5 Tips for Building Great Products, for non-product start-up executives

I gave this talk last week to the members of the TiE Leadership Program, aimed at helping to frame what it takes to develop a product organization — aimed at an audience of non-product start-up execs, and existing / aspiring start-up CEOs. Take a look at the slides for the specific “tips”, but here’s a brief summary of the areas I covered, along with specific references I made to concepts, ideas, books, and people that I have learned a lot from along the way.

1) Finding a domain
The essence of this section was on gravitating toward a domain you truly enjoy, and have some experience with. Not only does that add “fuel to the fire”, but it also provides you with the intellectual curiosity and customer empathy of a lead user, or the expertise from Gladwell’s “10,000-Hour Rule”. The other notion I assert, is that finding multiple intersecting areas of interest is a helpful way to create further differentiation.

2) Building a team
Here, I largely reiterate what I’ve written previously: a good product person needs brains, guts, charisma, and character.

3) Converging to product-market fit
After a number of anecdotes, we discussed a lot of the Lean Start-up principles, including the MVP (minimum viable product) concept. We also examined how to find the optimal bundles of features, and why product managers (and other stakeholders) feel mental anguish to cut something once it’s in the product, as I’ve written about previously. Before we moved on, I also made sure to talk to about how this process is applied to non-software / tech products, such as our product The Barmaid, specifically how we went about honing our market focus given a relatively fixed product.

4) Building a biz model
In this section, we chatted about how to build a real business model around your product (because otherwise it’s a hobby). We shared stories and looked at specific case studies, but there are some good tools out there as well. Personally, I’m a big fan of Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas concept, as well as David Skok’s blog.

5) The role of analytical measurement
I’m a big proponent of M.O.M, that is Measure, Optimize, Monetize — hey, it’s my day job after all. So there was undoubtedly lots to discuss here, including the amazing book: “Inbound Marketing” by the HubSpot founders, as well as DaveMcClure’s Startup Metrics for Pirates. We also discussed qualitative ways to assess market needs and demand, and how / when to use proxy metrics when certain measures are difficult to obtain.

Here are the slides:

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