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Every week, the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute elects a Startup of the Week. We invite the founders of these startups to share a blog post with our community. These posts can be inspirational, educational, or entertaining.
This blog post was written by Ann Andrews (Stern '23), Founder of Techfunic.
The NYU Entrepreneurial Institute's J-Term Startup Sprint is coming up. To all budding entrepreneurs who are participating, this is my advice: pay attention and write down every word as if it is the Holy word that will get you to the salvation of product-market fit and startup success.
It's been 11 months since we were accepted into the J-Term Startup Sprint, and this is what Techfunic is doing now: Dusting off “Talking to Humans”, revamping our search for interview candidates and revitalizing our customer discovery – Because without getting this right, you’ll be spinning wheels.
Techfunic (nee Arithfunic) has come a long way since the J-Term Startup Sprint of 2021. We christened ourselves Techfunic to tune in more into our coding/technology offerings, strengthening our product – teaching coding to children. We redesigned our logo to reflect the fun and engagement that differentiates our classes, and we got accepted into NYU Entrepreneurial Institute’s flagship accelerator program - the Summer Launchpad. We doubled our customer base, tripled our revenue, quadrupled our staff and optimized our products and processes. But every time we strategize to fuel our growth, we pause, reflect and go back to the drawing board of product-market fit.
- Do we know our customer well enough?
- Have we stayed in the problem space long enough?
- Do we have the micro focus that’s needed to attain the holy grail of product-market fit?
These 3 questions from the Sprint have defined Techfunic’s strategy this year. Our customers are parents who are looking to supplement their children’s STEM education with our signature small group tutoring. Born in the year of the pandemic, Techfunic has seen our customers' needs change by the day. Having gone through a year and half of online schooling, the pain points we hear range from extended learning loss in math, fear of their children falling behind 2 years without being able to catch up, and helplessness from not being able to help their children themselves. Parents come to us with pleas of help, being referred by fellow parents – respecting the rigor of math & technology in India and valuing our tutors who teach with discipline and engagement. Every customer is different, their pain points are different and listening to our customers to understand their problems without trying to sell has become the backbone of Techfunic’s customer engagement. We have the Startup Sprint to thank for that.
Doing customer discovery while suppressing the urge to sell has not been easy for me as a founder. The Sprint coaches have always been spot on in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each founding team, as well as helping them stay on the right track to get to product-market fit. Just living in the "problem space", empathizing with each customer, understanding their current behavior and pain points to recognize patterns without trying to sell – that’s been the golden rule that we hold ourselves to each day.
The Startup Sprint introduced us to the process of customer discovery. It's important to capture the data from your interviews in qualitative and quantitative formats from the get go, to be able to derive insights later. Setting up a proper excel format complete with data profiling and analytics will help you build on customer discovery as you progress with your startup. These building blocks taught during the Sprint need to be close to the heart for all founders, to stay on top of the ever changing problem space, emerging competitors, and the evolving pain points of the customers.
The Sprint's 2 weeks are like a fire hose – there’s a lot coming at you all at once and you may not be able to act on all of it at first. Absorb the content and chart out a plan over the next months to execute on. Focus on the quality of your interviews rather than the quantity. Trust the coaches when they give you personalized advice – they’ve seen it all, and I've found they're are spot on.
Product-market fit is a journey. Customer discovery is the start line and the Sprint is your guide book. Enjoy the journey because the destination is a mirage, you never quite reach a finish line!
Techfunic was founded in 2020 by Ann Andrews, an EMBA student at NYU Stern and a Computer Science Engineer. Her story of ideating and launching Techfunic was featured in Forbes. Ann believes in the power of small groups learning together with a live human tutor to elevate the learning and social indices of our children. Techfunic is on a mission to make live tutoring in Math and Coding affordable to every child in the US and is quickly growing to support thousands of students and families with their affordable monthly subscriptions, elevating the ranking of our nation's education. Follow them on Twitter or Instagram to keep posted on their journey.