HOW TO BUILD A GREAT PRODUCT IN YOUR STARTUP? 7 RULES INSPIRED BY EXPERIENCES OF THE BIGGEST STARTUPS

It will be an entry in which I would like to write about a few basic rules connected with creating a great product in your startup. I’ll also write about how the already functioning startups used these rules in developing their own products.

  1. Create an MVP as fast as possible

MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. Even if it  looks very bad, gets stuck, and you are ashamed of it, create an MVP, thanks to it other people will see what’s in your head. Let it be something which will have only one major feature which will distinguish your product from other ones. Don’t fill it with many functions – MVP should represent the feature which ,in your opinion,  is the most important.

Gusto is a tool which makes it easier …  to manage the payouts for the employees. Instead of creating a list of 100 features which would make other companies use their tool, they focused on one – to let the employees be paid  on time. This was enough to start and then continue  adding  another features, such as tax or health benefits management.

 

Gusto

Sometimes creating an MVP is hard, as in  case of Dropbox. It is a tool used for file storage and one of its main assumptions  is that when the customers put in their  data there, they won’t lose it.  If creators of Dropbox had created a simple, unfinished MVP version and had showed it to their clients, and then it would have turned out that people lost their files, because of the software bugs, they would have probably lost their loyalty and besmeared their company’s opinion. In their case, MVP was a video film in which they described the vision of their product – that was enough to hear from other people that it was what they needed.

  1. Talk to your future clients.

At first, think about  who could be your client and then just go to these people and start conversations. Even if at this stage  you only have an idea in your head, share it with other people who, in your opinion, might  like it.

What’s important – don’t make the realization of the project dependent on  these  people’s opinions. On Facebook, you will find almost 2 billion people, but that means that the majority of our planet’s population don’t use it. And at the time  the social network was created , there were probably far fewer people believing in its success. If Mark Zuckerberg had been subordinating the realization of his plans to the  biggest critics of his actions, he would have missed a great opportunity.

Every startup starts with a founder’s vision. If that vision was obvious and gave a certain chance of  success, then somebody would have  already used it. The aim of talking to other people is, firstly, to seek further inspiration, but also to respond to their objections. If somebody criticizes what you propose, don’t turn your  back on him, but rather think  how real that problem is and what you can do so that the worst case  scenario doesn’t happen.

  1. Spend time with the most futuristic clients, but don’t create everything they ask for.

It sounds quite strange, but it’s very important. When you start working on your product, choose such people for a conversation, who use the latest technologies, queue for the latest IPad, and have Amazon Alexa on their desks. They’ll often know better than you how to use the  technologies to create the future. Those are  people who will help you  believe that what you’re doing is right.

But on the other hand, such people may have a long list of features that, in their opinion, should be implemented in your product. Creating a machine  which will meet everybody’s needs certainly  isn’t a good idea. Instead of focusing on a consistent vision of the product, you’ll begin to create a hybrid which will have to fulfill everybody’s expectations. This road leads to nowhere. Your job is to choose those most important elements.

  1. Identify with your future clients – get to know them as well as

Think about how they spend their free time, what they’re interested in, what they talk about with their friends, what they do on the Internet, how much money they have. Find out  about your clients  as much as  possible and become one of them. You won’t be able to create a good product for those people unless you understand them. And it’s not only about reading  articles on the Internet about the behavior, beliefs and value of a particular group of people.  You have to meet them and ask questions, talk, inquire.

 

Twitch

Emmet Shear, the cofounder of Twitch, mentions that when they started their service they found out from their users that one of the biggest problems was that there was no link to their site on Team Liquid – a website about the Star Craft game. This led to the loss of  3000 subscribers. They would never find out on their own that it’s such an important place for the gamers.

  1. Make frequent changes to the product and give your users new changes quickly

This type of product development has multiple names, but most often you’ll meet the term lean startup. In startup, there is one basic rule regarding decisions making – you always have to listen to the client. Making a decision in a company must be justified by what the market says. That’s why it’s worth to come forward with what you create to the customers and ask them  about their opinion.

The lean startup method also works in traditional companies. In the past, Toyota was introducing a new GPS navigation in their cars every  3 years. But somebody had an idea to try to create a new GPS navigation system with the customers’ help. In the cars of the volunteers (who had volunteered through craigslist service), the old GPS system was removed and a… tablet with Android with the new navigation software was installed. This was their MVP. Then the drivers were asked for feedback and suggestions regarding what could still be improved. Such approach allowed them to adjust the navigation adequately to people’s needs and significantly reduce the time needed to introduce the new system to the market.

 

Toyota

  1. Find the biggest fans of your product and engage them to promote what you create.

Talking to people, you’ll probably meet those who  will love your product. If you don’t find a single person like that, you can give up on further development… But if you find such people, don’t walk  away from them only with a boosted ego, but propose a cooperation. Let them recommend your startup to their friends, go on conferences, and promote what you create, let them become testers of your product.

When Docker started  their product development, they showed it to a small group of people. 10 of them came back proposing some improvements – all by themselves! After 3 hours of talking about how Docker could be improved, after  a week of further work, and showing it to the world, another 40 people willing to talk about improvements came. Today, Docker runs the Docker Captains program, where its participants publish posts on blogs, go on conferences, and create local communities.

 

Docker

  1. Create a product in such a way that you’d like to buy it yourself.

Once you do it, create the product in such a way as if you were doing it for yourself.

Here you can bring up stories of most of the startups that achieved success. If  you have a particular problem, then think about whether or not your life would be easier  after solving it? Would you use this tool if it existed? Asking  whether or not  you would pay for it is not necessarily justified – the product can be free and earn money on advertisements, just like Google. But would you like to  use it ?

  1. Use world-wide technological trends.

You’ll have  bigger chances of success if you follow trends.

Take a look at the trend of moving your data to a cloud. 10 years ago, lots of companies saw that there was an opportunity which was worth to take advantage of. The  Box company was founded in 2005 and it  offers safe data storage in a cloud. If they had decided to create a software which would have worked on servers inside the  companies, they would have probably disappeared from the market quickly. Moving to a cloud storage didn’t happen from month to month, it was a slow process, but thanks to that the chances of the company were increasing year by year, not decreasing.

You do not have to agree with those trends, but if you ignore them, your business will probably die. In the past, such trends were e.g. faster and more commonly used Internet, cloud computing, or smartphones. Today we have: Internet-of-Things, VR or machine learning.

Most of these rules are related to conversations with your customers. It will eventually be them who will use your product and  you develop it for them.

 

 

Graduated from Poznań University of Technology. For the last seven years he was engaged in scientific projects at Poznań Supercomputing and Networking Center. Founder of Grinfinity, Expansio and Lexpansio startups. Alumni of TOP 500 Innovators programme. In 2011 Intern at Notre Dame University (USA, Indiana). Privately happy husband, dancing contemporary dance.