Discovery: Does My Product Satisfy a Core Customer Need?

You are reading the Startup Lore - Deyan's guide to creating successful startups.

Table of Contents:
  1. Introduction to the Startup Lore
  2. Understanding Startups
  3. Building the Startup Organization
  4. Achieving Product/Market Fit
  5. Conclusion

Version 0.3 (alpha, i.e. still needs lots of work). Last update on 7/13/2014.

Summary: Minimum Viable Products can help you quickly and cheaply discover whether your product is really solving a core customer problem.

The first question that you need to address to achieve product/market fit is "does my product satisfy a core customer need?" which can be further broken down into two parts:

As explained before, answering these questions requires continuous experimentation in an extremely uncertain environment. That is where the concept of a minimum viable product (MVP) comes in. An MVP can be defined as the fastest and cheapest way to test your hypotheses about the aforementioned questions.

It is important to note that MVPs can take many forms - ranging from landing pages and brochures describing an upcoming product, to sample mockups with limited functionality, to minimalistic implementations of the most important features of the product. Determining the right MVP to test a particular concept with is one of entrepreneurs' many difficult tasks.

Typically, MVPs necessitate taking various shortcuts. For instance, a lot of MVPs result in messy code, which needs to be refactored and in some cases even rewritten in order for new features to be added. This so called technical debt is a direct consequence of optimizing for quick and cheap learning and can often bother people with high standards for their own work. The key thing to realize is that this is a conscious tradeoff made by the entrepreneurial team, who recognize that doing things well does not matter if the startup is doing the wrong things. If the experiments pay off and the startup starts to gain traction, the incurred technical debt will certainly have to be repaid sooner or later.

Interested readers can read about more about the MVP concept at Eric Ries' website Startup Lessons Learned as well as his book, the Lean Startup.

The second important issue that entrepreneurs need to address is validating that a business can be built around the product.

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