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Successful Launching of a Brand New Product

Product

14 September, 2020

Shikhar Bajaj, Senior Product Manager at VMware, describes how he successfully launched a new product using the competitive advantages his company had over its competition.

Problem

I joined a brand new business unit focused on mobile as its first product manager. “Mobile” in this situation is defined as encompassing both footprints on a handset and as well as working with mobile carriers. This business unit was formed on the general presumption that the company would be needed to be more involved in the mobile ecosystem but there was no revenue plan in place. Thus we were asked to figure out what we could sell and more importantly, what we could sell quickly. The problem I faced was how to quickly bring a product offering to the market and justify the very existence of our business unit.
 

Actions taken

It was clear that we needed quick wins. We could not disappear into a cave, spend 1.5 years on development, and then do a grand unveiling and hope that we could then sell it. Instead, we needed to deliver paid customers in 6-12 months.
 

To that end, we could not start from scratch. Rather we had to leverage existing capabilities and attempt to develop new, compelling value propositions based on those. We determined that to come up with an analytics service was a good candidate. Our competitive advantage over other organizations was that we were one of the largest content distribution networks (CDNs) in the world and therefore transported a material portion of global internet traffic. We, therefore, had excellent views of E2E video and web traffic quality. Moreover, as a CDN we were able to “look inside the pipe” and understand changes in video quality in real-time since we were at both ends of the encrypted session. This was an advantage that no new entrant could replicate easily or quickly.
 

The analytics service was then primarily a dashboard of video quality segmented by region/network. The data was already being collected and we just need to build out a front-end and infrastructure to process incoming streaming data.
 

This became the first SaaS offering for the company as well as the first instance where their data was actually monetized. Within 12 months we had more than a dozen customers and an ARR of over $1M USD.
 

Lessons learned

  • Find as many customers who are willing to partner with you to improve and make your product/service successful. An actively involved beta/lead customer is worth their weight in gold as they will tell you what the market wants 6-9 months in advance. Such customers should be given “white glove” treatment. For example, we met with our lead customers weekly and any questions or concerns they had were addressed as P0 priority items.

  • Validation is crucial. You don’t need to have a MVP to validate the value. Since we were offering a data service the value was in the data itself. The dashboard was ancillary. We proved how valuable the data was by delivering spreadsheets to customers every two-weeks while we built out the dashboard front end. Customers paid 4-figures monthly for these spreadsheets.

  • Learn to walk away quickly. We understood what our data was useful for and what it was not useful for. Our general operating model was to give customers a two-week free trial of the full service and afterward either convert them into paying customers or walk away. Since we were a small group our bandwidth was limited and we could not afford to spend cycles on the low probability of closure engagements, regardless of the “potential”.


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