June 17, 2010 — Doing a startup is surprisingly simple. You have to start by creating a product that people must have, then you scale it from there.
What percent of your customers or "users" would be disappointed if your product disappeared tomorrow? If it's less than 40%, you haven't built a must have yet.
As simple as this sounds, I've found it to be quite hard. It's not easy to build a must have.
1. Lack of ability. If you want to build a plane that people can't wait to fly on, you probably need to be an aerospace engineer. If you want to draw a comic that people can't wait to read, you probably need to be a talented artist and comedian to boot. You might have a great idea for a search engine, but if you don't have a PhD level understanding of math and computer science, your search engine is quite unlikely to become a must have when people have Google. You need a talented team in the product area to build a must have.
2. Release too late. A lot of people take too long to release and get feedback. The odds of your first iteration being a must have are quite slim. People aren't going to get it like you get it. You'll need to iterate. If you burn up all your money and energy before releasing, you might not leave yourself with enough time to tweak your product until it's a must have. Give yourself ample time, release early.
3. Lack of vision. It seems like successful entrepreneurs have a clear vision about what people will want ahead of time. There are endless directions in which you can take your product. Sometimes a product will get started in the right direction, but then will be tweaked into a dead end. I think you need a simple, clear, medium to long term vision for the product.
4. Preoccupation with Unimportant Things. A lot of founders get bogged down with minor details like business plans or equity discussions or fundraising processes. If you don't put your focus almost entirely on creating a must have product, none of this stuff will matter. Your company needs a reason to exist, without a must have product, there isn't one. (Unless of course, you are trying to create a lifestyle business, in which your first priority is a good lifestyle, then by all means do things in which ever way you want).
5. Too broad a focus. Every successful business starts with a small niche. You need to create a must have product for a few people before you can create one for a lot of people. If your business is a two sided marketplace, pick a very small market to start in, and grow it from there.
6. Get tired of the space. This is a mistake I've made a lot. I've come up with a simple idea that I think is cool, I launch it, then when the going gets tough, I realize I'm not too interested in the space. No matter what the idea or space, there are going to be low moments when you don't have a growing, must have product, and if your passion isn't in that industry, you might not want to keep going. Pick a space that you think is cool; build a product that you want.
7. Stubbornness . Sometimes people are too stubborn to realize that their product isn't something people want. If people don't care if it disappeared tomorrow, you need to improve it! Don't be stubborn. Listen to the numbers. Listen to feedback.
What are some other reasons people fail to build a must have product?