus on developing and documenting their ideas (hypotheses) and then validating or invalidating them through Customer Discovery (CD), appealed to the QI team. AlchemistX has used this method to accelerate hundreds of companies, rapidly and efficiently.
JD was already a huge proponent of Customer Discovery, which is the process of interviewing prospective customers and using that data to drive the developing business. It’s part of his core strategy for starting and fostering companies (he’s on the board of several start-ups).
- Supported by AlchemistX and The Discovery Platform, QI was able to quickly:
- Document their hypotheses about the business on a business canvas that evolved as they learned.
- Research the market space they anticipated entering.
- Complete Customer Discovery. They did about 50 interviews for this business.
- Mine the interviews for insights.
- Use those insights to validate or invalidate the hypotheses, ensuring they got a strong Product Market Fit prior to building prototypes (MVPs or Minimum Viable Products).
- Use all of this to tune the company, product, and business model.
- Prove their investability and customer relevance.
Having all of that data in a single app made the process much easier and faster for QI. It also made it easier for the Alchemist mentors, coaches, and managers to provide guidance and direction.
“The act of writing the hypothesis in the tool is a powerful process.”
Without The Discovery Platform, Lean Launchpad data gets spread across multiple apps, like google docs, spreadsheets, calendars, voice recorders, transcription engines (like Otter.ai), Slack, Notion, and any other apps that are convenient or needed.
With The Discovery Platform the data is easy to locate, use, and analyze. It accelerates what the Alchemist Accelerator was already doing. It makes it easier for the startup and Alchemist to create great outcomes
“So interviews are an integral part of what I do. Centralizing the knowledge base on the interviews in Innovation Within has made the whole process radically easier.”
The Force (Outcomes)
AlchemistX’s process and philosophy combined with The Discovery Platform made the whole process highly efficient and enabled QI to quickly get to the point where they could develop their Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and deliver it to early adopters. In just 12 months QI went from ideas to having prototypes in prospective customers’ hands.
An unexpected perk was that the customer insights they found and documented in The Discovery Platform helped them design their UI and develop a highly effective and efficient marketing plan.
“What I can say, most definitely, is that it pushed me to think in a different way than I always do.”
This was also exciting for the Innovation Within and AlchemistX teams to hear: That the Lean method, executed with the rigor that The Discovery Platform enables, not only results in companies enhancing their Product Market Fit, but also enables them to develop their products and get to market even faster.
JD and his team are thrilled with these outcomes. In record time they have a product in customer’s hands (four early adopters are already using QI) and have a public beta about to launch (in November 2022).
JD has decided to provide the tools to the other start-ups they advise.
And he strongly recommends it to any startup that wants to succeed quickly and minimize the friction of getting to market and proving investibility and customer relevance.
AlchemistX and Innovation Within. A force for successful startups.