Building an On-demand business in the shadow of Uber – 7 lessons learned
Building an on-demand business is fast moving, challenging and exciting. I recently had the exciting opportunity to join and help build an on-demand transportation startup from proof of concept (PoC) to live in several markets. In my role as interim president of iCars, I learned valuable lessons about scaling an on-demand service. It was an amazing experience competing in the same space as the most well funded startup in history, filling a market niche and driving demand.
- What Is Your Why? Your business exists to…? If you don’t have a clear answer to then huddle and get clear on it. Passionate focus on mission is essential and lack of clarity will hurt you
- Be Clear on Your Target Market: We focused on providing exclusive ground transportation services for discerning clients of luxury hospitality brands and corporations. We launched with several major hotel brands. When asked if we were like the 2 big B2C services, we were clear that our future reservation app delivered exclusive professional black car services with insured, trained, professional chauffeurs. We focused on being the best in our niche and not to compete with a general market product. Our clients appreciated that clarity of mission and service.
- You are NOT Uber: I met so many on-demand companies that are “the Uber of (fill in the blank)”. Sorry you’re not worth $70 billion, you don’t have 1,500 engineers. Hyperbole will kill your credibility with clients and investors. Focus on your strength and execute well.
- Scale Your Tech Before You Need To: Our initial product was a great proof of concept. To prepare for live, multi-city customer demand, we worked hard to build and scale. Your tech must be ahead of your growth curve because when things take off, it’s hard to catch up to your “tech deficit”. Your team needs to use your product in real world “voice of the customer” testing.
- Clarify Your Customer Care Plan: What happens when someone complains? What is your internal service time expectation? What are your customer satisfaction KPIs? Is your escalation process clear? How do you handle credits, refunds, comps? This is important stuff that can’t be ambiguous or left to the intern to figure out. Remember, your customer won’t give you a 2nd chance.
- Build Your Marketing Execution Plan: Our business was focused on B2B2C and our primary focus was attracting demand of hospitality and corporate clients. We also needed quality supply (chauffeurs) and recruiting, training and retaining them was a major competitive advantage. Both of these items drove our top of funnel revenue plan. We planned and executed specific content and GTM strategies for both sides of our market. You can always grow your tools as your scale. Marketing execution is key for sales success.
- Build a Winning Team: Find passionate people with great attitudes who believe in your mission. You can train for skills. Your culture can’t thrive without great people. There’s been so much written on effective management — here are 2 posts on how to be a good manager and how torecognize and fix bad management issues.
Building a live market place requires focus, clarity of purpose, clear messaging and great execution. Being successful requires being nimble, taking your customers’ and partners’ feedback, course correcting and always improving. If you do these things well, your odds of growth and success will grow too.