The holiday season is behind us and the new year has begun. It’s a traditional time for individuals and companies — including those of us exploring the brave new world of blockchain technology — to assess what we’ve accomplished, and to set targets for the year to come.
It’s 2019, and it’s time for the blockchain world to get real.
It has been all too easy, until now, to get caught up in the crypto hype, lambos, market volatility, and irrational exuberance of this new technology. But that chapter of blockchain’s history is rapidly coming to a close. One after another, technically dazzling projects begun without a clear focus on real users, distribution models, and real-world use cases will lose the race. In many such cases, start-up funding will run out before the products find user bases to serve.
Crypto projects can survive the shake-out and prosper in 2019 and beyond only if they have a clear idea of who their products and services are intended for and what those users need.
It’s time to get sharp on blockchain customer personas.
Product Managers have long utilized personas to help steer product development towards meeting the needs of real world users.
Customer personas are fictional characters that product managers create to represent the different users of a specific product. They exist to help product managers communicate research about their ideal groups of users — and give faces to these groups. … Personas matter because they represent a product’s core customer demographics. Product managers must make informed decisions about who their customers are, what they need, and how their product will be the solution. Personas help product managers make these decisions. — The Aha Group
The increasingly popular Jobs to be Done framework further focuses product management and innovation on deconstructing a job that certain personas are trying to get done such that product is built to help get the job done rather than building features or technology in search of a use case.
In this post I propose three personas to help focus blockchain product management: Mappy, Happy, and Dappy.
I encourage the blockchain community to provide feedback on these personas, and to help develop them and improve them — as a collective community resource towards achieving mainstream adoption of blockchain products.
Most blockchain projects to-date have focused on building decentralized applications, known as “DApps,” (or “Dappys”) only to find that the technology, scalability, and usability of blockchain is not yet ready for mainstream DApp adoption. Impatient crypto speculators are known to decry: “where’s the usage?” when it comes to DApps. Within the industry there is widespread hope that DApps will begin to gain some traction by 2020 and everyone is waiting for the first must-have killer DApp to emerge.
A smaller set of blockchain projects have prioritized developing blockchain solutions for existing centralized businesses with large user bases. The counter thesis amongst this crowd is: DApps are part of an exciting future, but that future could take years to materialize and gain consumer adoption; meanwhile there are mainstream businesses with millions of users (we call them “MApps” or “Mappys”) who envision delivering more customer-centric experiences and developing competitive advantage by moving parts of their businesses onto public blockchains. In doing so, centralized businesses could drive requirements for blockchain usability and scalability to enable mass-market adoption.
Both groups believe in an increasingly decentralized future. The healthy debate is over which comes first: decentralized apps or decentralized app users.
It’s the age-old product management question of which matters more: features or distribution?
One of the world’s all-time greatest product managers, Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, comes down squarely on the side of distribution:
[W]e want to create great products that people love, that gives them moments of magic, it’s part of why we do what we do. But if you are not building the strategy of product distribution, into what you are doing, then you are relying entirely on a form of: running into a field with a large metal pole hoping that lightning strike, and that’s not usually a winning strategy.
(Greylock, November 10th 2016, 4m:54s) — LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman.
No matter which side of that debate you come down on, building the right product for your target customers and their users is critical to gaining acceptance and distribution.
Mappy, Happy, and Dappy may sound like Scrooge McDuck’s lost nephews, but these personas represent three types of businesses, differentiated primarily by the degree of decentralization they are ready to embrace in the near term. Knowing which of Mappy, Happy, or Dappy you are building for, and understanding the key differences between them, is critical to building successful blockchain products that gain end-user traction.
These profiles serve as more than reminders. Product managers rely upon detailed customer personas to help them understand target customers so they can tailor solutions to their needs.
In his seminal post for Stanford University in 2007, Marc Andreessen posited that the only thing that matters for startups is getting to product market fit.
The only thing that matters is getting to product/market fit.
Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.
You can always feel when product/market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of “blah”, the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close.
And you can always feel product/market fit when it’s happening. The customers are buying the product just as fast as you can make it — or usage is growing just as fast as you can add more servers. Money from customers is piling up in your company checking account. You’re hiring sales and customer support staff as fast as you can. Reporters are calling because they’ve heard about your hot new thing and they want to talk to you about it. You start getting entrepreneur of the year awards from Harvard Business School. Investment bankers are staking out your house. You could eat free for a year at Buck’s.
Lots of startups fail before product/market fit ever happens.
My contention, in fact, is that they fail because they never get to product/market fit.
Carried a step further, I believe that the life of any startup can be divided into two parts: before product/market fit (call this “BPMF”) and after product/market fit (“APMF”).
Getting your product personas right is critical for achieving product market fit — whether you’re building tools to help a Mappy deploy blockchain tokens to incentivize and rewards their users, or the next great Dappy to redefine prediction markets, if you don’t understand who you’re building for, it’s nearly impossible to achieve product market fit.
Mappy, Happy, and Dappy have very different needs and very different internal and external user expectations. Understanding those needs and building for them is key to building apps that gain acceptance with Mappy’s, Happy’s, or Dappy’s internal teams, and then ultimately to gaining adoption with their end users.
Jason Goldberg is Founder and CEO of OST, Open Simple Token. OST powers blockchain economies for forward thinking businesses, focused primarily on Mappys and Happys with tens of millions of users. OST’s APIs, SDKs, dashboards, wallets, and protocols provide everything businesses with millions of users need to integrate Branded Tokens into their apps in minutes. OST also leads development of the OpenST Protocol, a framework for tokenizing businesses and the OpenST Mosaic Protocol for running meta-blockchains to scale Ethereum applications to billions of users. OpenST Protocols are made available via open source for any developer or Dappy to utilize. OST has offices in Berlin, New York, Hong Kong, and Pune. For more information, please visit https://ost.com.