How Heatseeking our startup led to $650K in early-stage funding

Neya Abdi
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The Customer's Situation

When our co-founders Kate O'Keeffe and Fiona Triaca started Heatseeker, their vision was strongly influenced by a combined two decades of experience building companies and innovating products.

Kate had led startup building and incubation at BCG Digital Ventures and Cisco. Fiona was the founder and principal of Naked Ambition, a business design and innovation company.

After years, conducting market research and user interviews to ensure there was product-market fit, they believed they could use AI and data science to simplify the process and gather customer data that is more reflective of market demand.

The goal was to build an AI-powered platform for conducting market tests. Companies would gather their best options for their messaging or benefits statement or proposed features for their product roadmap, create multiple ads with multiple variables, and launch the onto social media paid per click (PPC) ad networks.

The platform would help generate the ads and identify target audiences, which customers could customize, and it would use data science to analyze the results and declare the winner. The winning variant could inform product positioning, feature development, or customer segmentation.

The team was confident that this methodology could help more companies succeed. Their respective teams had run these types of tests manually in the past to make strategic growth decisions.

But their experience had also taught them the importance of humility when it came to closing the gap between what the market needed and what founders thought the market needed.

An estimated 35 percent of startups fail, because there is no need for their product in the market.

"I knew we had to have the humility to put an experiment out there," explains Kate. "So we designed an experiment with four options."

What We Did

They created market tests presenting Heatseeker as four separate companies with four separate value propositions:

  • Empower Your Clients With Competitive Clarity
  • Diversity and Innovate Revenue Streams For Your Clients
  • Ensure Market-Perfect Value Propositions for Your Clients
  • Maximize Brand Impact For Your Clients

These value propositions were shared as 8,491 LinkedIn InMail messages that were opened 5,462 times.

The Outcome

"I thought it was a formality and that market experiments would be what we built first," explains Kate. "But competitive analysis came out as a strong winner. I had to honor the result. So Heatseeker's first ever pre-release was of a competitive analysis tool with no market experiments functionality." 

The team realized that even though Heatseeker was a market experiments company, people did not know to shop for market experiments. (A notable exception to this is Arc Of Life Founder Thena Johnstone who sought out a company like Heatseeker, so she could execute on LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman's advice to conduct as many experiments as possible.

"People who were building something knew to look at competitors," says Kate. "That drove people to Heatseeker, and that's why our waitlist filled up. These high growth waitlists wanted to understand the landscape." 

Once these builders were drawn in by the familiarity of "competitive analysis," Heatseeker had their attention to talk about market experiments. Founders and growth leaders were receptive, because it was a natural progression.

Plus, the idea of making growth decisions based on what customers actually click on – versus what they only say they're going to do – was an incredibly attractive offer.

"Empower Your Clients with Competitive Clarity" acquired the most leads at the lowest CPL, demonstrating that building a competitor analysis tool was the best way to engage founders, product developers, and marketers, so they could eventually bring them along for the ride as they built the entire market testing platform.

This early clarity allowed Heatseeker to also build a list of people that they could interview, so they could test Heatseeker’s viability. These early users were an essential part of the company's ethnographic research, allowing them to understand how to build a product that customers could use.  

You may also be interested in: Here's what to do with all the leads your experiment generates

The results of these market validation tests and ethnographic research are a central part of Heatseeker’s pitch and has enabled the company to back up its vision with hard market data, raising $650,000 in early-stage venture capital to date.

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Neya Abdi

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