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Are Your Friends in Southeast Asia a Good Test Group?

Where to get valuable feedback for your prototype

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BY Lian Kyla Dyogi - 07 Mar 2017

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

While there is no certainty in the start-up world, a good way to test whether your product or service will work is by creating a prototype of that product or service, and get feedback.

Whether it’s for the first or 152nd test product, feedback is necessary, sometimes painful, information every start-up needs in order to improve their output. But when one sample product blurs into the next, and the team can no longer be objective, where do you look for feedback?

Matthew Cua, Founder of SkyEye Analytics, Inc., an award-wining drone manufacturing start-up in the Philippines, says “For example, you’re building a drone to monitor power lines, you don’t show it to your mother.”

The closest network entrepreneurs can tap is their own circle of friends and family. But are they the best people for the job?

For Risyiana Muthia, chief storyteller and communications manager at Hubud, a co-working space in Bali, Indonesia, says personal bias, the friends’ and family members’ desire to be nice, might get in the way of constructive criticism.

She suggests that entrepreneurs get feedback from potential customers instead.

However, Muthia says that the line between friend and customer can be blurry, depending on the context.

“The thing is, when you join co-working communities such as this, a lot of the people you meet everyday become your friends too…It’s not competitive but it’s constructive, so people are not afraid in saying their opinions,” she says.

At a co-working space such as Hubud, it might be easier for entrepreneurs to gather valuable feedback for their prototypes. At Hubud, members can participate in a regular feedback session called the Entrepreneurial Think Tank, “where members can bring their business idea, or a new app that they built, or a problem that they’re trying to solve to the session. Members who are interested will join, lend their help, brainstorm for a solution to the problem, be testers for the prototype that’s being built, and give feedback,” says Muthia.

Those who attend the Entrepreneurial Think Tanks vary in purpose and background. Says Muthia, “so people who come are actually the customers because for them an app like that [the product] solves their problems and …they want to know if the problems are being solved by that app…So the think tank itself, it’s really… just a session that we created so that all these dialogues can happen.”

Muthia says this kind of feedback session is different compared to asking your partner or friend because those who participate in the Think Tank are interested in making the product or business idea work. However, with sessions like these, you never know who is going to attend.

If entrepreneurs are looking to improve an aspect of the prototype to address specific objectives or functions, then a more curated group might be necessary.

But before entrepreneurs look for the right group, they need to make sure they know why they’re building a specific prototype. As Cua says, “So whenever you build a prototype, you have to have an objective first. So the prototype has to meet that objective. Even before you show it to friends, you show it to people, you have to have an objective or else you don’t even know what to tell your friends or what to tell your clients.”

Then again, getting feedback from these people, such as companies who can benefit from your product, can be tricky. Cua says, “The questions that you ask… how you approach the people, depends on the objective and then you should be aware if this objective is something that they can talk about, not talk about, legally not talk about. However, for Cua, who you get your feedback from only comes secondary to figuring out what you want your prototype to achieve.