Build an Initial Product a Small Group of Users Love

Common advice from the YC crowd (Paul Graham et al) is to build an initial product that a small group of users love. You’ll know that they love it because they tell all of their friends. The logic goes, unless you have built something someone loves, you will eventually fail.

From Startup Playbook by Sam Altman

  • Minimum Viable Testing

    Rather than spend months building an MVP, which might not work, you can test a startup idea incrementally. Minimum viable testing is when you create a real-life test of the riskiest assumptions you are making about an idea. If it fails a test, you can disqualify an idea or iterate on it. It can be done faster than building an MVP and give more confidence that your idea will work so you can skip the MVP and move directly to company building.

  • Willingness to Pay Should Be at the Core of Product Design

    The core thesis of Monetizing Innovation is that product failure is rooted in the failure to put the customer’s willingness to pay at the core of product design. Designing around the price—which measures value and priority—helps guide product design based on the customer. Companies often build the product and then do marketing and pricing, but that amounts to a leap of faith at best and a painful disconnect that leads to failure at worst.

  • When Things Are Going Well it Feels Like Users Are Pulling You

    When things are going poorly it feels like you are pushing your users. Sales are harder, finding new users is harder, etc. When things are going well it feels like users are pulling you. Users are driving you to get what they need, everything feels easier.

  • How to Do Great Work (Literature Notes)

    I read How to do great work by Paul Graham. It’s a collection of advice I’ve heard from various places. It sounds wise but it’s impossible to disprove. It leaves the practical parts of applying it to the real world up to the reader. Still, I find myself agreeing with pretty much all of it and it took me a very long time to learn these lessons.

  • A Minimum Remarkable Product Is Obviously Better

    People often get hung up on the ‘viable’ part of a minimum viable product (MVP) and tend to think of it as something that can be crappy. Framing how you are building the first revision of a product idea as a minimum remarkable product (MRP?) makes clear that it has to be obviously better than what’s currently out there or it will not get anyone’s attention.

  • Permission to Build New Products Is Earned

    The right to build something new needs to be earned from existing customers. If they’re not happy with your core offering (most businesses start with a single product) they will worry that existing issues will make their way into the new product category. If people love your product they will naturally pull the company into other categories to solve more of their problems.

  • You Should Be Able to Get from Seed to Series a on Your Network Alone

    Most early founder-led sales will come from the founder’s personal network. Once you are bootstrapped with a few customers, you should also receive referrals from them (if you are not, that’s a signal that you don’t have something people love). For B2B startups charging high 5 figures, low 6 figures per installation, you should be able to close all of the sales you need (learning and adjusting along the way) to get from seed stage to raising your series A.

  • Make Contact With Reality

    One of the keys to building great products is to regularly make contact with reality. Ideas rarely survive first contact with users—what we think is good might be completely useless to an actual potential customer. Regular contact with reality insulates you from the illusion of explanatory depth.