Product Discovery not Software Development

Enki 1/10/2010

If you’re building a new product, your biggest risk isn’t that you won’t be able to reach a mainstream audience, but that you’ll fail to attract even 50 users that love your product.

When embarking on a new venture, your goal isn’t to implement any specific idea in the best way possible, but to iterate as fast as you can, till someone is passionate about whatever product you’ll eventually converge on. Don’t worry about being scalable or cross-platform. So what if IE6 users can’t use your app - you’ve yet to find anyone that wants to use your useless app anyway. Anything that reduces your speed of iteration is poison to your startup at this point.

Yes, we ridicule companies that fail to scale when they start becoming successful, but keep in mind - they’ve become successful and that makes them extraordinary in so many ways. Maybe they didn’t become successful despite being scrappy, but because they were scrappy. Seriously, once you have users that want to use your product but can’t because your tech sucks, you’ve basically won. After all, what you’ve been doing is product discovery, not software development. The tech really is the easy part, since it only becomes important once you have something that people actually want to use.

This article was inspired by a heated discussion on #startups about whether not supporting IE and even Firefox is a viable strategy for an early-stage startup. My thoughts are above. I’d love to hear yours. Discuss over at Hacker News.