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Productizing Leadership Skills

    Domain: Future-of-work/Worktech/HRtech

    Status Reached: MVP

    When: February 2023-September 2023

    Team Skill set: Two co founders, HR and Tech, met as employees at a previous company

    Thesis/ Idea

    The need we identified was for leadership training from within companies, given the pivotal role managers play in their employees’ success (and that of the company). While there are many products to improve management skills, there are hardly any products to improve leadership skills, which are often addressed through one-time workshops, which are not enough, or are limited to companies where there is a budget for individual coaching. 

    We wanted to productize leadership, and built a product that uses four steps to do so:

    Awareness -> Framing -> Suggested actions -> Taking action

    We built an MVP that was an add-on to Slack and was installed with several users who we met with once a week to go over feedback. The MVP flagged messages that contained very negative or very positive language, and sent alerts to the user with the addressed message, the framing of the message (positive or negative), and a suggested action as a follow-up. We also signed with a design partner and had a few more on the way.

    Why the idea didn’t progress

    We weren’t able to raise funds:

    • Unclear business model: We needed to better understand who would pay for the product. HR has a training budget, but usually it’s not big. Also, they were hesitant to adopt a product like that. Tech leads were another option, since they are focused on productivity and our product helped new managers be more productive, but still it wasn’t the obvious customer.
    • No VC money: The idea was a better fit for bootstrap than for VC money, since the ROI wasn’t big enough with the current model.
    • Founding team: we were missing a partner with business expertise. 
    • Timing: We were two years too late (and missed the HRtech hype post COVID), but also two years too early (there still isn’t confidence in the ability to productize human skills, which we believe will grow as GenAI becomes more and more popular.)

    Validation

    • We spoke to over 100 professionals in four core roles: CEOs, CTOs, HR, and Tech team leads. About 70% in IL and 30% in the US
    • Met with ~50 investors, most of them VCs in IL

    Research

    • Analyzed leadership research and books, and aggregated it into a leadership model
    • Tech research around LLMs
    • Productivity models research 
    • Market research into the competitive landscape, divided into eight groups, and chose the most relevant ones (productivity and virtual leadership development). 

    Insights

    • Even if there’s consensus around the problem and the need to solve it, that’s not enough for validation. I should have asked more directly: if you had the option to buy this kind of product – would you? How much would you pay? What will it replace within your current products/ vendors? 
    • Ideas around work-tech are hard to sell to VCs. Probably better to go bootstrap if you can.
    • Your co-founder is the most important thing in this journey, invest in this partnership
    • Understand what you’re doing right and take pride in it – celebrate small  wins.
    • You can listen to all the advice in the world and prepare like crazy, but at the end of the day you are doomed to make mistakes, even trivial ones. It is a part of the process.