Taivara’s Kevin Dwinnell sits down with Columbus! Something New to talk turning ideas into concepts, assessment and prioritization of the concept, making smart use of valuable resources and increasing your chances of success.


Amy: This is Columbus! Something New with Amy & Burke and we’re here with Kevin Dwinnell at Taivara’s offices.

Kevin: Yes our World Headquarters, thank you Amy.

Amy: The world headquarters.  That’s very impressive.  Now Taivara, who’s tagline is “We turn ideas into products” and that’s bigger than just ceral bowls, yes, that’s bigger than just cereal bowls.  So give us a give us an overview of what happens here.

Kevin: So we are a new product innovation.  So what we do is we help companies go from an idea to revenue and those companies to be startups, entrepreneurs or can be larger enterprises that are trying to match the behaviors of startups and move quickly from an idea to a product in a market with something and do it with small bets rather than a very large bet which tends to go wrong.

Amy: A bet?

Kevin: A bet. The investment that goes into the product. So if you think about a startup or entrepreneur, it’s a combination of the funding model and the business development model.  So the way it works is you have an idea and you start to develop that idea to get people to start to back it. That backing eventually comes in the form of investment. Here in town Rev1 is the primary driver of that. You go there and they buy in on the concept and give you $50,000 to $250,000 to start developing it.

In an Enterprise the same thing happens.  If you’ve got an idea you start to develop that out and it requires investment. In the past, companies would spend millions of dollars to release a product into the market, say “Here it is” and then they figure out whether people want it or not.  What startups do is they figure out very early if people want it or not and continue to get investment because of that positive traction. That’s what businesses are moving toward, these incremental investments, or bets as I called it, and then betting more on the things that look like they’re working and abandoning the ones that are not.

Amy: How do you fit in that?

Kevin: Well we have a process, and again, going from idea to revenue, that’s really three parts. It’s prioritization of that project or the things you’re solving for in that business because every new businesses a lot of guesswork and a lot of assumptions. You need to figure out what are all the assumption that make up this business idea and which ones are going to kill the business first. Start putting real data around it to understand those.

The next stage is interacting with customers to figure out if they really value what it is you’re working on. Then you start to build that value, in terms of the product, that’s going to serve that need. It’s literally that dance between prioritization, customer interaction, and product iteration that creates a very experimental environment that’s very dynamic. Just make a little bit of improvement. If it’s on track then double down. If it’s not, tweak it adjust it and you keep moving. That generally will get you to the revenue side much, much faster.

Amy: And you help with all three of these aspects?

Kevin: Yeah.  So I’m the I’m the practice leader on the innovation side which is usually those first two pieces. We have a practice lead on the development side of things as well.

When we work with corporate clients, we think of it as a lifecycle or a maturity level.  If a company is starting out, they’ve not done any new product innovation then they probably need help with the process. We’ll help put that process in place and will work with them through that process.

Eventually, products will start coming out the other side of that. We can help with that development if they’re at capacity limits supporting their existing business. Some of our clients have that front-end process down and have been doing it for a number of years.  But again, their internal capacity, their IT and technical departments are usually staffed supporting the core business. On what’s making all the money right now.  And so to pull them off and put them on something that doesn’t make money doesn’t make sense.

That’s what we play so we’re quick, we can start to prove that it’s a good idea and then we can start to invest in it as it makes sense.

Amy: So are there certain types of companies think that come to you for help? Or is it just across the board all different kinds of companies with different ideas?

Kevin: It’s across the board with caveats.

We’re digital people so we’ve got engineers and coding experts that develop products and release them in a market. Things like web applications mobile applications.  You know, back-end systems that run a lot of industries around town. The process itself of that iteration and discovery and talking to customers, that’s a political across industries.

Worthington Industries has an innovation center that’s putting this kind of process in place. For a company that has a history in steel, they’re doing a lot of new things to drive growth for their business.

What I tend to say is, all of us that are entrepreneurs want to start a product and want it to go big. There is a process to go through. It’s not a recipe I can’t say “follow the steps I can guarantee that you’re going to win.”  If you follow our steps, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding.

So my goal is to try to find that sweet spot. An analogy I use is hitting a ball or trying to get a home-run off a bat.  I can completely miss the ball which is one scenario.  But I can also get a home-run.  You know I can hit it on the tip of the bat, I can hit it off the handle of the bat, but that’s not where I’m going to get most of my home-runs.

