July 18th, 2022

Take the guesswork out of your early-stage startup (and build a product users will love)

Coming up with a successful startup idea requires more than just a “lightbulb moment”. It takes a lot of work to refine, adapt, and create a fantastic product users will love.

Successful businesses are constantly iterating. A startup’s early-stage product has to resonate with its audience. As your company grows, you must be constantly aware of when to adapt, upgrade, or completely reinvent your company’s business model.

In this article, we’ve picked some of our favourite strategies to reduce guesswork and ensure you’re progressing in the right direction.

Focus on your audience

For an early-stage startup, gaining enough traction can mean the difference between success and failure. Ultimately, the value of a product depends on the audience you’re aiming for. The most fundamental question a digital product maker must ask is “Who is it for?“.

Our favourite framework to define the ideal target audience of a startup is the HXC, aka the High Expectation Customer, a 3-in-1 customer who is a benefiter (the one who will benefit most from your product), a hacker (already using multiple hacks to solve the problem), and an expert (People aspire to emulate them).

Find the product people need

It’s a founder’s worst nightmare to create a product that no one wants. A deep understanding of your users’ problems is essential in creating a solution they’ll love to use, making Product-Market Fit the tipping point of viral growth.

Your startup is heading in the right direction if your customers buy, come back regularly, and recommend it to others.

Listen to your users

Having the capacity to listen to customers is vital for building a successful business. In addition to determining success, users can provide clear directions on how usability can be improved and clarify good or bad functionality.

We’re strong advocates of user testing in all stages of development. Testing well and often is essential to shaping a product that users find irresistible.

Challenge your ideas

Founders are often the driving force behind successful startups, making most of the crucial decisions in a company’s early stages. However, according to the Columbia University research ”What Breaks a Leader: The Curvilinear Relationship Between Assertiveness and Leadership”, too much assertiveness can make you seem closed to others’ opinions, affecting your business’ success.

To foster an environment that embraces change, it is crucial to have a team that challenges concepts frequently and proposes new perspectives.

The inability to change can hurt your company no matter if it’s an early-stage startup or a billion-dollar business. The so-called “organisational inertia” is becoming more common amongst big companies. Recent studies showed that around 50% of the largest companies listed on exchanges in the United States might be replaced over the next ten years - unless they reinvent themselves.

Think about longevity

Thinking strategically about the long-term goals of your company is a big part of being a founder. Having your company’s culture, mission, and values in place are essential steps for enduring changes.

Longevity in business creation is taken as a given – nobody sets out to create a company with an expiration date. That said, very few early-stage companies think critically about the strategic principles needed to endure. We think this is essential going forward.
Hemant Taneja | For Harvard Business Review

Markets evolve, and changes are inevitable as your startup grows. Decide what pace works for you and your team, and focus on maintaining the core values that will enable your company to succeed today and for years to come.