The Product Manager’s Challenge: Monetizing A Clean Compression Engine

 

By Mariya Lyublina reporting from the Product Summit (productsummit.org)

The Saturday started off with much needed rain in San Francisco – a perfect beginning to a challenge all about helping the environment. The challenge faced by aspiring and seasoned product managers was identifying the right customers for a clean emissions combustion engine that runs on compressed natural gas. The founders of this innovative technology are experienced engineers and have many ideas for bringing this product to market but need help identifying the right customers to make sure the product is successful. With the promise of a 40% reduction of fuel needed to create energy, this engine could go almost anywhere. This is where a talented product manager can make all the difference, and with a room full of them, the founders were in luck.

We started the day off with Alejandro Pena, our facilitator extraordinaire,  leading us through an introduction to the product. Quickly getting through the technical piece, we jumped into splitting off into teams. Each person had to pick a personality attribute they identify with most – creative, organized, optimistic, kind, or easygoing. Is it weird that no one identified with kind? Well, I guess we just had a lot of optimistic, easygoing product managers. The easygoing group was the largest. Eventually we landed on six groups of five to six talented managers!

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Team Lamineer Flow (left) and Team Aeromatic

The teams went through several iterations of empathizing (understanding the problem) and defining (restating the problem) – cutting, pasting, creating, and ultimately finding their way towards a solid understanding of the issue at hand.


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Be Clean (left) and Global Clean Fuel hard at work creating mind maps and collages.

The discussions in each team took many turns from triple bottom lines to collages filled words like lean, fast, ignite, future, and change. The driving theme across all of the teams was the potential of the engine. Although, there was also talk of the challenges associated with natural gas in today’s market. Many teams initially focused on commercial fleets as the target but the much needed break for lunch brought new ideas to the forefront as we moved into the Ideate phase of the session.

Sticky notes filled the boards as ideas flowed through the groups. Groups were no longer just talking about fleets but much more creative solutions for the new technology. From collecting cow gases to transforming San Francisco’s poop into natural gas for home and industrial use, the ideas were creative – sometimes funny – but ultimately innovative.

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Team Squeaky Clean finalizing their solutions and working towards the business model canvas.

With the business model canvas completed and all of the hard work out of the way, the teams came together for their last bit of business for the day: pitching their ideas to the judges. Who was taking home the win for the best way to monetize this innovative product?

D1vergent started things off with targeting commercial fleets and adding software to the mix to get a quick ROI in less than two years. Be Clean, a mix of two teams at this point, gave us Far*, Inc., a complicated system that recycles cow gases transferring this potential energy to transportation companies. Aeromatic brought us Abatech, offering a licensing solution to natural gas power plant engineering firms in the consulting space. Lamineer Flow went after proof of concept by using grants to fund implementation on a small scale and then marketing the results to larger commercial fleets. Finally, Squeaky Clean suggested GasCap, a device used by power plants to transform sewage into natural gas for both industrial and commercial use.

Deliberation was tense and everyone waited anxiously for the results of the judges. As the sun set, and the day wound down, we received the results of the hard work that each team put into their solution:

3rd Place: Squeaky Clean for GasCap. Although a recommendation was made to incorporate Far*, Inc. into the product as well.

2nd Place: D1vergent. The clearly defined customer and software combination, along with the quick ROI, won over the judges.

1st Place: With a slick pricing model and low risk business model, Aeromatic took the grand prize for their Abatech solution.

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Aeromatic hard at work on Abatech

With the winners announced, the third day of the @ProductSummit came to a close!

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Design Thinking Innovation Challenge: The Product Summit Day 3

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The Product Summit: Day 2 Workshops

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The Product Summit: Day 1

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Read what happened via collected tweets in mostly chronological order from The Product Summit

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THE PRODUCT SUMMIT: Design Thinking Innovation Challenge

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Breaking news: Thanks to the generosity The Product Summit sponsors and Startup Product Academy, full scholarships are available to expand the product community and invite everyone to participate! REGISTER: http://productsummitsf.eventbrite­.com

Design Thinking Innovation Challenge Abstract

People will collaborate in teams outside their domain expertise to implement the design thinking process on a real world problem provided by the inventors to arrive at a solution and present at end of day in front of judges.

LOWER EMISSIONS CHALLENGE

How can we create awareness about the advantages of using clean gas burning technologies in the automotive industry to combat climate change?

 

Natural Gas and Climate Change

Natural gas is used as a heat source in the production of glass, steel, cement, bricks, ceramics, tile, paper, among many other commodities.  In 2013, the United States generated about 4,058 billion kilowatthours of electricity.  About 27% of the electricity generated was from natural gas.

The vast majority of CNG to date has come from fossil sources, but there are also renewable alternatives like bio-gas, also known as swamp gas, landfill gas, or digester gas—which is the gaseous product of anaerobic digestion of organic matter.

