Finding the right product market fit for your startup or small business sometimes feels like trying to discover the holy grail. But I’ve learned that market fit is less of a magical moment and more about a journey of clarity.
Life After Me is a new Dutch startup that I launched in September 2020. We have the mission to enable people to leave behind all that matters. A few years ago, I attended my uncle’s funeral which was not on par with the personality of my uncle who suddenly passed away.
The wake after the funeral was very sad and short and I’m sure he would not have wanted it. While speaking about my struggle that way, I found out that many people have experienced similar moments and really like the idea of a safe and intuitive digital solution to get prepared when the time comes.
Our cofounder Vasileios Papadopoulos started sending an SMS from the plane on a business trip to his wife when he experienced major turbulence. Ed Scutt, our chief technology officer, witnessed an ugly fight in his family about who should get the letter from Queen Elizabeth II that his grandmother received when she turned 100.
The 3 of us started working on a minimum viable product (MVP) that enables people to upload important documents and create notes that will be shareable with their loved ones (so-called Buddies) when they pass away. We raised money from friends and family and launched the service in September 2021 with a social media campaign that got a lot of likes and followers.
Why Our Product Didn’t Fit
Guess what? Nobody subscribed.
We thought that it couldn’t be the product (naively), so it must surely be the market that does not understand the value yet. Therefore, we intensified our marketing campaign and made changes based on the learnings from social media. Personas were created from intel derived from digital campaigns and marketing brainstorm sessions. But after a new and improved campaign, the number of subscribers was still next to zero.
In the meantime, we joined the Birdhouse startup accelerator program in Belgium, and during our four-month intensive program with a special aging and longevity vertical, led by Dirk Schyvink, the questions asked made us finally go back to the drawing board. Also, did we not learn enough from Eric Ries (The Lean Startup)—the market tells you whether your product is right.
Finding a Market for Our Product
We worked relentlessly to finetune the service and made the pivot to focus on B2B2C partnerships. We approach life Insurance companies, funeral services, and healthcare organizations instead of a general consumer.
Our mission stayed the same, but the product and marketing approach changed. Our budget, time, and energy shifted to approaching organizations and showing how we could add value to their customer base.
Our strategy worked. We’re piloting Life After Me with life insurance and healthcare insurance providers in Belgium and The Netherlands. Fortunately, more capital was raised from angel investors, which also enabled us to increase the team and conduct market research.
Our research showed that there is a healthy appetite for the Life After Me solution, but there are concerns surrounding trust, security, and the belief that people will rather manually collect their post-mortem treasures rather than pay for an app. Therefore, cooperation with trusted partners such as banks and insurance companies was the right direction to follow. Financial services providers are looking for digital innovation and improving their customers’ journey, making a partnership with Life After Me a win-win.
With the extra capital, we upgraded our IT security highest levels and certifications. We also approached charities like Alzheimer Netherlands, Heart Foundation, and Cancer Foundation and plant a tree for every new member via Plant-for-the-Planet, a United Nations initiative.
We as a team genuinely want to do good for society and nature, but this also works in the business’ favor in terms of adding additional trustworthiness. With these partnerships and more creative marketing the social media strategy, subscriptions are significantly growing and resources for marketing, sales, and IT are increasing.
How to Find the Right Product Market Fit
The key lesson from Life After Me’s search for a product market fit is to listen to the market and do your market research through surveys and calls/meetings with your early adopters. Furthermore, believe in your mission and vision and work relentlessly to make it happen. Most importantly, however, stay agile and learn from feedback and innovate and improve. Patience is a virtue, in life and in business.
Create an advisory board with seasoned professionals and dare to ask people to become part of your journey and ask them for support where needed. Lots of people are willing to help new entrepreneurs with innovative ideas that make a difference. There’s no holy grail to finding the perfect product market fit. But by listening, asking for help, and delivering results you can find something even greater—a product that makes a difference.