Most of those home-runs come in the sweet spot of the bat. That’s my goal for businesses. Let’s put you in the sweet spot. I can’t guarantee that you’ll win, but at least we can put the odds in your favor that you’ll do well.

Amy: So Taivara also sponsors Product Hunt Columbus? Tell us about that.

Kevin: Yes. There are a lot of activities for companies in town at the earliest idea stage.  They’re generally pitch events. You have things like Wakeup Startup, SunDown RunDown, Rev1 has pitch events, Founders Factory has had pitch events, along with Innovate New Albany. There are always opportunities to get your idea in front of investors. But there was less on the back end. Once I have the product, how do I get it in the market?

What I want to do is build a community of early evangelists, people that are excited to try new things. I want to let someone who’s developed a product demo their product in front of them.  We want to showcase Columbus. There’s a lot of cool things going on here.  You know it’s a great city.  It’s a great place and a very supportive community.  So let’s help build a buzz around that. At a minimum, I ask people that they tweet out or post on Facebook if you see something here you like. Talk about it, help build buzz, and ideally if you’re drawn to it, buy it and start using it. Help this person get those early customers that are going to help shape their product and drive their success.  So it’s just part of that ecosystem here that we’re building in town to provide support at each stage of building this idea.

I think it attracts a different group. If you go to a lot of the Startup events, you start to see the usual suspects.  Those of us, like me, that are at these events are regularly.  We’re drawing a wider audience.  There’s definitely a lot of interest in this space and it’s also fun to see how far people have gotten with what they work on.

So if someone is interested in the help that Taivara supports or provides, or someone is interested in learning more about Products Hunt Columbus, how do they get in touch with you?

They can find me.  Well, they can visit Taivara.com.  I’m kdwinnell@taivara.com. I’m assuming you have a website where you can see that? Because the spelling trips people up.

So we work with startups and we work with Enterprise. The startup work is, in large part, a labor of love. We’re entrepreneurs here and we have been through this process.  It’s hard, it’s grueling, it’s hard to find people with the level of empathy to understand really what you’re going through. When you’re running out of cash, when you’re you know getting all kinds of rejection, you’ve got to plow through that.

Product Hunt is part of that support.  We provide support for startups. We mentor and advise a lot of companies. Our business is built on work-for-hire.  But we also do a lot just to support this industry. Product Hunt is along those lines.  How can we just get people moving in the right direction, make those connections that are important for them, and keep driving things forward.

Amy: So one thing about hosting a podcast and interviewing a lot of different people is I learn new words or new terms. One of the things that I had to look at when you emailed me was “early evangelists” I did not know what that meant so I had a look it up. Would you explain what that means?

Kevin: Yes. Markets are divided.  You know you’ve got your early adopters, people that are always want the newest thing. A friend of mine, and business partner, has always wanted the latest phone. Before smartphones are out, every week he seemed to have the new phone.  He was ordering from overseas.  He would get it.  He would flip it on eBay to make his money back or more, but he just always has to have the new thing.

That early evangelist is that kind of person, but they want to talk about it. We are all humble and we want the product to speak for itself. Unfortunately with all the noise and all the activity, you need somebody to help you cut through that clutter. It’s most resonating when it’s coming from real people.

So it’s like Facebook and Twitter and whatever resonates is comments from real people.  That’s the goal behind the early evangelist. Find somebody that loves to play with the new technology but is also willing to champion it and tell others how to spread the work.

Amy: What is the difference between an early evangelist and someone who reviews?

Kevin: I think they are getting on in the same continuum. Just this week Amazon shut down their paid review or program.  You could sign up for discounted products for an honest review of that product.  So you could save seventy percent off something as long as you wrote a review for it. Amazon has banned that practice. The theory there is that you’re giving an honest review.

Early evangelists, by nature, want to talk about the product. So whether you call that a review, I guess I wouldn’t see it as an official review, but it becomes an endorsement if they like it.

That early evangelist is typically that one that wants to try something new.  They also are probably a little more forgiving. I run Beta software on all my electronic devices.  I know things are going to break.  But I want to know what’s coming.  So I’m willing to take that trade-off. I also provide feedback on the things that I discover that are broken so that they can be fixed when they’re there for the mainstream. Part of that is the joy that I get out of the experience to feel like I’m contributing.

Amy: Kevin thanks so much for having us here today.

Kevin: Thank you.  It’s been a pleasure.  I really enjoyed the conversation.

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