Co-written with Jason Moore, CEO at Stratasan.
When you have your next big idea, it can be tempting to hold it close to your vest, fine-tuning and honing until it’s ready for the limelight. But by doing that, you’d be missing out on so much rich insight from the experts.
By experts, we’re not talking about the fellow innovators or technologists who could help you turn that idea into a viable product. We’re talking about potential customers—you know, those people with problems your product is supposed to help solve.
Jason Moore, CEO and founder of Nashville-based Stratasan, is a huge proponent of collaboration. After all, it’s what landed his healthcare tech company its first client.
“Shortly after launching the company and getting funding (from XMI’s High Growth Fund), one of the largest healthcare systems in the country took a huge risk and signed a contract with the intention of playing a big role in designing our application to fit a need,” Moore explains. “We spent the next six months co-designing the product.”
Seven years later, the tool that was developed in collaboration with that first client remains the cornerstone of the company’s offerings. What’s more, that process has become the norm for how Stratasan designs, builds and launches new products and that collaborative, “can do” attitude is reflected in their core value which plainly states, “We’ll Figure it Out.”
The Right Way to Create Buzz
Of course, there are scenarios when secrecy is a good thing, like when you have a truly disruptive, industry-changing idea. But in many cases, Moore says, there’s not much value in secrecy.
“People who talk in those terms are typically using those statements in an attempt to create buzz,” he says. “That’s fine, but the reality is it’s very unlikely that you and your team’s first idea is the perfect solution to take to market. Getting your idea out to as many applicable people as possible and having real conversations with potential clients will better inform whatever idea you have.”
The Wrong Way to Collaborate
There’s a caveat, though, and it’s a big one. When collaborating with a customer, you have to strike the right balance between helping them solve their specific problem while still creating a product that works elsewhere in the marketplace. “You can’t have a customer base of one,” Moore says. “You must design for wide adoption.”
To do that, Moore recommends relying on experienced product specialists who can “help pull the nuances out of the conversation and identify areas that might start painting you in a corner.”
It also helps to have conversations with other clients or potential clients going at the same time.
To have the most fruitful conversations, Moore says it’s important to check your “innovator” ego at the door.
“They may not be building web applications or dabbling in artificial intelligence, but clients are innovative, too,” he says. “You may have better technical expertise or understand data sources better than they do, but you absolutely do not know their problems better than they do.”
Approach relationships with a listen-first attitude. “Our No. 1 job is not to sell more stuff,” Moore says. “Our job is to listen and hear and provide more value to our customers. And that can only come through collaboration.