The Product Manager’s Challenge: Monetizing A Clean Compression Engine

January 14, 2015
alerios

Originally posted By Mariya Lyublina reporting from the Product Summit (productsummit.org) at http://startupproduct.com/product-managers-challenge-monetizing-clean-compression-engine

The Saturday started off with much needed rain in San Francisco – a perfect beginning to a challenge all about helping the environment. The challenge faced by aspiring and seasoned product managers was identifying the right customers for a clean emissions combustion engine that runs on compressed natural gas. The founders of this innovative technology are experienced engineers and have many ideas for bringing this product to market but need help identifying the right customers to make sure the product is successful. With the promise of a 40% reduction of fuel needed to create energy, this engine could go almost anywhere. This is where a talented product manager can make all the difference, and with a room full of them, the founders were in luck.

We started the day off with Alejandro Rios, our facilitator extraordinaire,  leading us through an introduction to the product. Quickly getting through the technical piece, we jumped into splitting off into teams. Each person had to pick a personality attribute they identify with most – creative, organized, optimistic, kind, or easygoing. Is it weird that no one identified with kind? Well, I guess we just had a lot of optimistic, easygoing product managers. The easygoing group was the largest. Eventually we landed on six groups of five to six talented managers!

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Team Lamineer Flow (left) and Team Aeromatic

The teams went through several iterations of empathizing (understanding the problem) and defining (restating the problem) – cutting, pasting, creating, and ultimately finding their way towards a solid understanding of the issue at hand.


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Be Clean (left) and Global Clean Fuel hard at work creating mind maps and collages.

The discussions in each team took many turns from triple bottom lines to collages filled words like lean, fast, ignite, future, and change. The driving theme across all of the teams was the potential of the engine. Although, there was also talk of the challenges associated with natural gas in today’s market. Many teams initially focused on commercial fleets as the target but the much needed break for lunch brought new ideas to the forefront as we moved into the Ideate phase of the session.

Sticky notes filled the boards as ideas flowed through the groups. Groups were no longer just talking about fleets but much more creative solutions for the new technology. From collecting cow gases to transforming San Francisco’s poop into natural gas for home and industrial use, the ideas were creative – sometimes funny – but ultimately innovative.

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Team Squeaky Clean finalizing their solutions and working towards the business model canvas.

With the business model canvas completed and all of the hard work out of the way, the teams came together for their last bit of business for the day: pitching their ideas to the judges. Who was taking home the win for the best way to monetize this innovative product?

D1vergent started things off with targeting commercial fleets and adding software to the mix to get a quick ROI in less than two years. Be Clean, a mix of two teams at this point, gave us Far*, Inc., a complicated system that recycles cow gases transferring this potential energy to transportation companies. Aeromatic brought us Abatech, offering a licensing solution to natural gas power plant engineering firms in the consulting space. Lamineer Flow went after proof of concept by using grants to fund implementation on a small scale and then marketing the results to larger commercial fleets. Finally, Squeaky Clean suggested GasCap, a device used by power plants to transform sewage into natural gas for both industrial and commercial use.

Deliberation was tense and everyone waited anxiously for the results of the judges. As the sun set, and the day wound down, we received the results of the hard work that each team put into their solution:

3rd Place: Squeaky Clean for GasCap. Although a recommendation was made to incorporate Far*, Inc. into the product as well.

2nd Place: D1vergent. The clearly defined customer and software combination, along with the quick ROI, won over the judges.

1st Place: With a slick pricing model and low risk business model, Aeromatic took the grand prize for their Abatech solution.

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Aeromatic hard at work on Abatech

With the winners announced, the third day of the @ProductSummit came to a close!