Incubator Update 2 with Josh at Knect: Dead Ends & Recovery

Rami Taibah

This is the second update for the Knect incubator. If you are curious to learn what has happened since we kicked off the project, go check out the first blog post update from two weeks ago.

Today we will take a look at weeks 3 and 4 with our startup founder Joshua Herzig-Marx and his product idea, Knect.

Things moved very quickly since the last update, and we went down different paths, some were fruitful while others felt like dead ends. All in all the paths we took helped us understand the problems we should focus on and what NOT to focus on.

Honing in on a Niche: Journalists

We conducted dozens of interviews, but one interview specifically prompted us to look a bit closer into journalists as a niche. This specific journalist shared that failing to nurture their relationships with domain experts can result in them not getting the information they need to meet their deadlines. This seemed like a problem with real-world impact that we might want to tackle.

Before going deep down this path, we did a quick validation with another journalist within our network, and they expressed similar problems.

Great, we have a niche! Journalists!

We then setup a Calendly round-robin, collaborated on journalist-specific interview script, and reached out to our collective network to recruit new interviewees. We also set up an account on to recruit some more journalists.

Over the course of the next week and after every journalist interview, it was becoming increasingly clear that journalists might not be our silver bullet. While the problems revealed in our initial research existed, many other journalists didn’t feel they were detrimental to their job. Some even objected that nurturing sources could be misconstrued as being too “chummy” and could even cross some ethical lines.

Into Reverse Gear

By the end of the third week we decided to abandon the journalists niche and rethink our course. During the first few weeks we achieved a very good understand of different competitive tools in the market and the problems they solve. We had intentionally avoided picking Josh’s (the founder) brain about where he felt they fell short so it wouldn’t affect our user interviews and decision making.

This seemed like a good time to interview Josh to understand his problems and vision for Knect. Josh expressed his frustrations with current solutions and brilliantly distilled what he wants in a high level solution:

Diagram showing Josh's top level ideas for Knect

A Two-Pronged Strategy

Armed with Josh’s high level vision, we decided to fall back to a niche that we identified during our earlier interviews, but thought was too broad: founders and entrepreneurs.

This time around we decided to interview founders using our script and also share a prototype with them that addresses some of the problems Josh identified.

Initial prototype we will use in our upcoming round of interviews

Founders Journal

We asked Josh to share his perspective on the past few weeks:

Embracing vulnerability is a powerful tool, especially in market research. More than halfway through the thoughtbot incubator program, we’ve taken a significant step by transforming our product ideas into tangible designs. This transition from concept to concrete form marks a crucial phase in product development.

During our user discovery calls, we’ve dedicated the last few minutes to showcasing these designs. It’s a moment of truth, revealing our ideas to the world. The reception has been a mix – some users are impressed, others less so. And that’s perfectly fine. Diverse feedback is invaluable, offering a spectrum of perspectives that guide the refinement of our product.

However, presenting our work, especially in its early stages, can be daunting. As a founder, the fear of receiving negative feedback is always present. Hearing someone doesn’t like your ideas or what you’ve built is challenging. It’s like hearing someone doesn’t like your kids! But it’s an integral part of the job. This feedback isn’t just criticism; it’s a goldmine of insights.

The approach we’ve taken to utilize feedback effectively is to let it trigger deeper inquiries. When a user reacts negatively, it opens the door to questions like “What were you expecting instead?” or “What problem were you trying to solve?” These questions delve into the user’s mind, uncovering their expectations, desires, and the problems they seek to solve. It’s a chance to understand their thought process, which is crucial for aligning the product with market needs.

Embracing this vulnerability is not just about being open to feedback; it’s about actively seeking it out and using it as a stepping stone to ask the right questions. This approach transforms criticism into a constructive dialogue, fostering a product development process that is deeply rooted in user needs and expectations. By doing so, we enhance our product and demonstrate a commitment to understanding and serving our users effectively.

Next Up

In the upcoming two weeks, the Knect incubator team will conduct more interviews with founders and get their feedback on the prototype. We hope these sessions will get us to a place where we have enough direction to run a Product Design Sprint in week 6.

If you are going through a business validation process, or hope to in the future, this programming can be a resource for you as well. We have recently launched the Customer Discovery section of our playbook, so that you can tap into our customer discovery exercises to help your team find (or regain) customer, product, and strategic focus.

We are also doing weekly livestream broadcasts with the Incubator team to dig even deeper into what’s being uncovered as it happens on LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitch. Follow along!