RoadBotics: The Early Days Of An American Startup That Provides Smart Road Assessments – with Mark DeSantis

We all want our roads in good conditions. Don’t we? But, the definition of a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ road may vary a lot. This is the challenge that governments and companies run through in the process of road maintenance: assessment subjectivity.

RoadBotics was born to solve this and other problems regarding road inspections. Through the same technology used to make autonomous vehicles to “see” the road, the startup makes computers analyze road conditions.

In this interview, Mark DeSantis, cofounder of RoadBotics tells me about the early days of the startup, since the idea until it started gaining traction.

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MPost: The Traction Story of a Kenyan Startup that is solving addressing problem – with Twahir Mohamed [Ep#16]

Receiving correspondences in Kenya might be a real challenge. That’s because addresses (street, number, etc) are not available for every one.

For many years, people have been counting on PO boxes—rented post office lockable boxes—many times shared with other people, in a centralized way.

The problems naturally arise, once your packages might be accessed by unwanted people and there is no warning system to communicate you got a mail.

That’s exactly the problem MPost is tackling with its solution.

Through a unique address code—derived from users’ phone numbers—MPost provides privacy and, at the same time, communication about new packages deliveries.

In the 16th episode of The Traction Stage Podcast, Twahir Mohamed told me how he and his partner developed MPost and how they are impacting the lives of more than 45,000 users.

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Entrepreneurial Negotiation by Samuel Dinnar and Lawrence Susskind

As a startup founder, you’ll have to negotiate with many parties like co-founders, customers, suppliers, employees and other stakeholders.

What you get from each negotiation will impact directly on your startup’s short and long-term outcomes.

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Book: The Startup Owner’s Manual – by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

I bought this book many years ago and I’m still using it heavily.

First, if you don’t know Steve Blank, stop for a minute and check his blog. The guy is a startup guru and this book is #1 Amazon Title in “Entrepreneurship” category.

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What Is Your Business Model Hypothesis?

After assessing your startup idea, it’s time to translate it into a business model hypothesis, which will help you on better:

  1. Visualizing the idea: the business model hypothesis will consolidate the problem and the solution in the business model component called “value proposition” which—with other 8 components—will bring you a clearer picture of what you’re aiming to build.
  2. Communicating the idea: once it is easier to visualize it, it will be easier to communicate your idea to other stakeholders as: employees, co-founders and investors.
  3. Iterating the idea: With a structured framework, it will also be easier to analyze and define which assumptions should be tested first and how could you iterate your business model hypothesis in order to achieve success.

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Who Are Your Startup’s Customers?

At this point, you’ve already done several interviews about the problem with your potential customers. Based on these interviews, you have a clearer picture about who your customers are.

However, you need more than just a blurry picture of them. To move on with confidence, you must present a better answer than just “women, in their 30s, with no kids.”

This is a good start. But, to properly answer to the question, you’ll have try hard to see all the pixels in that picture.

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What Is Your Startup’s Value Proposition?

When a customer is considering buying a product, she will start (consciously or unconsciously) relating its features to a possible benefit for her life.

Everything that can make her life better, she’ll consider as a value.

Well, your value proposition is all the value (in your customers perspective) you are delivering through your product or service.

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How Do You Communicate, Sell And Deliver Value To Your Customers?

At this point, you already should know a lot about your customers and your Value Proposition. Now it’s time to define how you’ll communicate, sell and deliver your value to them.

Here we have some examples of channels:

  • Online sales;
  • Sales Team;
  • Own Stores;
  • Partner Stores;
  • Social Networks;
  • Mass Merchandisers;
  • Retailers;
  • Sales Rep-firms;
  • Distributors.
  • Others….
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How Will Your Startup Get, Keep And Grow Its Customers Base?

I bet you’ve been working hard on thinking about your solution design and features. Right?

But, what about your strategy to call customers’ attention towards your product or service? What about your plan to make them start and keep using it? And how will you make them buy more from you?

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