Building Product & Getting it Right
March 28, 2020
Move fast and break things works at the expense of broken things. For consequential products, it is more important to get it right than to get it fast.
Getting it right costs more time upfront but affords higher velocity later.
Getting it right requires patient capital that believes getting it right is more important than getting it fast.
Getting it right is about systematically transitioning uncertainty into risk.
Getting it right has nothing to do with vanity metrics like headcount.
Getting it right requires unearthing a truth. The value proposition of products embodying a truth can be so compelling that customers would be irrational not to buy if they knew that truth. Unearthing this truth allows you to teach your customers to buy instead of having to persuade them.
Getting it right requires collaboration with users whose problems you're working to solve. Users teach you why things are done the way they are; they reveal if the status quo results from habit or from necessity. Processes of habit — that justify their existence by the way it has always been done — are processes worth breaking.
Getting it right amounts to going slow to go fast.
By focusing on a small number of highly relevant users upfront, you can address specific pain points in such a way that it is generally extensible to the market. These users have a job to do every day - to do a task. Their job is to accomplish that task, not to become an expert in what you're building. When a new tool is introduced into a workflow, there are only so many walls users are willing to put up with before they submit it isn't improving their productivity and bail on the product. The job is never to become an expert in the product, the product must solve their problem.
There is a point at which product development goes from generally extensible to custom services for users. Customer services are not extensible and represent a clear demarcation line of where you can build to. User-influenced product development is powerful because users become customers when what you're building lets them do their job better and more than not, they're willing to tell you what job they wish the product would do. Focus customers let you build to the line of generalizable applications.
This is why both truth and collaboration are required. Startups that adhere to a market's processes of habit won't unearth a truth and won't build anything interesting. Startups that have discovered a truth but don't collaborate with users to learn the processes of habit won't make progress reinventing it all from scratch. To get it right, startups have to balance their own unique market insight with the nuance users reveal about the market. When users all agree the current process is convoluted and is the way it is only because that is how it has always been done and ubiquitously rejoice at the prospect of what you're building, you're headed in the right direction.
A startup that can get it right can own the outcome with a reliable product and demonstrable value unlocking a clear path to creating a much larger company.