Maximizing efficiency in the burning of scarce resources such as gas translates into a significant decrease in the consumption of gas for the production process it will be utilized in. Also, reducing the volume of gas impacts positively on the output of green-house type emissions into the environment.

 

The Challenger

After many years of experience in the energy industry, Ulric and Teo Cantu, together with Ervin Torres, have developed a clean gas burning technology that serves as inspiration for the Innovation Challenge.

It was first developed for various industries such as steam generation (electricity), ceramics, rubber hose manufacturing, among others; but the creators have scaled-down their technology and adapted it to an automobile.

The CNG automobile market is rapidly growing and filled with various players that provide conversion kits (from gasoline to CNG).  Those kits have only been able to provide an out-put of miles per gallon just below what you can generate on gasoline. Initial tests indicate that they can have an out-put of miles per gallon of 8% to 20% greater utilizing CNG.  Also, their technology has proven to reduce the emissions of PPM of CO (carbon monoxide) in a 97.2% when using a 400 Horse Powered steam boiler.

 

Leading Questions

  • Which other industries use natural gas as energy source?
  • How to develop a business model starting from a patented technology?
  • Who to partner with, what go-to-market strategies can we use?
  • Triple bottom line (economic, social, environmental) considerations?
  • What other markets outside US to focus on?

 

Empathy Warm Up

Life of an American Truck Driver

Truckers share driving experience with the new 579 highway tractor powered by a Cummins ISX12 G natural gas engine.
Expect Diesel Work from Peterbilt’s Natural Gas 579

President Barack Obama Supports Interstate Natural Gas Fueled Trucking


 

 

Methodology

The Innovation Challenge includes a workshop on the Design-Thinking approach to increase understanding and empathy with the needs, desires and insights of customers. It will expand the ability to identify and communicate opportunities for exciting innovative products and services. The first part of the workshop is to form teams, then empathize and rephrase the challenge, work on ideation and conceptualization, and finally present the solution concept.

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Thank you to our Generous Sponsors who support The Product Summit community of product enthusiasts!

Join The Mobile App Product Summit Community for Updates on Agenda, speakers, schedule, sponsor offers AND connect directly through app with other participants to expand your product community network!

 

 

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The Art and Science of Strategy: Applying the teachings of Sun Tzu from 2500 years ago

from Shubha A T, reporting from the Product Summit 

Speaker:  Ratinder Ahuja, CTO & VP, McAfee

Sun Tsu in the Art of War, defined strategy, one of the most authoritative works on strategy. Strategy in Sun Tsu’s definition is a systematic way to constantly improve your position.

What are the building blocks of strategy?

While there are various interpretations of Sun Tsus work, the model I follow has three pillars

  1. Source of opportunity
  2. Competitive unit
  3. Progressive cycle
  • Source of opportunity – how is opportunity created? Sun Tsu has this concept of heaven and earth. There are things we can control, and we cannot control. Trends, Marketplace
    • Once we understand trends and how they affect target markets, it will help us answer questions on how to exploit a trend.
    • Vision is about recognizing these trends and the profit opportunities they present. As a product manager, your responsibility is to have a deep understanding of the market, and trends and exploit this to build a great product.
    • Which opportunities to pursue? At any point of time there are a lot of opportunities, while you need to take a call on what opportunities to pursue.
  • Competitive unit – Mission, Leadership, Processes. Your competitive unit has to have a deep knowledge of the market, what is the shifting trend or change that is affecting that market. The vacuum that is created will be filled, either by you or someone else. To do this, you have to gather knowledge, and intersect that with the shifting trend. Finally, action is where you innovate, with agility and speed. And finally when you put it in the market, you succeed or fail.
    • A multitude of things can go wrong in this cycle, knowledge might be incomplete, and actions are inadequate. The only way to compensate for this is speed.
  • Progress cycle – Knowledge, Vision, Actions, Positioning. This is further expanded in the text.

“There is no final victory, no resting place. It is a never-ending process.”

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Hooked! How to Build Habit Forming product

from Shubha A T.

Speaker – Nir Eyal

Nir Eyal, speaker and author of Hooked, How to Build Habit Forming product is curious about how habits can be used for good. Connecting your user problem, with your solution with enough frequency to form a habit. Nir has found that all the habit-forming technologies, such as Facebook, Whatsapp, or even Slack on the enterprise side have four basic hooks –

1. Triggers

  • External – tell the user what to do next. The information on what to do is within the trigger. Click here, Buy this … are all triggers.
  • Internal- tell the users what to do next, but the information of what to do, is informed through an association in the users mind. In certain situations, emotions especially negative, dictate what we do. “People suffering from clinical depression check emails more” – They fail negative emotions more, check email more. When we feel lonely we turn to Facebook, when we feel bored, we turn to stock prices, news, reddit, we seek all side of tools to get out of negative valence states.

