Focus on Fit: SVP Advisor Clynton Caines
Tech doesn’t need to be pretty. To scale, tech needs to solve a problem.
When we talk about how tech can and should be in tune with customer needs, Clynton Caines, the newest advisor to join the Blank Center’s Summer Venture Program team, readily points out Craigslist as an example. Clynton explains that Craigslist’s MVP checked the box and met customer need, so it didn’t need to go any further and stopped there.
Serial entrepreneur, engineer, and full stack developer with twenty years of experience in software development, Clynton knows tech and is eager to bring his background to the table in SVP. And notably, he brings an approach grounded in the customer first and foremost.
Regardless of whether you come to a venture from the tech side or the business side, Clynton encourages entrepreneurs to focus on fit: Simply, “build products people want.” With this in mind, he suggests building the most minimal product you can to kick start customer acquisition.
From his own founder experience, Clynton understands the challenges that occur when customers don’t adopt the product. When his mother died of cancer in 2016, Clynton was inspired to scale fundraising for cancer research. He came up with the idea for JoeLotto, a venture leveraging lottery ticket buyers as a pool. He worked through multiple MVPs and continued to iterate, but customers who buy lottery tickets every day in stores just weren’t converting to the platform. He was passionate about cancer research but not about lottery clubs and he knew the difference, ultimately closing the doors. While a difficult lesson, it meant that Clynton has further sharpened his focus on how tech provides value to customers – and if it isn’t providing value and it isn’t being adopted, it is likely not the right solution.
Clynton offers another example from his experience to demonstrate product-customer match. In the early days of the web, he developed an app called No More Cookies which enabled the user to determine which cookies would and wouldn’t live in the browser. With this venture, he came from a specific vantage point: “Here’s a need; let me build a product for it.” He had great foresight – so much so that browsers added this feature themselves!
This summer as a SVP advisor, Clynton is ready to help, contribute, and bring his previous experience as a mentor and engineering coach to bear. Ultimately, Clynton’s perspective on mentorship is really not so different from his perspective on entrepreneurship: It comes down to providing value, and to spending your time and energies where you see that you can provide the most value. For Clynton, SVP is that place.