Tinia Pina, CEO/Founder, Re-Nuble
Balancing Getting To Market with Innovation
Every founder is asked daily why he or she started his or her company. For many, it was the result of experiencing very acute personal relationships with the pain point attempting to be resolved. The need was relatable, and therefore the founders could lead product development, design, and customer development with firsthand experience from their personal itch. While for others, like me, starting a company was a way to launch a movement that aligned our passion with personal beliefs, while addressing a validated market need.
Re-Nuble was launched because of my passion for sustainable and transparent food systems and clean technology, but it soon evolved into an amalgamation of my interests to do something about accessible food nutrition and food waste in urban centers. Was my vision on how to resolve all these needs in one business model with a limited runway clear since day one? Of course not, but I knew that the sooner we could get our initial product line to market, the sooner I could begin to figure that out.
Re-Nuble’s first nutrient product line, which provides the basic nutrient needs of the most prevalent indoor farm crops today, took three years to test beginning with the concept’s initial days in my personal garage. Now that these three products are in the market, we can begin to focus on attempting to innovate to serve the industrial-scale indoor farm customer market that requires an even higher grade of specialization due to the varying levels of automation involved.
Initially, we approached customer development by attempting to service every indoor grower’s needs, from hobbyist to small and medium enterprises, and lastly to large commercial operations. But when bootstrapping, you must double down on the most severe and admittedly, profitable, pain point so that your company’s differentiated offering will stand out on its own and you can maximize organic word-of-mouth. You’re not afforded the resources and, more importantly, the time to figure out how the needs of all customer segments within your target market are structurally different and disparately communicated.
Once we had this down for our hobbyist and small and medium-size businesses, we could focus on sales and marketing to further learn from their experiences while investing in the research and development needed to serve their larger counterparts. Serving larger customers is hard because they often require an existing base of 100% referenceable clients, a new round of product development, sometimes a dedicated account manager, and pilots demonstrating use cases and variables unique to their models.
As the CEO, it took me some time to admit that we didn’t have the resources to immediately dedicate to this new market simply because we are a very small team that wouldn’t be able to guarantee an overwhelmingly positive customer experience while trying to deliver a new product. We decided that it was wiser to postpone approaching this segment because it was more important to do it right when the time was most opportune. Given that there are fewer industrial-scale customers in our target market than in the other customer segments, it was more critical for us to be completely available and dedicated to the latter’s needs while being able to scale. We knew that if done successfully, these industrial farms could serve as consistent high-volume clients for us. We could transition from over-delivering on sales to exceeding expectations on service and helping them sell their product better. That’s what excites us more!
Only after achieving this milestone, will we then have the time, resources and expanded team to enable us to embark on our passion: how to completely maximize the reuse of food waste to make nutrition more available in food, provide agricultural resilience in densely populated areas, and create unconventional products with it. This is how I see us being able to balance investing in our own continuous innovation while not getting into the business of manufacturing goods just to create new SKUs.