First Year Failures of an Entrepreneur: #3 – Getting your story straight

When you start a company, getting product-market fit (resulting in revenue or other kind of traction) is the most important thing. This is what I learned from my journey in launching Treeveo. The question you should ask yourself is: did I get my story straight and does it pass the grandma test?

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Choose your identity and relentlessly execute towards it

We kind knew our sweet spot from the beginning. But we let ourselves be pushed around a little by our environment to find a more attractive niche. We actually believed that we should do this (no one tried to manipulate us). But going from left to right cost us precious time. So here is how we got our story straight:

Story 1 – Treeveo: Helping Companies Merge

The idea for Treeveo was born during a large international merger. The tracking of a vast amount of synergy generating initiatives across countries and cultures took a lot of time. In the project expensive tools were used that didn’t efficiently get the job done. So we set out to build the world’s first post-merger-integration platform. However we quickly discovered that the market for Post-Merger-Integration (PMI) is too small and you need a big brand (consulting) to get into these kinds of projects. Additionally we wanted to address a larger market and move to a true SaaS model (low price, high user volume) which didn’t fit the PMI market.

Story 2 – Treeveo: Turning Managers Into Leaders

We realized we are about executing projects. In the strategy department where they do PMI they also do a lot of other projects (sales, cost-reduction, innovation etc). We realized that any project where KPIs need to be tracked throughout the organization could really benefit from Treeveo. With our platform, it would be much easier to track these projects without tiring employees with Excel templates. At this point we also re-designed the platform (UI / UX) as we closed an investment round. We re-designed the company identity as well, and we chose “leadership” / “project execution” as our story towards the market. The result was that we generated a number of leads in different areas: cost-reduction, sales projects and portfolio management. Treeveo started to be used for different kinds of projects. But with the broadened approach we also scattered our feature roadmap as well as our story. In the end it became hard to explain Treeveo to the masses and the clients we were signing, remained larger corporations and not the long-tail we were targeting. So we pivoted a 2nd time.

The Final Story – Treeveo: Cutting Costs Without Cutting Corners

This story is also known as: reducing costs without firing people. We discovered that the most successful projects we ran, were cost-reduction projects. We did research and we didn’t find any software to help companies reduce costs widely (only product or supply chain related). Treeveo enables employee-driven cost reductions instead of the traditional consultant-driven benchmark cost reduction programs. With this story we really focused on one type of project (cost-reductions) and one type of customer: the CFO. We are seeing the cost-reduction pipeline outperform any previous sales pipeline we had.

Advantages of getting your story straight

Our cost-reduction story is so focused that it really helped us to move forward in several areas.

Sales: now instead of having a broad customer focus, we only target company CFOs. This has allowed us to build a database of more than 4000 CFOs that we are actively approaching with our pitch.

Pricing: focusing on one type of project/client also enabled the development of a pricing scheme that fits: No cure (almost) no pay.

Product: Our product roadmap is now also focused on only one customer. This has resulted in features like the CFO-Inbox and the CFO-View that help companies better identify cost-reduction initiatives and subsequently execute them.

A great story: passes the grandma test

Perhaps the biggest benefit of this great story is that it has become so easy to tell it. A person in a shop asked me the other day what I do.  I responded: “We make software that helps organizations reduce their costs without firing people”. They immediately became enthusiastic and started suggesting companies (that had been in the news) we should reach out to. Perhaps the best of all, now finally my grandmother understands my pitch, and the value our solutions bring.

So remember when you start a company: Get your story straight as soon as possible and validate it with potential clients, users… and your grandmother. Once you find your story, one that solves a real problem, one that you can be proud of, the world becomes a different place.