As a product manager, understand the psychological requirements of your product. What itch are you solving for your customer that addresses an internal trigger. What is the external trigger that prompts these to action?

2. Action – simplest behavior done in anticipation of a reward. Something as simple as scrolling on Pinterest, or searching on Google, very simple action, the BJ Fogg model predicts the probability of a behavior based on motivation, ability and trigger.

B=m+a+t (Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger)

Motivation – There are several different motivations people operate on, fear, pleasure seeking, pain, love are all motivations for people.

Ability – The better we get at doing something; the easier it becomes to do it. Several factors affect ability, time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance, non-routine activities. The more we do something, it becomes easier to do it, and hence they eventually become habits.

As a product manager, if you are struggling with why people are not doing the intended behavior. Ask your self these questions about your product. A lack of motivation, ability and trigger, will lead to a lack action by the user.

  • Does the user have sufficient motivation?
  • Does the user have sufficient ability?
  • Is there a meaningful trigger?

3. Rewards – The nuclear accumbens is stimulated by variability. The anticipation of rewards excites human beings.

  • Rewards of the tribe – have an element of variability and come from the community. Often comes from social networks.
  • Rewards of the hunt – have an element of variability and come from our primal need for food. In the online world, the feed is a great example. Searching
  • Rewards of the self – have an element of variability, but come from intrinsic needs. Gameplay, mastery, completion, and perfection are great examples of the rewards of the self. Getting the next level in candy crush, checking your inbox to read every mail.

Fundamentally a reward has to connect to the trigger, it has to connect with the motivation your app is trying to address. If you are trying to address boredom, the reward has to be fun.

4. Investment –What the user puts in, to get to the next hoop of the product. When you send someone a message on Whatsapp, you put in my investment. The little red notification, telling the user about a message, loads the trigger, baiting the user to come back.

As a product manager think about the investment the user does in your product, which is significant for him/her and makes him want to come back to your product.

Technology products appreciate with the more we build on trigger. The more followers I acquire on Twitter, the more valuable it becomes to me. Reputation scores, are an example of stored value that appreciates with time, and make it tougher to leave a system.

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How I learned to stop worrying and trust the process.

from Shubha A T.

Growing Up Product Management – How I learned to stop worrying and trust the process.

Speaker – Gal Josefsberg, VP Product Management and Marketing, Act-On Software Inc.

“You want to build a startup, you want to build products that people love. When you want to grow a startup you want to build something that people are willing to pay for.”

The first 18 months are tough; things are new, you are still unsure. But there comes a time, when you are more stable and it is time to grow up from being a ‘startup’

All startups need to grow

  • You need to cover expenses, make money!
  • You want to get the product to more people
  • You really want Growth
  • But growth is hard, and PMs have a responsibility towards that growth

What kills products, on the product side?

  • Dilution of vision
    • As more employees are added it is tough to have each person on the board
    • Reduced intimacy towards the founders as teams grow
    • Less buy-in to the vision, as people join your startup as employees
  • Larger teams and products will lead to changes
    • You will not know all parts of the product
    • You will not know everything about the business, there is unfamiliar territory
  • More stakeholders the product manager has to deal with as the company grows
    • Sales, Customer Success folks
    • Customers
    • Partners

How does a product manager face them?

Process and Communication – it becomes essential to build processes and communication to ensure consistency. Process does not necessarily mean bureaucracy.

How to deal with startup growth pangs?

  1. Dilution of Vision
    1. Get your product vision PPT ready – What is the story, get everyone on board, what makes us unique. That is a product managers job.
    2. Present and Share the vision with every single person on the team. Make sure everyone is on board
    3. Include the vision in the stories, how does the product meet that vision
    4. Be willing to listen, Listen to your customers, your sales team, your customer success team, and listen to the stories other people are telling about your product to validate your vision.
  2. Stakeholders
    1. Listen to the sales, the customer success teams, customers, make sure you hear them
    2. Don’t surprise your customers. Let your customers know what you are releasing. Communicate, and over communicate your customers.
    3. Build a communication process, way before the release. Communicate big and small changes appropriately, Communicate on what is coming up ? how is it different ? and how will your life change, for it ?
  3. Communicating Roadmaps in an Agile Shop
    1. Make sure the whole team understands Agile
    2. Measure your velocity; know how much time a project/feature is going to take. Build a buffer. It is important to have a date, and communicate the date.

Communicating with larger teams and products

  1. When the team grows above 10 people, split, 6-8 people are ideal. Be good with delegation.
  2. Teams should be independent
  3. Teams should know the vision and mission, the larger picture
  4. Communicate between teams
  5. This is your chance to grow as a product manager
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