Friday, April 3, 2015

The Elusive Product Market Fit

Hi everyone, I'm Brett, a first year TI:GER MBA student.  My group PaniPure is working on a new method of desalination.  Below are some thoughts on how to find your target market…

If you were to draw the process of starting with a technological advance and turning it into something actually useful, it would appear as a 1st grade scribble - ignoring the certainty of lines constraining a form.

And so it went as my PaniPure TI:GER group sought a clear product market fit. The technology itself is a water treatment method which strips salt and other chemicals from water, potentially pulling salt and other particles from an impure medium. What was immediately evident was the apparent relevance of the technology - water security is a constant ally of journalists in search of a topic.

The group began in a similar vein, seeking to apply the tech to poverty stricken regions of the world to provide clean drinking water. This was promising at first, but proved a dead end after limitations of the technology were seen in the application. The technology could not remove bacteria from water - an essential characteristic of safe drinking water.

The group next turned to a more prosaic need - in home water softening. This appeared promising initially, as the equipment to power such systems was thought to be highly complex and expensive. This suspicion was proven incorrect rapidly with simple online searches that revealed the superior cost structure and simplicity of existing approaches.

These two avenues helped to define the space within which the PaniPure technology might be of use - where significant infrastructure already exists and where removing impurities, but not bacteria, are both critical. This led my group to consider the complex and massive agricultural irrigation industry.

This was a good bet - water prices were known to be high due to limited supply. The group had little experience with the market and first worked on understanding how farms currently obtained irrigation water. This began by calling the agricultural state extension services - a government agency in constant contact with farmers and their needs. This connection led to many more and helped paint a picture of the irrigation water industry. With this knowledge, those responsible for procuring water were contacted next, primarily farms and water management agencies. When these contacts began sending the team data and test water, it was clear that PaniPure had found a connection with end users.

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