March 4, 2023

Product vs. Project: The test of Freedom. Part 4

Part 1, 2, 3

The birth stage – from an idea to MVP

Almost all startup conferences are devoted to the birth stage. Their participants often think that a startup is only about the birth. Until the project comes out, you have the most fun doing everything at once: testing the idea and sales, recruiting employees, developing UX and so on. Fun, creativity, the "spirit of the startup", and all that stuff.

All this is good, but the main thing is to make sure that you have enough faith and power of will to carry the idea all the way through until it gets profitable. My main conclusion at this stage: if you don’t have an entrepreneur who devotes themselves to bringing the product to life, or you don’t have a team lead, who can keep an eye on programmers, just don’t do the business. And yes, a hired director is not an entrepreneur.

The childhood stage – from alpha to stable sales

At this stage, the product turns into a process of applying value, already packaged in software and marketing for selling it to customers. The main problem is a lack of concentration. You will be defocused by a lot of factors all the time. You’ll have to focus on sales or on convenience, deal with suppliers or to improve the quality of service, raise prices or do a big project for an important client. But the most important thing is a constant conflict of tactics and strategy.

At the same time you will need to:

  • Develop a project to take over your current (and next) market;
  • Earn money for this development.

The most unpleasant thing is that you will never know for sure what is more important: to earn money now or to concentrate on development. Well, actually, it will always be clear that the development is more important, but you will also need the money very badly.

The saddest thing is that the money from the investor, which, it would seem, could solve this problem, will only make the situation more difficult. Prior to investment, the need to earn money was keeping you from making stupid decisions. As soon as you get extra money, you have a lot of “great” ideas on how to spend it.

It is very dangerous not to rely on the real needs of the business today – you can start dreaming and lose touch with reality. Then just waste money and never get profitable.

It is very dangerous not to engage in strategic development. So you can miss your opportunity and overlook the moment when you could take over the market and turn your business into a local one.

There is no reliable rule on how to choose between these two priorities. But besides the two of them, there will also be a huge pile of ideas of what else could be done. If you focus on them and develop "side branches" – you will certainly lose your tempo. That is why the main challenge of the chief product officer is to get rid of everyone and everything that is not the focus of your business. The main problem and the main risk is how not to make a mistake in choosing it at each stage.

Part 5

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