How we navigated the gauntlet to success

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First, for context, here’s a quick explanation about us:

Tank Utility is a tank monitor start-up.  We make sure people don’t run out of heat by connecting delivered fuel consumers to their fuel oil and propane tank with an app and smart meter.

Here’s a quick inside into the steps of our journey so far!

Step 1: Find a customerkickstarter

Amazing crowd-funding successes tempt many start-ups.

But more often, attempts and failures are clear signs to go back to that cushy full-time gig— or never leave it to begin with.

Sometimes meeting a kickstarter goal isn’t the only measure of success. Some companies fail, then succeed on their second attempt with the new-found following and early momentum.

Other times, despite failure, a campaign can help you find early customers.

Let me expand on that. Not only did we get purchases from home automation enthusiasts who provided great feedback to help us refine our product, we got some really high-value enterprise customers.

We always knew we could monetize the value of the data we collect by helping fuel suppliers be more efficient in their logistics. What we didn’t know was how to find the fuel delivery industry’s early-adopters.  We also weren’t sure exactly what they wanted from tank monitors.

Turns out, people who own businesses look at kickstarter, too!

Step 2: Focus on the value

We learned quickly that some of what we promised to build was really needed. It takes discipline to focus. That means ignoring bells and whistles.

Customers pay the bills, but they also help purge and de-prioritize the nice-to-haves.

Our customers said what they needed, so we put on our headphones (since they also help drown out bells and whistles) and got to work. We coded and built and iterated until we could show them the embarrassing version that we called “the demo.”

This was a works-like demo. Not an alpha, and certainly not a beta.

We apologized for our mistakes, and refined it based on feedback.

When our product was almost not embarrassing, and mostly functional, we started taking orders and set a ship-it deadline.

Step 3: Tell the storyapp-store-iphone

This is the point of this post. We’ve been shipping product for the last month and we just launched in the app store.  It’s a good feeling to have what we’ve created out there publicly.

But now we’re measuring, testing, learning, and squashing the occasional bug.  And doing our best to avoid catastrophic mistakes.

We’re also learning. A mentor called me this morning. He told me “don’t forget to make assumptions and measure against your goals.”

It’s funny how timely this was because we put a ton of energy into collecting validation metrics, but I didn’t know how to set our goals.

I always assumed app store downloads would be from people that already own our hardware. So in essence I was anxious to measure app downloads as a % of purchases. My goal was 90%

I didn’t realize app downloads would be an indicator of market interest in our hardware.

Instead, downloads are keeping well ahead of sales!

One thought on “How we navigated the gauntlet to success

  1. Is this thing shipping yet? I know this isn’t the correct place to post this, but there is no way to contact anyone from your website, nor can I find anything online. I’m hoping someone gets notification of this and responds. It does scare me a little if someone from the company says it’s shipping, but there is no way to contact anyone if there is a problem….

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