Danny Robinson at his perch

Danny Robinson knows the value of listening to his product’s early users. While this might sound like a familiar trait for an entrepreneur, what separates him from many founders is his determination to dramatically change the product direction based on early feedback. Danny and his team re-wrote the complete code from the ground up, not once, but three times in their search to get product/market fit right for his latest venture, Perch.

In his easy smile and relaxed shoulders, something told me that Danny would not let his desire to see his ideas get built lead him to be stuck on a rigid path. While not as textbook as some Lean entrepreneurs, Danny’s approach is certainly modeled on the principals that Eric Ries writes about in The Lean Startup.

Perch is the unlikely result of his wondering about the uses for older hardware, in this case iPads. What could be done with older generation devices as progress inevitably moves on? At first, he and his team thought that it might be an easy way to do home security. They built an iOS app that would use the motion sensor in the device to turn the camera on and start recording when someone moved by it. This first generation product was called Redhand and would often produce little clips of family pets and kids running by.

Parents loved it and talked about how it helped remind them to go home and spend time with their families. What was absent was any feedback about the security features and feeling safer because they installed the product. So, Danny and the team decided to run with the emotional feedback that he heard from his early testers. He thought ‘let’s position the product as a communication device for friends and family.’ With this new idea, the team built out a new product that included the option to exchange “2-way asynchronous communications” by recording short videos and passing them between devices.

Again, early testers of the product revealed another use from what Danny and his team had envisioned when they built the second product. Business users loved the 2-way asynchronous communication option. After carefully observing users and asking them about their experience, they discovered the real value was not simply another way for employees to communicate, but rather the potential to overcome cultural gaps. The face-to-face messaging contained rich non-verbal information for the recipient. Much of that non-verbal information helped to reinforce workplace norms and shared values that are the basis for culture.

Pivoting a second time to produce their third code rewrite, the team came up with Perch, an ‘always-on,’ ‘frictionless,’ iPad-sized window into another location. Finally, Danny got the positive “emotional response from the naysayers” that he was looking for.

In total, it took some 40 iterations, but in the end, they produced a product that would require such minimal behavior change that new users might not even know that they were using it. The video is always on, but the audio only turns on when someone makes eye contact with the iPad. They can quickly communicate with another location without pushing any buttons.

If you have an iPad, download Perch for free from iTunes and share your feedback with Danny and the team. I am sure that they would love to hear it.

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