I'm working closely with two startups right now that are somewhere between launching an MVP product and getting their first few hundred customers. Both founders are trying to determine if they have product-market fit, but not quite enough customers have used the product. Over the next six months both will be able to do a cohort analysis, but (for now) they are going down lots of paths trying to find some traction and momentum.
I'm endlessly fascinated by the pre-product-market fit phase. During this period founders are reconciling (a) their own vision, (b) talking with customers (but not over-indexing on customers), (c) industry information and (d) advisor feedback to package together something that customers might love.
This podcast caught my attention because a very experienced founder and investor described what "the best product person he's ever met in silicon valley" does during this phase.
His philosophy is "all the value lies in the surprises."
His process goes like this...
1) Launch an MVP product.
2) Talk with people using your product (customer meetings) and take a look at how they are using it (analytics).
3) You will always be surprised by how customers interact with the product. It could be how they use it. Or how they want to buy it. Or thousands of other things.
4) Pay most attention to these surprises because all the value lies in these surprises.
I believe that this is true because finding a great idea isn't about consensus. Launching a startup isn't about talking with customers and building what they tell you to build. It's actually the opposite because something that obviously should exist would likely have already been tried. The fact that you aren't aware of it means that someone tried to build it and it didn't work...at least on a big scale. Great ideas don't come from straight-forward product builds. Great ideas come from surprises.
This founder says that "great ideas find you" because (if you are open to them) you'll start to notice these surprises and focus on them. This is the invisible world that I sometimes write about.
And if you are particularly interested in the ways that startups are counterintuitive, here are all my blog posts tagged “counterintuitive things."
Sidenote: Here's another great podcast where an example of surprising consumer behavior caused the founders to create a big business.
Get Right to the Lesson
I’d recommend listening to the entire thing, but to get right to the point go to minute 31:15 of this podcast.
Thanks to these folks for helping us all learn faster
Andy Rachleff (@arachleff), President & CEO of Wealthfront (@Wealthfront)
Jenna Abdou (@jennaabdou)
Moe Abdou (@moeabdou)
Sherry Abdou (@Sherry_Abdou)
Please let me and others know what you think about this topic
Email me privately at email@example.com or let's discuss publicly at @davempayne.