Ilya Sharafan (FrieslandCampina) About the process and cooperation with BEACON
“In eight months we developed a product, a machine and smart packaging, whose new technology has been patented. Even in the world of software development and lean startups, this is an extraordinarily high speed. Let alone for the world of hardware. BEACON is responsible for organizing the technical product development of our startup. The basis of our successful cooperation is trust and strong commitment. Meanwhile, things are looking promising, on April 1, MILQMOR will be officially presented at the expo in China.”
LEARN FROM CUSTOMERS
“It is an adventure with a lot of trial and error.
A year ago, Marleen, Vincent and I, started as a self-managing startup team within FrieslandCampina. Ambitious as we are, we were looking for an idea that would generate serious big business. It was our first time working with the lean startup method. Once we had described our big idea, after only two weeks it became clear that it wasn’t going to work. We continued with new ideas, learning from many interviews with potential customers. It was hard to realize that our ideas were not that good and the world was in fact different than we thought. The pressure increased, as we had a total of thirteen weeks to come up with a valid business concept. Then we got to the point where we said: let’s forget everything and just go with our eyes open.”
“Some friends, traveling through Asia, sent us a message, “Hey guys, we see that cheesetea is booming business here. When we saw some photos and videos of this market, we immediately realized how we could fix the critical pain points. We identified the problems that could not be solved locally with the usual tools and routines. That’s how we came up with the idea of a product, a machine and smart packaging, whose technology would be protected by FrieslandCampina. Within a week, we made a video with a fake cheese tea machine, because we wanted to make sure that this solution could actually be sold. We flew to China and probed large Chinese customers to see if they would be willing to buy our solution at the proposed price. They immediately responded enthusiastically. Then we were able to set up parameters within which we started developing.”
“Working with good team members is directly linked to success. Within our team, everyone has his or her own expertise. At FrieslandCampina we are No. 1 in dairy, and for other areas of expertise we hire people to help us make our dreams come true. We were looking for a partner who would challenge us in terms of the product development of the hardware and the organization of the total solution, especially since this product is new to us. Lean startup is a process of a lot of failure, things go wrong every day. It is precisely from this that we learn which elements we can redesign or optimize. Therefore, the resilience and a reflective mindset of the team members is very important. We really wanted someone who would convince us that he or she was the right team member.”
“We came across BEACON via Quintijn. He turned out to be the ideal partner for us: visionary, pragmatic, and very experienced and his network is huge. He takes full responsibility, doesn’t waste our time and never comes back with problems. That’s the mentality we were looking for. What I appreciate about BEACON is that we can just blindly trust that everything they do is right. They deliver what they promise every sprint. If the pressure of the workload suddenly goes to 200% or 300%, they flexibly switch people around, and the quality and speed of the work always remain high. That’s a very big sign of quality.”
CREATE WHAT THE CUSTOMER WANTS
“To understand exactly what the customer wants and to be able to approach them in the right way, we soon decided that Marleen would go to China for 11 months. Within the team, she could represent the voice of the customer in development. When we were testing the cooling system, the technical team came up with a solution that would reduce the cost. This version differed by as much as ten degrees from the more expensive solution. Marleen then installed temperature trackers at a large number of outlets in China. She concluded that we would lose half the business with the low-cost solution. So we were able to invalidate the assumption and fail cheaply. We were able to deliberately choose the expensive option early on, which would allow us to serve the entire market.”
THE ESSENCE: SIMPLE AND FAST
“The lean startup process is very well defined. Vincent repeated every day, almost like a mantra, “Trust the process and it will eventually get you where you want to be. To learn which way to go, it is essential to expose yourself to criticism. If you don’t fail quickly, it actually means you didn’t try hard enough. From everything that goes wrong, you must learn. This mindset is crucial. The essence of lean working is: keep it simple and do it fast. If something is 60 percent done, it is at an acceptable level and you can put it on the market right away, to learn from selling, from marketing and from setbacks. If you want to make it too good and too nice, you go against the principle of learning cheaply and quickly. Then you lose time, speed, money and focus on all sides. It is important to put aside ego and arrogance. Beautiful machines with many functions and fancy looks represent the ego of designers. We don’t care about ego, we really want to build what the customer wants: a simple working solution, which solves the pain points of the customer target group and consumers. Nothing more, nothing less.
If you follow the process, within five days you can validate what you have in your mind, define the initial assumptions and translate them into prototypes that you test. At the end of the week, you can decide whether or not to proceed and how. This working method makes it possible to develop at impressive speed. Just eight months after the first sketch, we can launch our MILQMOR solution on the market.“