How These LA Companies Knew They'd Found Their Product-Market Fit

October 19, 2020

What came first: The product or the market fit? 

Like the ancient Greek paradox, “the chicken or the egg,” turns out for these tech leaders, the answer isn’t as philosophical: Market rules all.

“Market alignment is the most important component leading to a successful company,” said Founder and CEO Anderee Berengian of Cie, the LA-based venture studio that’s part innovation lab, part accelerator. 

Equally important — a company’s ability to adapt to market needs as the market needs change. 

At Cie, that’s played out by partnering with industry experts and through the development of flexible technology that can execute changes quickly. Berengian credits both for Cie’s fast release of the police de-escalation training platform Performa, which launched a year ago.  

For fintech company InvestCloud, adaptability comes through a “design first” mentality supported by a low programming workflow platform.

“This enables us to rapidly develop production-level front-end code, wired through to sample data in our digital warehouse, without relying on a lot of back-end and integration development,” InvestCloud Head of Product Brett Heinz said. 

Built In LA connected with Heinz, Berengian and Malte Kramer, the CEO and founder of real estate web services platform Luxury Presence, to learn more about establishing and maintaining market fit. 
 

luxury presence
luxury presence
Malte Kramer
CEO and Founder

Which came first for you: the product or the market? 

The product and market opportunities came almost simultaneously. I was consulting for Jade Mills, one of the biggest real estate agents in the world. Jade and I worked together to build a stunning website and set up her digital marketing channels. We created an SEO strategy that ranked her for over 300 keywords in her market, leading to a $40 million property sale. Her peers took notice and wanted to understand how they could leverage digital to drive forward their businesses as well. That was the point I realized there wasn’t a product that effectively served luxury real estate agents looking to grow their digital presence. That’s how Luxury Presence started, by working with some of the top agents in the world. Today we work with 22 of the top 100 agents in the U.S.

 

We look at product-market fit as being customer centric.” 

Tell us about your process for fine-tuning product-market fit. What's one aspect of that process you find is particularly important?

We look at product-market fit as being customer centric. From the inception of the business, I've stayed close to customers. I have conversations with agents and brokers every week to understand the challenges they are facing. The world is as dynamic as ever, and the real estate and technology industries are working together to facilitate innovation. It's important for me as the CEO to understand challenges and work with our team to provide the best products and services to enable agents to thrive online. We’re a customer-focused business and we interact with our clients daily. Customer feedback is being gathered in conversations, solicited through surveys, converted into data and used to direct our product and service innovation. We want to be the innovation that sets the standard for the industry.

 

How did your target market shift as your product vision became more clear?

Our target market became more clear when we signed our first brokerage partnership with a national brokerage with 20,000 agents to be its preferred website provider. It was verification that brokerages and agents are looking for technology and services to facilitate digital innovation within their own business. The impact of COVID-19 has only further proved product vision, as agents are in need of ways to win clients and sell homes without a handshake and an open house.  

 

Cie
cie
Anderee Berengian
CEO and Founder

Which came first for you: the product or the market?

Market alignment is the most important component leading to a successful company. With the startups that we co-found, Cie matches technology or ideas with the right industry knowledge, executional team and partnerships that enable acceleration from idea to market without many of the common startup pivots and costly missteps.

With Performa, we were approached with technology proven to improve cognitive performance in athletes and set strategic direction for adaptation to the law enforcement market. Through close work with various subject matter experts, government agencies and the Pasadena Police Department, we went from concept to market within months and refined a path that will train peace officers to make high-speed, instinctual decisions and provide innovation to a much-needed market.

 

Tell us about your process for fine-tuning product-market fit. What's one aspect of that process you find is particularly important?

Pairing deep market knowledge with the right partnerships brings the ability to act strategically throughout the entire startup process, rather than just hoping the market will follow. With Performa, we started with technology that had proven results among professional athletes and ripe potential for peace officer training, but the insight into the real issues and needs of law enforcement are what put us on course. Traditionally, training has been focused on physical skills and abilities, but this technology adds important work toward environmental recognition and de-escalation with gamification and portability for a highly adoptable interface.

 

The flexibility of the technology to adapt, and recognizing where and how that’s needed, is one of the key strengths of Cie’s approach to launching startups.”


How did your original vision for the product evolve or change to better address the needs of the market? 

Cie launched Performa just over a year ago, and the company raised venture funding in March. While we were always focused on peace officer training and decision-making around the use of force, the need for de-escalation training has been highlighted by current events. The flexibility of the technology to adapt, and recognizing where and how that’s needed, is one of the key strengths of Cie’s approach to launching startups.
 

 

investcloud
investcloud
Brett Heinz
Head of Product, Blue

Which came first for you: the product or the market?

Most financial services companies rely on old technology that is not integrated and poorly designed, if designed at all. We built InvestCloud’s Blue product to fill this gap in the market by providing investment managers with the future of client communication, reporting, automation and management. Blue works at speed, delivering intuitive and high-touch client relationships through smart applications on a cloud-based digital platform. 

 

Tell us about your process for fine-tuning product-market fit. What's one aspect of that process you find is particularly important?

While we continue to refine our market fit, InvestCloud focuses on two key elements: design first and building a “working unwired solution.” Eliminating programming is core to the InvestCloud vision. In keeping with this mission, we leverage our code generation platform Programs Writing Programs (PwP) to enable designers and business analysts to constantly fine-tune, configure and adapt workflows to our client segments and markets to bring designs to life. This enables us to rapidly develop production-level front-end code, wired through to sample data in our digital warehouse, without relying on a lot of back-end and integration development. Clients and prospective clients can log in, use the system and validate user stories and workflows while working on integration and back-end work in parallel. This also ensures that when we need to make back-end application changes, the work is efficient and correct.
 

While we’ve refined our target markets over time to focus on different segments, the application of the product has not changed and the vision from the outset remains untouched.”

How did your target market shift as your product vision became more clear?

InvestCloud Blue has always focused on client communication, automation and management. While we’ve refined our target markets over time to focus on different segments, the application of the product has not changed and the vision from the outset remains untouched. As the product suite has grown, we have focused on offering tools to support all lines of our clients’ businesses. What started as desktop and mobile tools for clients and advisors has now extended deeper into their business to the middle and back office operational teams. This includes dozens of apps that do accounting, trade processing, reconciliations, rich performance calculations and extensive reporting. We continue to evolve our product to support our clients front to back. 

 

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