early adopters

7 signs to identify early-adopters and innovators

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

In crossing the chasm, Geoffrey Moore paints a very clear picture of innovators and early-adopters for the technology world.

The Innovators

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore

As per him, Innovators pursue new technology products aggressively. They are usually the nerds, the techies, the ‘sufferable’ know-it-alls! They own the latest gadgets and they spend their time reading and writing about the latest & the greatest in the tech world! They are conversant about the underlying technologies and can speak to you about the pros and cons of each one of them (Jelly-bean Vs Ice-Cream Sandwich).

The Early Adopters

The early adopters, as per him, are just as much of an enthusiasts! They are, however less techy but more business / functional opportunity driven. They are not interested in whether its Jelly Bean or ICS; they are more interested in the significant value-add / competitive-edge derivable from this tool. How it would change the world or at-least part of the world!

Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) in Moneyball, would be a classic example of early adopter! Saito in Inception could be another!


So how do we identify them? How can we distinguish them from everyone else in the crowd. Here are 7 empirically defined signs that I collated from experiences (mine and other entrepreneurs).

1. They want to hold your product in their hands, experience it, play with it

Shortly after launching the Yavvy iPhone & Android Apps, I used to go about showing it to prospective clients. There have been instances where some of them simply took the phone from my hand and started playing with the app. On other occasions, they almost immediately downloaded the app from the App store. If I look back upon those who did, almost all of those who pulled it out of my hand and started playing with the device were early adopters. They also became our first few customers.


2. They call back

I used to meet a lot of people and tell them about Yavvy. I still do. At a random meeting, at a conference. Most people listen, most also provide advice. Most of those interactions end right there.

The innovators, early adopters usually come back to you. There have been those who have come back to me weeks later, some even months later. But they remembered and they called back to explore. They wanted to know if it could do something specific, if it could help their friends.


3. They own the latest gadgets (This is a myth)

Most blogs and even Moore’s example states this. Unfortunately, no. of gadgets owned is just a bad yardstick to judge early adopters. Some really amazing innovators I met did not own a smartphone! Infact some of our early customers came to us with a very well defined need (manage billing and invoicing from multiple locations). Most of them had no gadgets. Infact quite a few of them were from rural areas! They were just early adopters in their own market.

On the other hand, I’ve met such a huge number of “Bankers” who move around with the most cutting edge gadgets and yet, have no idea, nor orientation towards adopting technology.


4.  They are interested, they listen, they participate (in shaping the product)

Once an early adopter decides to invest (could be time or effort or money) in your solution or offering, they usually take significant interest in shaping it. This shows up in their feedback, which is usually more insightful. Even during conversations, they give you time and listen. They participate.

There is a sense of excitement in them, when they talk about your product. Here is a quick snippet about the feedback which our early adopters gave us.


5. They have purpose (to use your product)

7 signs to identify early-adopters

Honestly, if I were to picture it, my friends and family would qualify on the above-mentioned criteria. They do participate, they do come back, they do experience the product and give me feedback.

Yet, none of them is an early adopter. Unless they have a purpose or a very well defined use-case for my product, they will not qualify as early adopters. Unless they have felt the problem that I am trying to solve, they would not qualify as early adopters


6. They don’t get stuck up on references

“Do you have another similar company using this product? In our city?”. Early adopters are able to see beyond this question. They are okay, if the answer is no. Infact, if you have too many references, that might actually be a put-off for them!


7. They don’t need handholding (or very little handholding)

As per Moore, the big difference between early majority and late majority is that they early majority is technically capable of using your product. They can work out most parts without you hand-holding them. Early adopters similarly have the technical and functional bent-of-mind to use your product.

Don’t confuse this with feature discovery. That’s a usability aspect of your product. And if your product is bad at it, you’d just have your user come back to you with questions about how to do this and why doesn’t it do that!


Its a tough job finding great innovators and early adopters to help you shape your product. Tough, but unavoidable. Can you leap-frog to the early majority or late majority directly? That’s a question we’d discuss in another post . “How important are early adopters to the success of your venture”


An early adopters query – What after acquisition

Monday, July 16th, 2012

This has been an oft-asked question that people ask me and here is my reply to that question.

The email from someone -

Liked your website yavvy.com with its ambitious take on spreadsheets :)   My problem with adapting to such solutions now is their primary purpose .. getting bought out. Early adapters and die-hard fans get left out in the cold then.  Your thoughts?

My response

KV Kamath of ICICI bank used to tell his employees that we must grow so fast and so quickly that we are out of the acquisition radar. Let’s become big enough so that we don’t get acquired (even hostile ones).

We would love to grow that fast ourselves.

I for one can tell you that we did not build up yavvy to get bought out. Infact had that been the case, we would have done things very differently. I would have preferred to piggyback with established players like salesforce and built things on their platforms (force.com).

When you connect at API levels, on a foreign platform, its integration; but when you connect at a DNA level, its mutation, its evolution. With Yavvy we want to create the evolutionary next business application. Which is why did not piggy back on anybody. Which is why we built everything from scratch (considered stupid by some).

You see business is not a unidimensional activity that can be distributed in departments and functions. A salesman takes leaves, seeks reimbursements, wants to inform his client on the status of orders, likes to connect with others in the company over coffee. You can’t silo him out with a tool that just tracks his leads. Unfortunately that’s what most CRMs do and those are the CRMs which sell.

In any case, we run our small startup on yavvy. We can’t work without it, not even for a minute. Our sales happen out of yavvy CRM, we generate invoices on yavvy ERP, everybody comes in the morning and marks their attendance on yavvy HRMS, we bill our customers using time sheets that we create on Yavvy Projects. This also means that we are usually the first ones to know when yavvy goes down. We eat our own dogfood and we don’t serve anything better or worse.

I appreciate your thoughts and thank you for taking the time to connect with me. Also appreciate your patience in reading this lengthy answer so let me close this by saying that

We are passionate about what we are doing and an early adopter, somebody who puts his/her faith in our idea, who believes in our beliefs, who stands by us is like a family. These are relationships that go beyond companies and beyond acquisitions. I have gone to weddings of my early adopters. I have woken up at 3:30 AM to answer their calls. I love them and I am sure they love us.

Don’t know if that answered your question but I am so glad you asked me this, because it just reminded me how much we owe our early adopters.


Beyond the answer

I have always preferred being the early adopter of a new solution. 70mm, the movie rental company had run a campaign wherein if you get another referral, you get your movies free for some time. We eventually had an year long subscription absolutely free.

Early adopters automatically get some amazing visibility themselves through the marketing efforts of the provider company. We continuously rave about our customers at every single conference that we go to, resulting in them also getting some referrals.

Early adopters on twitter did not face the noise that face now. The first advertisements on Google Ads and LinkedIN had very little contest. Early adopters is a high risk, high gain thingy and I have always loved trying new things, being the earliest adopter.