Kevin Ng tells us about market research, time management, and product validation

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“This is where a lot of my time and money goes — idea validation, but it is much better than spending a year to build a product, and then finding out the market response.” Kevin Ng from Sonicwarper, based at Blk71 in Singapore

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” ―Friedrich Nietzsche

Kevin created the Sonicwarper so that more of us can have the pleasure of spinning dance music through a DJ digital controller. With the Sonicwarper, even the curious but passionate 14-year-old can download songs, spin the turntable and, finally, share their dance music with scores of other dance aficionados.

Like any astute entrepreneur, Kevin watches the market closely and observes the intimate link between our cultural tastes and material consumption:

“The music industry and music equipment industry is closely tied. In the 1970s, rock music and guitars were all the rage, so related accessories such as pedals were selling really well. Right now, dance music is this generation’s rock guitar of the 70s. Sales of DJ controllers are doubling every two years, and that’s a huge growth.”

This monumental task of conceptualizing and inventing a gadget draws on an immense reserve of time. As the solo founder, Kevin personally balances out the scattering dimensions of his business such as coding, product validation, sales, marketing, customer service, and fundraising.

Juggling every department in the company can be stressful, but Kevin maintains a calm handle over time which is probably his elixir to progress. He says: “I spend a lot more time figuring out what to do before I do it. I think that saves a lot of time — especially if you are able to scope down.”

How does Kevin know whether anyone will buy his product? His validation strategy is brilliant: “I try to test the idea without building the product. For example, I invited people to sign-up as a beta tester, and told them to convince me why they should be the first ones to try it since we had limited slots available. This is where a lot of my time and money goes — idea validation, but it is much better than spending a year to build a product, and then finding out the market response.”

Selling the idea — rather than a finished product — helps enormously with shaping the product to the tune of what people actually want to buy.

“I asked my potential beta-testers: “How will you use this product?” Their responses surprised me because when you are designing a product, you expect people to use it in a certain way, but they ask all sorts of questions like: “Are the controls accurate?” This is how you discover which attributes are actually important to them. Perhaps in the beginning you might not think that “accuracy” is important, but when you hear these questions, you will think: “Oh, accuracy is really important!” and other aspects like that. So I do this ten or more different times.”

Validating user feedback is tedious, but there is no escaping from paying close attention to detail. “I created a spreadsheet to record each person who was contacted as a beta-tester, at what stage, and their response — this took a lot of time — more time than building the product! Building the product took about three months, but validating it took a really long time.”

To gain actionable feedback, Kevin stresses the importance of scoping down the features. “My mentor advised me to test one thing at a time, otherwise you won’t know what is working and what isn’t. This is why I did so many experiments. In one test, I included the gesture recognition, and in another test, it was another feature. Of course, the final product brings it all together.”

Thanks Kevin for giving us a peek behind the scenes of running a startup! For those wanting to get their hands on the DJ digital controller, check out http://sonicwarper.com/

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NUS Enterprise nurtures entrepreneurial talents with global mindsets, while advancing innovation and entrepreneurship at Asia’s leading university.

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