I have built a few products (Web — Saas) and I wouldn’t shy away from saying that I have reasonably failed in many of them and that has got me to a great place where I understand the some of paths to failure. These experiences have got me through all the odds of life to where I am today. In this blog, I shall be discussing the paths which should be avoided.
These are sure paths to failure, avoiding them would NOT guarantee success but at least it can decreases the probability of failure.
Initially, when I built my first product with three of my friends, we planned to build lots of features, we brainstormed for hours together, we deeply discussed why our product is going to be so cool. This is the typical beginner’s mindset. I would say this is not even the first step in building a product and most people just stop here. But I was determined, I thought I am going to be the next Elon Musk, so pushed harder and built the entire product as we planned, it took almost a year to learn how to build and launch. After endless hard work and one fine night, our site went live. That was the first time, I launched a full-blown product.
I expected thousands of people would sign up. I was so pumped up and the next day when I saw the stats, I felt terrible, the reality hit me hard, even my close friends did not care to sign up! I was so frustrated. I learned my first lesson that day.
“Even if you spend years building a product, if it’s not marketed well, with the right message to the right group of people, then no one would even know about your kick-ass product.”
Although we were disheartened with the initial outcome we didn’t give up, we understood that we didn’t market it well, then we started doing everything we could, to start with, we gathered thousands of emails and wrote cold emails to all of them. We scraped as many phone numbers as possible and cold-called each if them.
For a techie like me, who enjoys building software, this was a terrible experience and I am glad that I had it way early in my life. I was just 22 at that time!
This experience gave me my second lesson —
“Your product may be an amazing product for you but only the reality check of how many people use it, justifies it. No one would use it because you think it is amazing.”
After I experienced the bitter truths of building an amazing product, I couldn’t pursue it for long and we shut it down.
Even with my first product being a failure, I couldn’t stop myself and started working on my second major product.
This time, I had a co-founder with a complementary skill-set. I was a techie and he was a Sales and Marketing guy. We both started working on the product together. We built MVP, launched the product at a major tech event, got into an accelerator. We quickly got our first 10 customers. I thought this is going to be my Million Dollar product.
So the next set of lessons started revealing itself.
“If the customers don’t understand where the product fits in their workflow or in their day easily, they are most probably not going to use it.”
We built an amazing product this time too, but it was soo by itself, it did not fit into the daily workflow of my initial users, so to use the product they have to mentally force themself to use it. It was not intuitive and smooth. I learned that, if your product tries to give some value, it is always best to build it in such a way that it fits into the day of the user easily, without much hassle, then it reflects the value of all the products the user uses in their workflow otherwise the value offered by the product standing alone looks so tiny.
To explain it to you in a better way, let's say you build an amazing electric car today but if you do not integrate it with a modern audio system and air conditioning then it will not fit into your customer's day. You must ensure to integrate things which are necessary for your customer’s work-flow and match your competition too, otherwise, nobody would use it.
We started putting our product in front of various groups of people. Each one perceived the product differently and each group thought of a different use case. They asked if we could build certain features that could help them and each suggestion was in a different direction when we thought of building them we knew it’s going to take a very long time to satisfy all these needs through our product. So we were clueless on how to proceed. This gave me my next lesson —
“We must try to solve a specific problem for a specific group of people. In the initial days creating a broad solution for a broad group of people would often leave you clueless on what to do next.”
I have learned so many things, I am not sure how to write all of them in one post. I am still learning to write effectively, so spare me.
Finally, I have one lesson which has kept me going —
“With every experience, you grow, with every wrong step your horizon expands, the only sure way to succeed is by figuring out your next best step and just taking it every time.”
We think that we can somehow plan for a long time, but we often fail, the only thing we could do is take the best possible step every single time and that would eventually lead to greater possibility.
If you are building a product, then you must keep going, keep learning and keep enjoying both success and failures. After all, we are just a small bubble in this grand Universe!