Many of us have been in this spot...
1) You feel a problem so deeply that you have to solve it, so you set off on your startup journey.
2) You wireframe a product that will solve your pain for lots of people.
3) You spend 6-12 months getting your product built.
4) You launch the product and the results are meh.
A total failure would be obvious. A runaway success would be obvious. But something in the middle (which happens in most cases) is difficult.
Would a few more months and a few simple product tweaks solve the issue? Maybe you should do more marketing? Does the team have the stomach for a full pivot? Is that even necessary? Or maybe it’s time to shutter the project and move on.
Like many topics related to startups, the answer here is (a) very personal/specific and (b) is more art than science, but there are a few ways to frame the decision. In this podcast, an experienced founder describes how he thought about this issue for his own startup.
He triangulated his answer by thinking in terms of three main areas...
Metrics - With a decent idea & hustle, the team can move the needle (even showing good week-to-week growth), but something has to come easy to validate that there’s a real customer need for your product. If you don’t know what good metrics looks like, seek them out - they are out there if you search enough and talk with enough experienced founders.
Outside interest - What are other people saying? This includes trusted advisors, potential investors & people in your industry. Is there a real pain point here? Can it be solved? Is your product a viable way to solve it? Is your approach truly different? (side note: my personal style is to do lots of pre-launch industry analysis and customer discovery, so I'm feeling super confident about this bucket as early as possible)
Gut - How do you feel about it? Your confidence/passion/fire-in-the-belly is what matters most to this project.
Finding product-market fit is the most difficult and crucial thing to success in a startup. Because most startups fail, do your best to accelerate this part of your journey, so that you have time & energy to pivot if that's what you decide to do.
Sidenote: Here's a great blog post on how "founders often hold too tightly onto solutions and too loosely onto problems."
Sidenote: Here's another blog post on not having product market fit.
Get Right to the Lesson
I’d recommend listening to the entire thing, but to get right to the point go to minute 30:01 of this podcast.
Thanks to these folks for helping us all learn faster
Max Ventilla (@ventilla), founder of AltSchool (@altschool)
Y Combinator (@ycombinator)
Paul Graham (@paulg) of YC (@ycombinator)
Aaron Harris (@harris) of YC (@ycombinator)
Please let me and others know what you think about this topic
Email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org or let's discuss publicly at @davempayne.