Entrepreneurs, don’t blindly fall in love with your product ideas

About the author: Swati is a TIA Star Contributor and publishes high-value content that serves the Asian tech community.

I was consulting for an education company when I met this newbie entrepreneur-cum-CEO who was working on an edtech platform. As part of my work, I had to spend some time trying to understand what they had done so far.

What I learned was that they were building a “Taj Mahal,” a product they seemed to have fallen in love with. And while many “users” came around, they had no paying customers in an entire year. Some lucky entrepreneur that was.

My conversation with one of their key team members went like this:

Me: What is the business plan?

Team member: We are building it.

Me: How will you monetize this?

Team member: As of now, it is free.

Me: Where is the product roadmap?

Team member: It is discussed. There is no formal document.

Me: But aren’t there many such learning management systems out there? What is so unique about this?

No answer.

The next day, I got a call from the entrepreneur telling me not to interact with the team in his absence.

Very soon into the project, I learned that the product was a black box. It was revealed in parts to only a few and had a slowly growing base of all free users. A large part of the work seemed to be services, which had no scalable model. But the team seemed to think the platform was the core product, not the services. And customers seemed to be willing to pay for neither.

“There is nothing wrong with experimenting and learning, as it is very much a part of product development. But experimenting without asking the right questions is disastrous.”

This was the story of an entire year, where they were “learning and experimenting.” The investor whom I interacted with seemed to think this was a revolutionary platform, but this was just a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

There is nothing wrong with experimenting and learning, as it is very much a part of product development. But experimenting without asking the right questions is disastrous. Some of my biggest learnings as a product manager are the concepts of MVP and product life cycle (PLC) and how they are grossly misunderstood.

An MVP, for example, is not merely a half-ready version of your product. The key is to know that it retains the core functionality of the actual product. But to identify the core functionality, you need to know clearly the core customer problem you are solving. That is the most important aspect to answer, and that is also the most neglected question.

Not only did this entrepreneur and his team fail to identify that one problem, they also neglected to identify whose problem they were solving—the student’s, institution’s, or the industry’s.

In not falling in love with your own product ideas lies the seed of successful innovation.

Many (if not most) entrepreneurs get fascinated by an idea without realizing that they have fallen in love with it. They become incapable of critically asking the fundamental questions regarding PLC:

  • What and whose problems am I solving?
  • Is this the right solution for that problem?
  • Would the person be willing to pay for this solution?
  • Can I scale this solution?

As entrepreneurs, we bear the mantle of building new products and services. So yes, we can flirt with new possibilities. In fact, entrepreneurs should flirt with ideas often. That is the seed of innovation. But what entrepreneurs need to be careful of is blindly falling in love—to be incapable of questioning your own product, look at it dispassionately, ask tough questions, and take feedback.

In not falling in love with your own product ideas lies the seed of successful innovation.

 

(Swati, Techinasia)

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Call Now