I was struck this morning about the trust we put in our food industry. I should start by saying that I love food. Good food provides me disproportionate pleasure, brings me together with those I love, and allows me to explore the world from my own neighborhood. I’ve traveled a fair amount, having treading the grown in over 50 countries, and am partial to street food, cafes, local dishes, and long dinners. And while my indiscriminate street dining has at times brought me the occasional discomfort, I am amazed at how much I continue to trust strangers with something so intimate as what I put inside of my body. We are chemical beings, putting chemicals in our bodies that provide us with energy, help us function, and create or prevent disease. And we entrust this to strangers, most of whom are behind a wall in a kitchen, on a truck, or working in a far-away factory.
But trust we do. Regulation, standards and inspections do their best to keep the lowest common denominator from becoming an indigestible reality. And reputation costs may keep others aligned. But in the end, we depend on the good nature of those entrusted with skillets and woks to ensure only fresh food is used in sustaining us.
And that good nature is at the heart of how I see the world. I trust you. You may give me reason one day not to trust you, but as of now I believe you are good. And you are. And I believe most people function this way, unless environment or history has taught them otherwise.
Like the food industry, which for a time was fully dominated by massive industry and is now giving rise to independents, the world of products is now seeing new entrants regularly. Whether it’s that gizmo you bought on Kickstarter, an item your friend shared on Facebook, or something handcrafted and sold on Etsy. With 3D printing, streamlined manufacture, and so many other innovations, anyone can make and sell with little more than a video and a kickstarter. Now you can spend real money to get something that sounds amazing from someone you don’t know. And herein is the trust issue. Some of the products I bought on Kickstarter were as advertised. And others are not.
For all of the entrepreneurs out there with an eye on creating something special, let’s learn from these two experiences.
Lumo: My friend Monisha Perkash and her team created a wearable that determines when I’m slouching and notifies me. I bought the product on Kickstarter, and received the product, which worked as well or better than described. I also ended up purchasing future products Lumo Lift and Lumo Run, and they went on to raise VC financing and be a solid up and comer in this competitive space.
Coin: I purchased this credit card aggregator on Kickstarter, then waited 18 months for it to arrive. Communication to funders was poor and promises were consistently missed. What arrived had beautiful packaging and the form factor promised. But it plain on didn’t work. It fails in most card readers.
I was willing to forgive projects who have not met my expectations, as perfection is not required for trust. But the failure to eventually deliver a working product, and the failure to communicate during the wait period does not work. Trust is one through each interaction, and not just each transaction.
We live in an era where we will continue to buy from niche companies started in bedrooms across the country and world. I want to trust you, and others do as well. So please communicate with us, deliver what you promise, or if you can’t deliver it, just tell us. We’ll build trust through that interaction as you begin to make it right.