Joe had always wanted to start his own company, and personal experiences helped him realize his place in the baby products industry. He shares with us the story behind his inspiration for founding his first company, how he approaches product-market fit by thinking about “product-user fit,” and how to balance decisiveness with thoughtfulness in decision-making.
886: What inspired Orbit Baby?
Joe: “My ‘inspirational moment’ was when my older siblings were starting to have babies - I remember when my sister came to visit with my nephew and I had to interact with baby gear for the first time. Also, working at IDEO, I saw a lot of products across different industries, and my overall impression was that baby products kinda sucked! It seemed very backwards to me. I had always wanted to start my own company, and so the baby products industry was intriguing to me because it seemed less competitive than others, and it just started from there.”
886: How did you find product-market fit?
Joe: “I was very insistent on finding out what the business was like. Before even getting into product-market fit, I wanted to know how viable it was to get into this industry. I figured out that the baby industry was pretty viable to break into since there were lots of independent shops, no large corporations. So then we started doing prototypes, recruiting family and friends to interact with the prototype… I think in some ways product market fit is very mysterious. I prefer the term product-user fit because it’s something you can get your hands around. Once you get product-user fit, you can then figure out what market those users belong to. So first, we wanted to know if there were users our product was useful for, and then we went into what market they represent.”
886: Did you have any mentors that taught you how it all works?
Joe: “There are very few ‘out of nowhere’ founders. Usually there’s some background, some context, maybe parents who had their own businesses… Just being around family who are doing it, you pick things up. You have to see people doing it before you have the courage to do it. So starting from the route, my parents have always been mentors for entrepreneurship, I also had friends at Stanford a couple years ahead of me - he had a lot of good insights like ‘don’t be so product focused, think abut the market and the business, etc.’ A lot of the projects I worked on at IDEO were also helpful.”
886: What do you look for in a founder?
Joe: “People who are able to make decisions. Who will make the call. But I also don’t like overconfidence. I like people who have demonstrated thoughtfulness about their decisions. If you’ve talked to them, it’s obvious that they’ve looked at multiple sources of information, and they’ve synthesized multiple inputs and come out on the other side with something that is smart, and unexpected, and then makes a decision. I don’t like people who are decisive without really thinking through it.”
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie