How to find opportunity in an ever-changing world: A product panel

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Founded in 2011, Founders Network offers lifelong peer mentorship to over 600 tech startup founders globally. Our platform, programs and high-touch service facilitate authentic experience sharing, warm introductions and long-term professional relationships. Additional benefits include over $1M in startup discounts and mentorship from 50+ Institutional Investors. Members are located in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto, London and other tech hubs. Each month our Membership Committee admits a new cohort of full-time tech founders who are nominated by an existing member.

5 min read

When the world came to a screeching halt 18 months ago, it was hard to imagine how any innovation could realize its full potential. Taking a pause made the most sense, at least until the times became more certain. Or did it? The speakers at our next Founders Network‘s Product Panel had another idea. They continued to keep the momentum going, each finding the opportunity in the pause and solidifying the value of their product or service for customer needs today and tomorrow.

Your goals as an entrepreneur are not always clear. They may be centered on making a profit, which means a lot of decisions need to be made on prioritization. But your goals as an entrepreneur should also be centered on building a brand that can deviate from a script, and consider alternatives. 

“Real estate is a relationship business and at a time when most of our relationships exist through screens, it is more important than ever to have a tool that can enhance those interactions.” - @foundersnetwork Click To Tweet

Julie Leonhardt, co-founder and CEO of Vuse, believes that her understanding of the real estate industry, combined with her listening to the pain points of the agents with whom she speaks on a daily basis, has allowed her to create the perfect tool for the agents’ toolkit. Vuse is a mobile platform that enables real estate professionals to create and share captivating, pro-quality videos on the go. Her former life as the COO of Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates, Inc. and the SVP of Affiliate Services and Head of Operations, EMERIA region, for Christie’s International Real Estate, and her partnership with award-winning filmmaker, Leanna Creel, creates the perfect team to build a product that the real estate market really needs right now.  

“Launching in March 2020 was definitely a risk,” Leonhardt explains. “However, once everyone realized that COVID was not going to be a minor blip on our year, my phone and email were blowing up with agents begging for Vuse. Vuse combines my real estate background with my co-founder, Leanna’s, amazing filmmaking acumen to create a product that is uniquely designed for agents. Real estate is a relationship business and at a time when most of our relationships exist through screens, it is more important than ever to have a tool that can enhance those interactions. ”

“Are you able to pivot where the industry is pushing you? That is so key to product nimbleness. You may not be able to find full market fit right away. Some companies may have to do a few degrees shift as the market changes so they… Click To Tweet

Vamshi Gunukula, COO of DirectShifts, didn’t have to search hard to find the opportunity in the global pandemic. His team found itself in the middle of the moment. DirectShifts is a tech-enabled staffing platform that matches clinicians with employers. As the need for qualified medical professionals grew, his team pivoted toward helping hospitals and clinicians source from a variety of locations. They also focused on sourcing more specialties.

“We diversified because we saw the market needed it,” Gunukula said. “We always create our product with a vision to serve certain aspects of the industry. But the industry will push you laterally. Are you able to pivot where the industry is pushing you? That is so key to product nimbleness. You may not be able to find full market fit right away. Some companies may have to do a few degrees shift as the market changes so they find their sweet spot.”

“This was an extension of my passion, but also very much trying to solve a problem. And as it turns out, it was a problem that basically every single traveler in the world has experienced or will experience some time in the future… Click To Tweet

Zephyr Seat is geared toward the air traveler who in this new normal seeks more private space, among other benefits. The Zephyr Seat would allow airlines to provide double-decker. lie-flat seating in a 2-4-2 configuration. CEO Jeffrey O’Neill, a frequent traveler and designer, came up with the idea after seeking a way to get some good sleep on a very long flight from at the economy price point.

“This was an extension of my passion, but also very much trying to solve a problem,” O’Neill shared with allplane.tv. “And as it turns out, it was a problem that basically every single traveler in the world has experienced or will experience some time in the future when they travel again.”

While O’Neill’s idea was born well before the pandemic in 2017, it arrives at the right time,  just travelers would appreciate isolation and social distancing. It’s poised to be a significant disrupter in the travel industry, should airlines adopt it. At this stage, the Zephyr Seat team is still hunting for the first taker. 

Hear more about how these founders are moving their products forward by joining our Product Panel on August 24. Sign up to join us in this FREE event and find out if you qualify for full membership and get insights on:

  • How to pivot where the industry is pushing you with product nimbleness
  • Why you should sell your meaning, not just your product
  • How to extend passion to propose a solution
  • Attract the attention of customers through experiences 
  • It’s not about products, it’s about unmet needs
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Read more by Founders Network

Founded in 2011, Founders Network offers lifelong peer mentorship to over 600 tech startup founders globally. Our platform, programs and high-touch service facilitate authentic experience sharing, warm introductions and long-term professional relationships. Additional benefits include over $1M in startup discounts and mentorship from 50+ Institutional Investors. Members are located in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto, London and other tech hubs. Each month our Membership Committee admits a new cohort of full-time tech founders who are nominated by an existing member.