Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub: Helping you get the job done

Lahini Arunachalam
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Yesterday, I bought a copy of Sports Illustrated at the grocery store. What motivated me to buy the magazine? Did I make the purchase because I am a 30-something, college educated working mother who lives in the Bay Area? No, I purchased the magazine because I am a fan of the Premier League and want to win my Fantasy Premier League pool. I bought the magazine to help me do a job.

Which leads us to  Jobs Theory as outlined by Clayton Christensen in his book, Competing Against Luck, where he argues that while innovation tops the list of priorities for leaders, it is also one of their biggest sources of frustration. While companies are awash in customer data, Christensen argues that the information they capture is structured to show correlation not necessarily causation. Instead, he says companies need to deeply understand what their customers are trying to accomplish given their circumstances. At Microsoft for Startups our customers are startup founders, and their ultimate aspiration is to build a successful business.

A year ago, we formed a team to deeply understand how we could help them be successful with their job. Of course, we had assumptions about how we might go about this but instead of starting there, we took a page from Christensen and interviewed real-world entrepreneurs. Over the course of six months, we spoke with hundreds of entrepreneurs at different stages, across a range of backgrounds to explore what jobs they are trying to get done. Once we captured this feedback, we were able to identify themes and develop affinity maps that helped us prioritize features for Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub which debuted in limited preview last month. Idea validation

Validate My Idea

Some of the things we heard were incredibly insightful and not necessarily intuitive. For instance, one founder told us that oftentimes building too fast without spending time on idea validation backfires. In her words:

“A key challenge we had early on was ‘thinking we had it, before we did’. We rushed to build and felt perceived pressure to move fast and ‘sell our lights out’ which went wildly astray. The startups that do it right spend longer validating and embracing invalidation.”

This was consistent with what we heard from other founders and led us to define the job to be done as follows: “I want to be able to validate my idea, by connecting with industry experts and customers, so I can build my prototype efficiently and meet my customers’ needs.”

Speed Development

Another told us that the industry practice of showering startups with credits was not necessarily helpful in the long run. He offered that:

“Startups are not in the position to hire 3 dev ops experts. By providing deeply knowledgeable developer assistance, you would catalyze our initial growth, which is far more valuable than credits.”

We consistently heard that while access to technology was table stakes, it was equally, if not more, valuable to have access to technical support and a pathway to customers. This led us to define the second job as “I want to be able to build an MVP, so I can have customers interact with a product to learn and iterate on the product offering.”

Secure funding

Finally, across the board, founders told us that having the financial security to build and launch a company was critical. A common refrain from the interviewees was reflected in the following quote:

Startups are resource strapped – anything you can give helps. The early stage is the most volatile period where most startups fail, so the education and guidance you can give them here is critical.

This was a straightforward need that we reflected in: “I want to be able to secure my next 1-2 years financially, so I don’t run out of funds before my ideas are developed.”

Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub

In the coming weeks, I will be expanding on this entry showing how the “Jobs to be Done” framework relates to features in the Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub platform. Like all great startups the only way we’re going to improve is from validation, so we encourage all founders to sign up at startups.microsoft.com and give us your feedback.