Chute: What Made You Fall in Love? Design.

Even though the emotions are powerful, the move towards love is a choice, not some silly romantic puppy dog emotional experience. People often make really strong choices about themselves to get there.

What's true for "romance" is very true in start-ups and the shaping of a product for a market, in order that real long-lasting bonds can form. Why? Founders are looking for committed customers, and customers are looking for design, product function and architecture they can trust.  This search takes time. It's hard. It's not exactly as simple and straightforward as four letters and a mono-syllable make it seem. You need to be a listener, and you need focus. 

I am writing all of this because I just realized this in re-reading this great interview we are publishing today.  We're publishing this interview with Chute, a builder of media-rich apps, because we saw one of Chute's co-founders pitch "Pics of Words" on Sunday at TechCrunch Disrupt. I saw some of the same ardent focus on designing something useful and love-worthy in his pitch that I see in all of Chute. 

The following short interview is also part of a new series on business advice and experience for start-ups. From now on, you are going to see more interviews with founders here, focusing on business, running a business, and the experience of building something.  While the hope of almost every entrepreneur is that he or she will get funded, the big story here -- for the rest of time -- is how do you build something that people want and what kinds of business strategies do you need to be successful.  

Today we talk to the two co-founders of Chute, Ranvir Gujral and Gregarious Narain.  Chute is a media startup growing out of the MediaCamp accelerator. They will be presenting in a Demo Day this week. Ahead of that Demo Day, we wanted to ask them what cues they look for in a company or a product that help them fall in love with it. By love, we mean, not ardent romantic lvoe, but choice. They will choose tihs product to use because it fuflills a real need in their lives. 

Here's the Chute team.

Chute Corporation can be followed on Twitter here: 


When was the last time you fell in love with a product?

Finding a product you love is much harder than you think.  We’re usually using a lot of things that we like or have to use, but not because we truly love them.

The last product I’ve fallen in love with is the Nike+ Fuel application. This is a great app for a couple of important reasons.  First, the design is well executed and brings the most important tasks to the front and center for the user.  For example, the home screen is focused on your goal - a simple ring that shows your progress along with a strong number centered.  It’s a clear, simple way to make sure I know where I am in today’s race.  Second, the design encourages, even requires, behavior from me.  Nike has put in place a number of gaming mechanics (fuel points, achievements, and social connections) to give me lots of prompts and incentive to take an extra walk.

A great product not only pleases the eye, it helps you realize your goals and brings you back to make sure you’re doing happy and successful while doing it.

What have you learned about managing a technological business that you would pass on to the next generation?

While technology powers more and more of our businesses these days, it’s also a convenient crutch that we can often hide behind in the place of understanding.  Technology is almost always just a small part of the process of building a business.  Perhaps more important than anything is learning how to build and foster productive relationships with people: your co-workers, your customers, and your evangelists (both at work and at home).

What was the most difficult challenge your business faced this year?

How do you know when you are failing in product development and how do you make a correction – do you make the decision on your own, or do you consult your team?

Product failures are easy to spot if you use an open process for development.  Early and frequent interaction with potential users and customers can help steer you in the right direction.  The challenge, of course, is distilling the problems that need to be solved from the specific complaints.  It takes a great deal of listening and practice to get right. Your internal team is a great sounding board for the thousands of small decisions that are required to bring any product to market, especially a great product.

For a startup, however, the greatest failure in product development is a failure to launch. A startup’s orientation must always be toward shipping code. It’s too easy for products to get too bloated in the initial product development phase.

What signals from your consumers do you look for to signify that you are winning?

Engagement and evangelism are the two biggest indicators we look for as a success metric.  A highly engaged customer will spend more and more time working with your product.  They will discover new uses and brainstorm bigger and better use cases for you.  High engagement means you’ve identified a pain point and provided a solution of merit.

Evangelism is not just flattering; it’s a great indicator of product/market fit.  When customers turn into evangelists, you can safely bet that you’re on the right track.  Most often, customers will make recommendations without even letting you know so it’s important to ask people how they found you so you can thank (and reward) your most loyal fans. Building in rewards for customers to evangelize your product is a great tactic.

Of course, our own winning is secondary to our customers’, so we want to communicate with our customers as much as possible and make sure they are succeeding with Chute.

Here is a screenshot of a new Chute app, pics of words.

When you need to ask questions on your team, who do you go to? Who do you usually turn to outside of your organization to ask questions?

We’re lucky to have a great set of investors, and we certainly ask for their help often around all sorts of issues like hiring, strategy, pricing, and business development. They’ll frequently put us in touch with specific expertise to help educate us about a subject.

What has overjoyed you in the past month?

I think what most entrepreneurs have in common is that they derive an immense amount of utility from customers actually using and deriving value from products that they’ve built. There’s no better feeling in our business then when our customers are loving what we do for them.

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