Episode 36: Customer-Based Product Validation w/Brad Robinson

FAIR WARNING: I had some microphone issues with this episode, deal with it.

In this episode, Cantabile developer & founder Brad Robinson tells us how he’s been validating his product with customer feedback since day 1, how he got over burnout, and more!

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • Why changing perspective, not skills, is so important
  • How to avoid overpromising while remaining accountable
  • The unexpected benefits of scathingly negative feedback
  • How to keep customers engaged without active development
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 Show Notes:
Cantabile Software – Live Performance VST and MIDI Host
Cantabile – Cantabile on Twitter
Conquering Client Conflict – Christopher’s new free e-mail course (pre-release)
Joel Spolsky
37Signals Getting real; make opinionated software
Work on your best idea (by DHH)
Cubase
Ivory by Synthogy

In some ways, Brad has a very typical story for a software founder. He’s a self-taught programmer who dropped out of university. He has a background in music, as many software developers do. His product was developed as a “scratch your own itch” solution after discovering virtual instruments in his training as a pianist, and finding them lacking.

Where Brad differs from your typical first-time product founder is that from very early on, he was getting – and acting on – feedback. This early customer-based product validation helped him to tailor a product to the actual problems of his customers. Not the problem customers thought they were having, or the problem Brad though they were having. The actual problem they were having.

This customer-based product feedback continued even during a period of burnout during which Brad did no active development. Instead, Brad continued to perform customer service, support and bug fixing operations, all the while capturing feedback. This feedback paid off when it came time to rewrite the product in C# a few years later, after Brad had what he called “an epiphany” regarding the possibilities afforded him by the newer, more modern language.

Initially, Brad stayed quiet about the rewrite, for fear of overpromising, but he eventually went public with it. Part of his reasoning was to create an accountability structure, but part of it was to be able to release what he calls “preview builds”. With these preview builds, Brad got a whole new wave of customer-based product validation that helped him rewrite the product in ways he hadn’t forseen. Every bit of customer-based product validation contributed to his ability to refactor unnecessary features out of the software, and focus on solving the very specific problems his customers relied upon Cantabile to solve.

One thought on “Episode 36: Customer-Based Product Validation w/Brad Robinson

  1. My biggest takeaway from this episode was patience. Businesses/projects take years, and that’s okay. It affirms my own recenty experience with an app I’d had online for 3 years suddenly seeing a bunch of traffic (Timerdoro.com). I’ve now committed to keeping anything I build online for 5 years. Previously I’d been guilty of cranking out a prototype over a weekend, putting it online, waiting a month, and then taking it down because I was disappointed with the lack of interest.

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