Why Startups are hard

It’s been a year since I started up. Have not found success but learned a lot.

  • No amount of initial meetings, theories, assumptions or even prospects etc. will predict success. You might know your first 10 customers, it is getting the next set that is hard
  • Competition can be tough, especially if they have a better brand. If you have no competition, it is harder, you have to educate the market.
  • The time when you are selling, and users have a problem may not align. Until the users have a problem, they don’t want your solution. A lot more on this in a future blog.
  • Product market fit is ever evolving, thus there never actually is a fit.
  • The world moves forward at breakneck speed
    • if you don’t, competition will beat you
    • If your customers don’t, you are stuck with a reducing set of bad customers
    • If your prospects don’t, you are set to fail, they are being blind to the change and will regret it
  • Since the world is moving forward, the past does not matter.
    • Your old feature is no longer the best, someone made it a hygiene factor and built more things. With that in mind, don’t build features for the sake of building feature. The next feature rarely a “silver bullet”
    • Your old growth channel won’t work forever
    • Your old revenue engines are today’s brakes. They might hold you back from great things (e.g Windows, QWERTY Blackberry)
  • Ego takes the oxygen out of the room. Each small win for a startup breeds someone’s ego

The best part of a doing a startup is the pace of learning. I have spent the last 3 weeks learning Swift while building the iOS app for Odiocast. Abhishek, on the other hand, is on the road to be a Full Stack Gandalf
Photo by Jimmy Chang on Unsplash

The Product Death Cycle & Its Affect On A Startup

Life is tough for startups. Every day can be an existential crisis, every day can be a challenge to find your first set of customers or product market fit. In this search, Startups spend a lot of time thinking of the one feature which will differentiate them from competition, the feature which will make customers come in running to use their product. If you already have a few customers using your product and you notice growth stalling the most common solution startups think of is trying to find a new feature which you believe can be the catalyst for growth. Makes sense right? If people are not using your product you need to add a feature which will change that. So you ask your customers what they would like, and decide to build that in. Unfortunately, what this leads to the “Product Death Cycle”, something both Andrew Chen & David J Bland have documented. You should definitely give it a read to figure out the issue with product adoption & feature creep.
0_IM4EU55RompGiTOyIf you are early stage startup then you have more challenges:
SALES PITCHES BECOME COMPLEX
Your sales team has to pitch multiple features now. If the new feature is orthogonal to the current set, then they are going to have a tough time trying to figure out which feature to prioritize for each prospect.
MARKETING NEEDS TO PROMOTE MORE FEATURES.
Your marketing team now has more keywords to push, more landing pages to manage, generally more work to do.
SUPPORT & SUCCESS ARE OVERBURDENED
The same goes for your Customer Success & Support teams. The team now needs to work to up-sell to the current customer without more manpower, that means less success & support
NEW FEATURES = NEW BUGS
As you need to write more code, you will inherently have more bugs, which will take away time from your dev team who now have to resolve those issues.
MULTIPLE BACKLOGS
Product teams now have 2 backlogs to manage. Each feature will need more iterations
In short, it is going to push & stress each of your teams. Which will lead to friction, issues & arguments and finally, attrition.

In an attempt to chase everything, you may end up achieving nothing

Unless you have a lot of money in the bank which can help in hiring, you need to be careful when building new features, especially if they are totally orthogonal.
Also published ET Catalysts and Sudo vs Root
Photo credit: topgold via Foter.com / CC BY