A great business plan isn’t enough

Having a business plan is important, but it’s just a starting point. A great idea and a plan isn’t enough, and we learned that early on with our company, Driven Analytics.

After we came up with the consumer need we were going to fill, we came up with a business plan and started getting funding. First, we started winning cash in business plan competitions. We won about $60,000 because we were technically students. That was enough money for Steve to convince his wife he could work for Driven Analytics full time.

Then we officially founded the company and joined the University of Oklahoma Sooner Launch Pad. Among other things, that means the OU Foundation contributed about $10,000.

Then our idea and business plan were so great that we convinced someone to give us $800,000. At that point, Jake had quit his job, Steve was getting a salary for the first time in more than a year, and we had hired a couple of employees.

Now, we thought our business plan was great and our product was really cool. If you’ve ever had your check engine light come on in your car, you probably took it to a mechanic and they plugged something into your car to see what the problem is.

The idea for our product was putting a cell chip on that thing they plugged in, making it smaller, then letting you stream all that data off your car. You can figure out what’s wrong with it, you can figure out how much it’s been driven.

So everyone will buy it because it’s so cool, right? Turns out that wasn’t the case.

One of the things we learned at the OU Sooner Launch Pad was that you have to get out of the building. It’s easy to come up with an idea, sit in front of your computer and type up a hundred page business plan – but then you have to go try to execute it.

The idea we learned was that you have to go talk to people. You need to find out what their pain points are and what they need.

So we snuck into an auto show.

We took all our employees, dressed them up nice, and gave them clipboards so they looked official. We would talk to people until someone from the auto show found us, then we would move somewhere else and keep talking to people.

We got about 120 interviews over the course of two days, which was a lot of data for us to go through. What we found was that the data our device would be streaming is the most useful when you buy a new car, and people only buy a new car every 3-5 years.

As a result, the ability to generate ongoing revenue from people just wasn’t there. Our business plan had won awards, we’d secured additional funding, and our device was really cool. But getting out and talking to people let us know pretty quickly it wasn’t going to work, and we needed to pivot.

For us, getting out of the building and talking to people made all the difference. If we’d tried to execute our business plan without doing that, we wouldn’t be here today.

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