When the core product become a distraction

“Seriously, these guys are walking dead, don’t waste too much time on them”

One of the Partners was warning me about a company i was looking at and trying to help. They’d been hit really hard by COVID-19, the business was an app that focused on travel guides and airport transfer bookings, and it was shaky to begin with, COVID lockdowns in South East Asia had basically finished them off, and if it wasn’t for some government support that they were capitalising on, it would have been a write of.

The app was losing more than half the users it was gaining, and those users were being acquired via paid activity, the marketing budget covered by hotels and other merchants that were taking advantage of a government grant that mean it was ‘free’ – it was clear the users were simply coming to sign up for a specific offer, then deleting the app once they had redeemed. Don’t even get me started about in-app activity beyond the offer sign up page.

Still, the founder was a technical founder, “the app IS our business” he stated, I could see it would be a challenge to help him see that this love for product was distracting him, the core product had become a barrier to the growth, the value of the business wasn’t in the app, it was in the database of merchants and the database of potential customers. But, the founder was convinced that the technology was where the value was.

“just test”

“Just do an A/B test, run one campaign directing to the app, another via the website and newsletter, and just see, which gets more signups”

We finally agreed a few weeks of experiments here would be a fair trial, you could see the founder wanted to prove me wrong, he wanted, so badly, for his app to work. But, in the end, the simpler funnel result spoke for themselves, more than triple the activity and sign ups.

it was evident than the business needed to pivot, and clear what the pivot would be, the app was a distraction, certainly at this specific point in time; and the reality was they would have a more successful business that could weather the current storm focusing on this new direction.

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