In the previous lessons on the topic “Product development”, we joined expert Vu Xuan Truong to explore 3 aspects of product construction: (1) product development stages, (2) effective product development methods and (3) product development process management. DNES brings the sharing of expert Tran Vu Nguyen about product development for startups from an implementation perspective, these are all things drawn from the practical experiences of experts and AI Education team when changing and upgrading products in the past 2 years.

  1. Backdrop: 

First, let’s take a look at the outstanding achievements of AI Education:

–     AI Education partners with the USAID project and the National Innovation Center in implementing vocational training for Vietnamese in the 21st century

–     They are the first and only unit authorized by Amazon Web Services to implement training programs in Vietnam

–     They are the sole representative of Google For Education in Vietnam

Despite such significant achievements, AI Education’s entrepreneurial journey began with a very different story. They are a team with a lot of experience in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. Therefore, AI Education was established with the goal of becoming a COMPANY specializing in STEM with the unequal competitive advantage of having strong links with a number of domestic and foreign universities to make a “white paper” on STEM in Vietnam. They met with many potential partners to find ways to standardize STEM teacher training for the entire Vietnamese education system. However, they were unsuccessful.

That’s when the team realized that repairing and upgrading the product was extremely necessary. Therefore, the expert and the staff have conducted 3 pivots to change the product; from there, offer better, more complete product versions, and help AI Education have the success it has today.

  1. Practical experience from 3 product upgrades for startups:

  2. 1st:

On the first product change, AI Education became Amazon Web Services’ representative in the field of cloud computing vocational training. At that time, they worked with the rectors, vice-chancellors and deans of information technology departments of many universities. At this time, experts and the team of AI Education believe that they can train one million Vietnamese people with Amazon Web Services to master the work in the cloud. But in the end, bringing a new training program such as cloud computing into the Vietnamese university system is not easy. And it took them a long time to make the decision to put this dream on hold.

  1. 2nd:

After that, the staff believed that it would be easier to cooperate with high schools. As evidenced by the fact that the entire school board and the dean of the Information Technology Department of high schools attended many conferences and seminars of AI Education. Because, it is believed that cloud computing and basic digital capabilities are in great demand of high school students today. And that is also when the Future Skills platform was born, oriented towards the Blended Training model, to train all high school students in Vietnam. This platform includes 2 training contents:

–     Cloud computing platform with AWS certification

–     Digital skills applied with Google for education certification 

  1. 3rd:

Future Skills is used by many large localities such as Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, Khanh Hoa,… welcome, as well as welcome to more than 10,000 students enrolled. Therefore, AI Education is starting to face more difficult problems. Firstly, it is how to bring Future Skills products to develop beyond the borders of Vietnam. Because when entering the international market, AI Education will no longer have the competitive advantage in terms of relationships and understanding as before. Second, developing products to extend the customer lifecycle on the platform is also a big question. What do those of you who have completed these two programs – who are customers of the company – need to learn next?

For these reasons, the company is required to make a 3rd product change. The hr team started looking for different opportunities to bring Future Skills out of Vietnam. Therefore, they work hard to become an official partner of Google For Education. From there, the product can be easily accessed to neighboring countries with geographical and market conditions like Vietnam. Not only that, AI Education began to build Future Skills into an official platform, a place for content providers to post lessons. As a result, Future Skills has become a relatively complete platform.

And until today, the AI Education team is working on product version 1.5 and they are constantly working to upgrade the product to versions 2.0 and 3.0. And also the changes to make a difference to the product. Product development for startups requires us to always ask questions, always look for development opportunities in the market from which to apply to the company’s products.

III. Lessons learned from experts:

From the actual product development process, expert Tran Vu Nguyen and his team have drawn lessons learned for themselves, which are also typical lessons that DNES believes will be very useful for founders of startups who are still struggling on their product development journey.

–     Find out what’s in the product. It is the characteristic that consumers love the most.

–     Look for the key factors that make the product successful. These are: (1) the highlight of the product that the consumer is willing to pay for and (2) the person who pays for the product.

–     Recognize when to change products. This is when we get very poor market signals compared to expectations. Such as ai education’s market of universities and colleges.

–     Draw a map of direct and indirect competitors present in the market. From there, find out the special advantages of competitors and improve the competitive advantage of the enterprise.

–     Look for differences, very different startups compared to other businesses in the market.

IV. Experience for startup founders:

As the founder of AI Education – a startup, expert Tran Vu Nguyen also draws for himself lessons learned from reality. DNES hopes that these will be the truest lessons about the product development process, thereby helping founders to be more confident, courageous and determined on the way to build products for their companies.

  1. Consistency with the product:

First things first, when developing a product and going to an investor, each investor will ask for additions, subtractions, and modifications to the product. At that time, founders must be really consistent with their own products.

  1. The vision and mission will not change.

The vision and mission of the business is something that never changes. However, the product is subject to change to suit the conditions and needs of the market.

  1. Say “NO” to adding more functionality to the product.

Founders often tend to save this function, add that function to the product so that the product looks complete and functional. However, that will result in the product not having a single function that really stands out. Therefore, Saying “no” to adding functionality is a very important skill.

  1. Financial management is a much-needed skill.

In the process of product development, finance is one of the most important factors.

  1. Registration of intellectual property:

Intellectual property is the most important thing. A developed product takes a lot of time and effort. Therefore, we need to set the price for the product by registering intellectual property. 

Above are all the sharing of expert Tran Vu Nguyen about product development, drawn from his own practical experience and the staff in the process of developing AI Education. DNES and experts hope this lesson will contribute a little more experience, a little skills for you to be more firm on the journey of product development for startups.

To better understand this lesson, please watch more videos below:

Author: Tran Vu Nguyen