Jan 13, 2020
In Case of Opportunity, Locate the Exit
“A good product solves the right problem for the right customer” says Herbert Bay, co-founder of Kooaba, an image recognition software company which was sold to Qualcomm in 2014. We all know that this is easier said than done. That’s why we talked to Herbert to draw from his experience of building a great product. Here’s what we found:
You can listen to the full interview with Herbert here.
As an entrepreneur, seeing opportunities in problems is your bread and butter. When building a product, this may, however, prove to be more of a bane than a boon. Scaling your product too early or trying to solve an ever larger set of problems dilutes your focus and will make your product worse. Consequently, your retention rate will be low and any resources you invest into expanding your user base are like pouring water into a leaky bathtub — it is not going to get you far. Therefore, focus on making your core product excel before anything else. Whenever “the bathtub stops draining”, meaning your user base remains stable and you start seeing organic growth, it is time to think about moving forward, be it in terms of scale or new features.
Most of the time, you will be building your product based on assumptions about problems your customers are experiencing. While this is a great starting point, you will have to verify whether these assumptions are actually accurate, before you start coding anything. For this purpose, it is recommendable to talk to your customers face-to-face, rather than using online panels or evaluation tools. The advantage of speaking to your customer directly is that it is easier to ask open-ended “why” questions which will allow you to get to the bottom of your customers’ problems.
Building a great product takes time — usually more than you expect. In order to keep a long run way, it is recommendable to keep the team and processes as lean as possible until you are ready to scale. If you are building a tech heavy product, you obviously want your initial team to consist of coders and possibly a designer, if you can afford it. After the initial development stage, it may be advisable to add a dedicated growth team with business developers, content creators, etc. At this point, you will also need a specialized product team which acts as the bridge between the sales team and the developers. To be effective, the people in your product team should have a high degree of entrepreneurial spirit paired with a good understanding of both the underlying technology of your product and the problems your customers face. Good product management is crucial for the success of your company, hence why it may be a task that the founders want to be engage in themselves.
Not that you wouldn’t know this point already. Nevertheless, it is worth emphasizing it once more. In spite of what may be the common perception, as a founder, your most scarce resource is probably not money but the time you can spend in a “deep work state” which is necessary to get things done. Getting to that state is a very personal process which differs from person to person. Some tricks to start with may be: leave your phone turned off for the first few hours of work in the morning. Don’t check your email, your social media or anything else. Just sit down and work for a few hours before you let distraction seep in. Try working on paper rather than on a laptop. This forces you to think things through before you google them. Another technique may be to make a mental assessment of your most pressing problems before you go to sleep and re-asses them once you wake up again. Whatever it is that works for you, it is worth investing some time and energy to find out.
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