If you build it will they come?
Updated: Apr 2, 2019
After the first prototype was completed, our mentor Paul suggested that before we spend more time on the project, we should at least find out if people would use HairSense. Even if it could be manufactured, would anyone want it?
So we set about doing some market validation. We created a survey to capture people's behavior around hairdressing to see what their pains and gains were. This survey didn't mention the product at all but just focused on people's experience with getting their hair cut.
Together myself and Wilson, a mechatronics graduate who was helping me on some tasks, set of out into the street. We interviewed 35 men about their experience of getting their haircut. Not a huge sample size but insightful nonetheless. Some interesting insights from the survey were:
(1) Around 65% of men felt getting their haircut is a chore. 13% were not fussed either way and 22% enjoyed the experience.
(2) The biggest pain point for men by far was getting a cut they didn't like. It seems consistency of haircut styles is a big issue for people. You never know if you are going to get a good cut or not
(3) The second biggest pain point was finding the time to get their hair cut.
So these were encouraging results for HairSense.
After the survey was completed, we decided we might as well give the survey respondents an overview of the HairSense product concept to see what they thought. As we were asking about our specific product at this point I'm sure the results can be taken with a grain of salt (as people like to tell you what they think you want to hear). But about 70% of men said they would use such a product if it gave them a good haircut.
There were also a couple of other positive experiences during the survey. One well groomed businessman was very excited at the idea of quickly being able keep his hair looking good every couple of weeks "This is incredible" he said. He even said he had some friends who were Angel investors he could put us in contact with.
Another guy we interviewed happened to be a CEO of an Innovation organisation here in New Zealand. He invited us to come in to see how he could help. He said I'd picked a good potential market, and it was likely to be a global product and cloud service.
Our company also got chosen for the Y combinator startup school (no, not the full Y combinator unfortunately!). This was a 10 week online course where groups of around 15 startups got assigned a CEO mentor from a company that had gone through the YC program. Our mentor said that if we can walk into a VC firm and do a haircut in front of them, they will be throwing money at us.
So these were all encouraging signs. However the constant message we got from everyone was that I needed to come up with a prototype much closer to an end product, before investors would take notice. Something smaller and closer to resembling the handheld device I first envisaged. The ugly first prototype just wasn't doing it.
But all these experiences were enough of a signal for us to decided to start on the second prototype.