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Working backwards from the customer experience
Startups are often founded on a small number of product insights that significantly shape their trajectory. In this post I wanted to share what one of those early insights was for us.
TLDR: While most startups prioritize just their immediate customers, we felt that there was an important and under-appreciated opportunity to prioritize our customers’ customers instead.
How we came to this realization
Copilot wasn’t the first company my cofounder Neil and I started. We’ve done so before, and as any startup founder can tell you, when you start a company you inevitably become the client of many service businesses. We were clients of accounting firms, bookkeepers, marketing agencies, recruiters, law firms, and many others. Through those experiences, what always surprised us about working with these firms is that the client experience was awful. The firms we worked with all used an assortment of tools to run their businesses and so my inbox was always scattered with messages and email notifications about invoices, contracts to sign, forms to fill out, etc. — and all from different tools.
While this was happening I was going through Y Combinator and I noticed something else. There were a few startups that described themselves as “tech-enabled service firms''. For example, one described itself as a “A modern patent law firm, made for the 21st century” and another as “A modern bookkeeping firm for startups”. Those 1 liners intrigued me, I tried out their products as a client, and thought they were much better than what I had experienced working with traditional firms. After speaking to the founders running those companies, I learned that while they built really great products for their clients, they actually hadn't build much internal software for their own operations at all. Their focus was the client experience.
And then it all started to click. It's not that the firms I was previously working with used bad software. Products like Stripe, Dropbox, and HelloSign are objectively great products. The problem was that these product did not sufficiently prioritize the client experience and when you used enough of these "narrow" products, it was impossible to provide an integrated experience to your clients.
I came to believe that the same way every startup builds a product for their clients, so too should every service business of the future have a product that streamlines the client experience. Later, when we were getting started building Copilot this became the core of the pitch. While it was true that we were building a suite of features for client management, invoicing, file-sharing, and so on — all of those things had been done before and quite well too. But no one’s put those pieces together cohesively in a way where the client experience is unified and modern.
Service companies of the future
Service companies compete on service more than anything. And so at Copilot we believe that the next generation of software products used by service business entrepreneurs will much more heavily focus on the customer experience (or from our perspective, our customers' customer experience). Our recommendation to service businesses is to, as Steve Jobs famously said, "start with the customer experience and work backwards from there."
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