What does it take to create a sustainable and innovative product? In this episode, Spira Inc. Founder Elliot Roth meets with Ubiety Technologies CPO Nacho Andrade to discuss his journey founding Spira and what made his product successful. He speaks on what using his own product taught him, how his team built a product that stands out, and how his approach to product management led to the creation of a thriving and innovative product.
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On what you can learn from using your own product
“You have to constantly check your own desires and needs with the needs of the world and people in the marketplace. I am not in the 50th percentile of people, by any stretch of the imagination. Not many people would grow tanks of algae in their garage to feed themselves. As a means of understanding the market, we interviewed all of the failed algae companies.
“It’s really important to understand what products are out there when you’re building products. Figure out the products that have failed, and figure out the products that have crashed and burned. Then, by uncovering all of the wisdom behind the failures, we generally have a positive bias. You only really see survivor bias in the marketplace. Try to figure out all the things that didn’t work as a means of understanding what not to do. Hence, that was one of the key things that we figured out by talking to over 250 Algae companies that had failed. That helped us figure out exactly where to focus first.”
On building an innovative product that stands out
“You want to make your product a platform of sorts. This allows you to have a clearer picture and understanding of the fact that your product has a lifecycle. It exists in a continuum and you are going to continue to have to improve, develop, and iterate on your product. Then, you are making a commitment to your users to consistently improve upon it. Initially focus on one unique value proposition. For us, that was using DNA to create a designer material, aka pigments, that had the same representation.
“They had the same kind of stability in terms of temperature, really high temperatures, really acidic conditions, really caustic conditions that are used in industrial processes, which is part of the reason why we haven’t been able to use natural pigments. Then, we designed the pigments so they fit the criteria. This gave us a unique value proposition, with the addition of having environmental benefits and human health benefits. That’s something that allows our product to stand out.
“The product exists in that cycle, in this continuous improvement mindset. We can constantly improve, iterate, and understand how this product can be applied in new ways. Just focusing on a blue food pigment wasn’t going to be enough. Additionally, we focused on something that could drive the adoption of additional carbon-negative ingredients in the supply chain. And a platform that can actively support the development of additional products. Building a company, not just a product, and building a better world overall. We have a product that stands out because you’re signing up for more than the usage of that product. You’re signing up for a movement, and the transition away from harmful carbon emitting ingredients.”
On Spira’s approach to product management
“One of the key elements in any product manager’s life is having things be client-led. That is very difficult when it comes to biotech. The timelines of development are very long. Overall, it’s taken us about seven years of research and development to work on this. You have to understand client needs and then work backwards from that. We started by interviewing various clients, conducting customer discovery, understanding user needs, and staying in touch. Meanwhile, we work on iterations of our colors in the laboratory, shipping out additional samples, working with them to design for their particular product use-case, and then zeroing in on a specific niche.
“One of my favorite things to do is touch with hobbyist communities that are actively working on the DIY side of things, and just give them free samples. You say, this is something we’re working on, and we really enjoy what you’re publishing. We’re just going to give you free stuff and have you play. Play is the best method of discovery. That really informs our overall design process. That helps us generate examples and recipes to send out to prospective clients. That involves our user base, our core user demographic, in the actual product development and design side of things. When you have a very small team with limited resources, it’s one of the most important things that you could possibly do.”
About the speaker
About the host
Nacho is an Evangelist for all things product, advocating for innovation, diversity, and building amazing products. Nacho has spent over 10 years in product roles ranging from startups to enterprise in industries like education, healthcare, finance and gaming.