Earlier this year we began an effort that led to the launch of our second product, Venga Move, an all-in-one platform that helps fitness studios strengthen connections with their clients. Not only did this represent a new product for us, but it was also an entirely different industry which, on the surface, appears to be very different from the restaurant industry where we worked exclusively for the first six years of our company’s life.
One of the biggest pitfalls for a young company is lack of focus. When cash is tight and investors are clamoring for sales growth, it’s easy to get distracted by near term revenue opportunities that don’t align with long term goals.
I was guilty of this in our early days when I chose to pursue the development of an ill-conceived custom solution for our largest customer at the time. I knew the project was likely to be a disaster, but I decided to go ahead anyway because of the associated revenue. Over the next year, we burned hundreds of engineering hours and the final product ended up being scrapped shortly thereafter.
I learned a valuable lesson about staying committed to our mission and fortunately the distraction wasn’t fatal. Since then I’ve been much more disciplined about which projects to pursue.
While the decision to expand into the fitness industry was not without risk (little that’s worth doing ever is), success would be a game changer for Venga as it would double the size of our addressable market and diversify us across multiple industries. Equally importantly, there were several factors that allowed us to feel comfortable with the risk in pursuing a new product in a completely new industry.
I knew that Venga Move would have quite a bit of overlap with our original product, Venga Dine. Both had the same overall function, to enrich the customer experiences of our clients. This overlap would enable us to build Venga Move much faster by both reusing parts of our code as well as applying six years of lessons learned. In fact, we built a working proof-of-concept in a single month using just two (very talented) software developers. I felt confident that, even if we had to scrap Move, the time spent on the project would not be in vain if we could apply that work to our legacy product.
We also mitigated risk by approaching this market with a strong partner in MINDBODY, the leading technology platform for the wellness services industry. Everything we lacked in the fitness industry (knowledge of customer needs, relationships with potential clients), they have in spades.
Lastly I knew that, because of where we were in our lifecycle, failure on this project would not mean the death of the company. We’re fortunate to be operating profitably with positive cash flows. We are able to use those profits to pursue opportunities like Venga Move knowing that we’re not betting the farm.
Even with all these factors mitigating the risk of failure, I still approached the project cautiously. We built a proof of concept to get feedback from our partner, then invested further to turn that into a beta to get input from real customers. Only at that point did I dedicate the necessary resources to turn the product into something ready for market. And we did that all with our existing staff – only after we have paying customers will we actually hire staff dedicated to sell and support our new product.
I’m incredibly proud of our team, who built Venga Move from initial concept to release, orchestrated an entire company rebranding to support it, and built strong relationships within all functions at MINDBODY, our incredible partner in this endeavor, all in under a year. Their ingenuity, passion, and dedication never ceases to amaze me.