What do Pope Urban VIII, Citigroup, and the St. Louis Cardinals have in common?
They all bet against evidence and lost.
Urban VIII put Galileo on trial for proving that Earth orbits the sun. The consensus now holds with Galileo — despite what Kyrie Irving might say. Citigroup bet against the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis and lost $39 billion to tiny hedge funds that analyzed market fundamentals and bet on collapse. And the Cardinals lost big to the Red Sox — who used stats-driven decision-making to sweep the 2004 World Series.
The Moneyball pattern repeats across history: A small group recognizes that evidence beats guesswork — including expert intuition. And then the payoff is so big that everyone else adopts their methods.
Customer Illuminated is Moneyball for product-market fit.
We like Theodore Levitt’s insight that people don't want a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole.
But we can advance that logic. Why do people want a quarter-inch hole? 3M asked that question and learned that some people want to hang photos on walls. But hanging photos doesn’t require quarter-inch holes. So 3M didn’t invent another drill bit. They invented double-sided tape.
When business decisions fit customer needs, magic happens. The miracle is that it’s not magic. It’s science.
Customer Illuminated began when one of our startups needed business decisions to fit customer needs. We wanted hard data to show whether the opportunity was attractive, and — if it was — how to approach it as strategically as possible.
We wanted to be less like Urban VIII and more like Galileo.
So we looked everywhere for a robust way to map the market. We asked everyone. We even Googled everything. But we couldn’t find an approach that would stand up in an academic publication — let alone give us a direct read on the market.
So we built one.
We met with mentors who had launched multiple, multi-billion dollar products. We combined their expertise to form a framework for analyzing new product opportunities. Then we hired a Princeton anthropologist to co-design our interview process. And we used decision science to de-bias the entire process.
We ended up with a scientific approach to market research that’s robust enough for academic publication. And it’s better than typical customer development by orders of magnitude.
Luckily, the process works for any product.
So we built a lab for mapping product opportunities. Fast.
We learn more in a month than most startups and product teams learn in two years. We stop people from launching products that are bound to fail. And we make sound go-to-market recommendations* for products with high odds of success using evidence that already exists in the world.
Because if a market exists, then evidence exists. Anyone who says differently just doesn’t know where to look.
Here's a sample proposal with our typical deliverables, statement of work (SOW), and pricing.
*At a high level, we optimize targeting, messaging, competitive analysis, positioning, diffusion channels, product requirements, procurement, and pricing.