The only thing that matters for a new startup is to achieve product/market fit.Product/market fit has been achieved when the minimum viable product (MVP) has beta quality, is used in a similar way by ten customers, and the customer acquisition process is repeatable and scaleable. For startups, building an MVP first has become commonly accepted practice. Increasingly, the methodology is finding its way into large companies where it can be equally applied to new products and to new versions of existing products.
It is the product owner’s job to pick a problem to solve, figure out how to solve it, and to understand how much the solution is worth to potential customers. The way to go about it is to create a product which sells to many customers and is delivered with the minimum amount of resources – the MVP. Ben Horowitz states that ‘Good product managers crisply define the target, the “what” – as opposed to the how – and manage the delivery of the “what” ‘. As soon as enough software is built to address that crisply defined ‘what’, release. As the old adage goes ‘if you are not embarrassed by your first release, you have waited too long.’
Product owners have been advised to listen to the ‘voice of the customer’ to build the MVP, and all product and customer development will magically take care of itself. In reality, the implied single voice of the customer often is a cacophony from many stakeholders, and distilling an MVP is not as much of a no brainer as it would appear at first. Building an MVP as opposed to just a minimal product is a continuing struggle, and getting to product/market fit often requires the product owner to make multiple iterations over several quarters:
- Should my first customers be visionaries or tech enthusiasts?
- How many customers do I need to talk to?
- What type of feedback should I prioritize?
- Do I need to talk to both the users and the buyers?
- How can I efficiently interact with my early customers?
The road map is clear: a product owner and her team need to push beyond just one customer and remain steadfast in their discovery of a viable product – the ‘what’.
Many thanks to Allen Bannon, Manny Cortez, Chris Hallenbeck, Ryan Nichols, Manny Cortez, Karl Christian Roediger, and Riley Scott for providing input and feedback to this series of blog posts.
photo credit here