Seeding the Market by Adam Peterson

Adam is the founder and CEO of Vipe Power. Adam is a native to Silicon Valley and comes from a combination of an engineering and finance background. He is sought after as a dynamic, visionary speaker and has spoken about business video and entrepreneurship at universities and associations around the world. Adam was formerly a Corporate Finance investment banker in the Technology Group at Credit Suisse Securities, LLC. He holds a B.S. in Product Design Engineering from Stanford University and while attending college, was a varsity Diver and captain of his team. Adam also serves as the Assistant Alumni Advisor to the Kappa Sigma Fraternity at Stanford University, is a member of the Alumni Council at Saint Francis High School, and is an avid sailor.

Adam and I have been friends for a few years now, thanks to our common friend Sally Pera for connecting us both.

In his own words, Adam explains how he went about “seeding the market.”

Our first product was a video management system for hiring

We sold a video management system for hiring. VipePower offers a SaaS way for internal HR and third party staffing and recruiting companies to incorporate video into their business process. In addition to hosting the videos and providing a work flow, we offer for organizations to learn how to make their businesses most effective with video.

I had a vision soon after YouTube was launched that businesses would like to utilize video in certain, well-defined business processes. However, they would require a different set of functionality and services offered by YouTube. So I teamed up with a couple all-stars, tested the vision with potential customers in our first industry – staffing, and began building the product.

3 months before launch on a Friday morning, the stars aligned and one of the more famous rappers in the world put a video on YouTube marketing a new personal assistant position. We instantly recognized the opportunity and went to work to take advantage of it. We *assumed* someone this famous would elicit a high volume of responses and we *knew* that HR would have a field day managing the process. YouTube did not in any way provide management capabilities required for organizations to control a hiring process. So we got to work. Breaking most every rule in the book of company building and product building, we wanted the cache of working with this individual and his company so we spent the next 72 hours building a one-off front end to the platform we had already created. I believe my co-founder Eli and I slept a total of 4 hours in those 72. 6am the next Monday, I cold called HR and told them I had a solution to a problem they were about to have. I walked them through all the pain they would have as the responses to this personal assistant ad came in. A few days later we had a signed contract with our very first paying customer. While I can’t publicly name who this famous music artist is, I have a copy of the check framed in my office for anyone who drops by :).

3 months later when we launched our real product, I acquired our first customers a completely different way. We had a working product and some test customers, but it was time to branch outside of our market and see if the “non-friendlies” would actually pay. So, I literally printed out a Google Map of Palo Alto, marked the location of my target customers, drove to them and walked straight through all the No Soliciting signs with a flyer in hand and a request for a meeting. Our model was one that required “seeding” the market, so I brute forced our way in.

Key Challenges?

We had several challenges launching a product and acquiring our first customers. We launched our product 6 weeks or so before the stock market crashed, explicitly signaling the beginning of what became a recession that lasted a couple years. All things considered, I didn’t give the recession much credit though. I classified it as another prospective customer objective that simply needed to be overcome. The bigger challenge was that in my naivety as a young CEO, I thought I could easily bring B2B enterprise software to a technologically lagging industry in which I personally had little-to-no . Not an easy task and not a strategy I would suggest to another entrepreneur.

Lessons Learned?

The biggest lesson by far was what I just talked about – the importance of understanding your market. What does that mean? It means confidently knowing the pains, problems, major players, number of players, other vendors, historical trends, associations, top rags, top consultants, thought leaders, key customers, regulations, budgeting processes, buying processes, buyer habits, product adoption trends, successes, and failures of your industry. Knowledge is power and understanding your market better than anyone else will help you instill confidence in your vision for yourself and others.

There are only three things you need to start a company. A vision, cash, and developers. Unless you are one of the few who can manage all three on your own, you’d better know your market so you can attract the cash and developers.