The Innovators Series
The Innovation Process: Adam Dong, Oneflare Co-founder and CEO
Oneflare is Australia’s fastest growing online marketplace for local services. Achieving a massive 300% revenue growth in the previous financial year, it was ranked in the top 20 of Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 Asia Pacific. We catch-up with Adam Dong, co-founder and CEO as he reveals the secrets to their success and the innovation lessons large organisations can learn about the innovation process.
Adam Dong’s quest to renovate his new home proves the power of the adage that necessity is the mother of invention. And that therefore necessity is key to encouraging the innovation process.
And his experience using a Lean Start-up approach since founding Oneflare—a one-stop shop for tradies—is instructive for anyone making decisions about corporate innovation. Lean Start-up is a toolkit that speeds products to market by experimenting and working closely with customers to integrate what they want into subsequent versions.
“I had bought my first apartment and I wanted a carpenter and someone to replace the carpet with floorboards,” Dong says. “The process of finding tradesmen was incredibly difficult and I ended up asking my parents if they knew anyone.”
Stepping back from his own experience, Dong realised there was a gap for a platform that would bring trades together with customers. Digging further, he found providers of such services, “but I felt they weren’t doing a great job”.
“They didn’t have market saturation or a big mind space,” he says. “They hadn’t got around to solving the problem. It surprised me a bit that no one had solved it.”
Dong likens his situation with Oneflare to the second-mover advantage enjoyed by the likes of Google in search or Facebook in social. “When you’re not first to market, you need some kind of competitive edge.”
Dong says Oneflare’s advantage is the level of trust suppliers and consumers have in the platform to deliver desired results. For tradesmen, that means a steady stream of qualified leads and for consumers it’s a selection of trusted tradesmen to complete projects to a high standard.
The benefits of Lean Start-up also apply in corporate and government spheres, especially with projects attempting high-risk business model transformation. The use of the Lean startup methodology in the innovation process shows its immense potential. Here’s a few other ways Lean Start-up helped Oneflare that could be applied in other situations:
Adam Dong, CEO of Oneflare
Adapt pricing models – The service is free to consumers, so Oneflare tried a few approaches to tradesmen before settling on a flat rate subscription for a minimum number of leads. This is the most transparent solution and “it’s the simplest way to explain because some of our service providers aren’t super tech savvy and that way they know exactly how much they spend each month”. This experimentation and willingness to test ideas is critical to the innovation process.
Collect data, data, data – Collect as much data as you can and ignore it at your peril, Dong says. “Think of ways to capture data easily. You don’t need to be a perfectionist and have all the data but often you’ll have some lying around. So start with what you have, like website visitors, and think about how to expand the dataset but only when your making decisions.”
Experiment with your users – Split testing or ‘A/B testing’ is a simple way to learn what appeals to users. “We charged half our customers one price and the others another price and we found almost no drop off at the higher price.” And he says, “don’t risk too much; make tweaks to see how they work and as you improve those parts of the business you can make bigger tests.”
Get out of the building – Speak to your customers and innovate on top of competitors’ attempts. “We learn from what they’ve done and not so much copy them but take inspiration that we apply to our own product.” Getting out of the building and into the real world of the consumers is critical to the innovation process.
“We learn from what they’ve done and not so much copy them but take inspiration that we apply to our own product.”
One of the greatest benefits of Lean Start-up is learning how to embrace change, Dong says. The need to build, measure and learn from product development causes organisations to think and rethink their product and stay in tune with their customers and the market.
“If I were talking to the CEO of a 2000-person or bigger company I’d say, don’t be afraid of change,” he says. “You have to gear your mind up. And I’m always looking forward to change; if there’s no change, it’s a stale business.
An appetite for change and measured risk is one of Oneflare’s “biggest strengths”, he says. “Because I’m open to change, everyone else is always excited.”
“The natural human behaviour is you get comfortable with a routine because you don’t have to think about it. That’s really dangerous because the world is changing and every day someone is inventing something new.
“For companies not to be afraid, they need to think of change as almost another part of the business – you don’t have a choice. Change is just a factor when you do business, you can’t ignore and leave out.”
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