Random musings on product development from my first SXSW Interactive experience

sxsw_jason_1I am one of the thousands of people in Austin this week for SXSW Interactive thanks to Fusionfarm sending me down to take in the expertise, networking opportunity, beer and food.

For background, my approach to SXSW is to focus on ecommerce and marketplace strategy, development and implementation. Fusionfarm is an integrated marketing agency. I work with clients who want digital marketing services, as well as focus on marketplace and ecommerce new product development.

I’ve met a number of great people so far. The real examples people use in the sessions have been inspiring. Here are a few random thoughts that have stuck out so far:


Norman Winarsky, the vice president of Ventures at SRI International – the nonprofit institute behind such things as SIRI –  gave three simple considerations that drive new product development:

  • A real market pain
  • A great team to work on the solution
  • A differentiated value proposition

An interesting fact Winarsky shared was that SIRI came about while trying to solve this problem: How do you access web services without clicking? Twenty percent of potential customers are lost with every click.

To paraphrase: “The key is to overcome the thought that it starts with a technology. First, ask yourself if you have the means to solve the problem. Are you willing to invest money and, more importantly, your heart?”

In another session, Ram Menon, who’s Responsible for TIBCO’s Social Computing Division, said if you want technology to be adopted for a product or service in this environment is must contain these three things:

  • It must be mobile
  • It must be easy to use
  • It must be beautiful


I live and work in Iowa where adoption of product and services that utilizes digital technology can be a challenge. A theme I’ve encountered a few times is that if you swing for the fences with a new technology venture it will be very difficult to succeed. Instead focus on a minimum viable product to prove the service in a limited fashion.

There are two reason for this:

  • If you have a small team trying to go after a large market opportunity it will likely suck the life out of you
  • It’s easier to find and utilize the early adopters and treat them like gold

“Find a few key people with vast networks who see great value in what you are offering. Your best customers are your best marketers.”

More on my SXSW experience will be coming soon.


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