Here at 1871 and incubators around the country, one of the first questions asked is “who is your target customer?” The idea is that the answer to that question informs your solution, the community you try to build, your product design and functionality, the channels and positioning and monetization and team and roadmap and eventually choice of office chairs. And for awhile, my answer was “everybody”. Because I use Facebook to stalk my children and Google to check my spelling and I’m pretty sure neither of those use cases was anticipated by Zuckerberg, Page, or Brin, even though millions of us do it.
But, I am starting to think about office chairs (really, I’m sitting on a bench as I write this) and it’s occurred to me that I know who my target customer is. It’s me.
Having grown up the oldest of four children largely supported by a mom who never graduated from high school, I’m no stranger to tight budgets. Having started a company 20 years ago and discovering to do so we had to come up with three times the personal investment amount we’d planned (which was already more than I had in the bank), I’m familiar with pinching every penny to meet a tough goal. And with three very active children and a fantastic wife who have been tolerant of my cheapskate ways (who else gets their hair cut at $5 places and drives everywhere on vacations, including Europe, to save money?) in order to live as royalty by global historical standards, I’m comfortable making tradeoffs in spending.
But I’m also aware that our economy is moving towards more and more free agency (I saw 48% by 2020 in a talk by Howard Tullman the other night), that 4 of 5 American adults will live in near poverty at some point in their life according to a report by the AP last month, and that there are three-plus Billion people who want to do our jobs at a fraction of the price. And life throws these curves at us, like downturns and layoffs and divorce and disability, as well as graduations and relocations and births and new jobs and new marriages and new houses. Whether we’re going up the down escalator or down the up escalator, we’re constantly moving.
And 94.44% respondent’s in our current survey, when asked “Do you think spending management is a problem for America?”, replied “Yes”.
There are lots of us who want to get this under control, with some time if not an infinite pool of cash that would allow our loved ones to spend like drunken oligarchs. But that takes time- and there are privacy issues: spending is perhaps the most private behavior of all (also in Tullman’s talk- credit card companies can predict who will divorce by charge patterns, and divorce is a credit risk). So a solution that would allow me to help while allowing the people I’m trying to help to enter the information confidentially and manage it effortlessly so I don’t have to get involved unless they ask me to… sounds really good to me.
And I don’t think being my own target customer is a bad idea at all. I suspect that most innovative companies start out that way (and let me assure you we intend to innovate at Spendbot, with plans to execute what no one in the world is doing). I’m reminded of the shaver commercial guy who said “I liked it so much, I bought the company”. Well, I like the idea so much, I started the company, even if it’s not easy. It’s a bit like World Peace: I want it, I think we should be able to have it, but getting there is really hard. But looking at today’s statistics and tomorrows’ forecasts, very much worth it.
So, thanks for reading. And if you’d like to help by taking our survey (results coming soon), please visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/aboutbudgets. I won’t enter you into a contest, but I’ll offer you a solution to a big problem.