Moving forward, reflect on what you did and do It better

Jun 25 2015

The mini hackathon last week gave the data team the traction we needed to launch into our next idea for a 360 virtual tour that created an immersive experience through the incorporation of community statistics and video

After watching more than a few 360 degree Youtube videos and browsing HD panoramic shots of MIT’s campus, popular sites in Jerusalem, and occasional awkward unassuming tourists, it was easy to get excited about the possibilities and experiences we could enhance. But in order to progress towards a tangible product, we needed to first narrow down the right consumer segments.

One of the biggest struggles we faced while pitching our first idea was making decisions about specific product features, largely in part because we were looking for desirability when there was very little of it for the product. For the pitch this week, we wanted to be more certain. Our team experienced little difficulty brainstorming interesting features a 360 degree virtual tour could have, but until we had talked to people who wanted our product, we would be at an impasse about our next steps.

Zhang pitches an idea for the data team to pursue. Photo by Samantha Harrington.

Zhang pitches an idea for the data team to pursue. Photo by Samantha Harrington.

I will never forget the question Jan Davis asked last week during her talk about investing in startups: “Someone is going to make money off of this. Why should it be you?”

Given the extent of data collection and accessibility, it is not surprising that someone out there has tried to run with an idea similar to ours. We joke that everyone has already done everything. In order to gain headway, we needed clarity on what areas people hadn’t considered.

So we researched. By far the most valuable information we obtained was the perspectives of people we spoke to. We learned simple things, like the fact that that the people who would be willing to pay for a product like ours are motivated to do so by user demand. We realized more specific details, such as what types of information people didn’t realize they wanted in advance until the environment called for it, and how they wanted to interact with that information. We drew conclusions. And when we presented our idea to the lab, we of course encountered another barrage questions.

No doubt that there will always be questions that demand answers, but standing in front of an audience, being asked to answer these really tough questions, gave us direction. We quickly put two of our consumer segments on the back burner and devoted our energies to pursuing those left extensively through phone interviews and e-mails. In our discussion of our products following the pitch on Tuesday, John Clark emphasized that we should not be afraid to “think big.” Wading our way through a sea of infinite possibility and questions feels uncomfortable for sure, but this second time around, we are better equipped and bolder in our approach. That willingness to embrace unfamiliar paths and “think big” can lead us to promising results.


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