How I got into their minds

ANDY HADFIELD, CEO of, tells u|Chief how to build something that customers want, need and use.


The only way to figure out what customers want as opposed to what they need, is to ask and test. Customers pay for what they need, but not always what they want – understanding the difference is vital and timing is everything.

I’ve had a really interesting set of experiences, where I’ve been able to use technology to tackle specific challenges across quite a variety of industries. While I’ve had some successes that I’m proud of, I’ve also worked on many projects that have been tried, tested and failed… Never be scared to fail – that’s where the best learning comes from.

Here are a few examples of interesting projects – where getting into the “mind” and figuring out the timing was almost more important than the project itself. At FNB we created the bank’s first official Facebook presence. Back in 2008/09 Facebook was very new (scary) to business.

Developing this through FNB’s Premier / Platinum segment, a segment very much focused on relationships, gave us the opening we needed to experiment. After some early successes (and
confidence building), the rest of the bank followed suit – they now dominate the social media landscape in the banking sector.

The web 2.0 craze back in 2009/2010 helped create an appetite within companies for a new, more modern user-centric design and set of digital services. People started to realise that digital could do sales – and with these stars aligned, we got to build SA’s first true “shop” for banking products.

Imagine getting a cheque account from the comfort of your couch? Sounds normal today… but back then, it wasn’t.

With Real Time Wine, we saw an interesting gap in the market – there were no resources for your rookie wine drinker in SA, only for wine snobs (who understood the crazy language used to figure out which wine was good and which wasn’t).

This app was a good example of a product that people wanted, but didn’t need – and therefore weren’t willing to pay for. The numbers were good, the community was unique – but the start-up didn’t generate enough revenue.

Fast forward to the present, with We’re playing in the social impact space, testing another two interesting customer “needs”. Corporates in South Africa want to build bigger employee volunteering programmes – but they’re doing it on Excel instead of using an automated platform. Citizens in South Africa are becoming more socially active – but many don’t know where to start. We connect people (and companies) to causes. Time will tell!


Andy’s 5 tips for building products

1. Listen.

2. Listen again.

3. Iteration is everything. Don’t try to be perfect. South Africans always try to build something perfectly before they launch it – if you wait that long, you’ll either run out of money or the market would have moved on.

4. Check your timing. If you’re ahead of the curve, how easy will it be to educate your market? Do they care enough to buy something they don’t know they need yet?

5. Get your hands dirty, engage as much as possible with your customers. Everyone talks about scale; not enough people talk about caring for individual experiences. Find your SuperFANS. Love them.

  • Andy Hadfield is a South African entrepreneur in the technology sector and co-founder of forgood, a social impact startup that connects people to Causes.