better than yesterday
“The fight is won or lost far away from the witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road; long before I dance under those lights.” -Muhammad Ali
There are many reasons why I love software startups: innovative thinking, blank canvases for building new products, smart people, etc. The single greatest reason, however, is that each day that you don’t die as a company becomes another opportunity to edge slightly closer to a product/market fit. With proper focus you’ll always end up building a little bit more, generating a few more customers, gathering additional customer/market feedback, and refining your product.
Why must you keep building? Because as Marc Andreessen writes, a product/market fit is the only thing that matters and as Paul Buchheit points out, it usually takes a long time to get there. If you’re working on a new deal I recommend you read both posts. Here’s an excerpt from Buchheit’s:
Once we launched, the response was surprisingly positive, except from the people who hated it for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, it was frequently described as ‘niche’, and ‘not used by real people outside of silicon valley’.
Now, almost 7 and a half years after we started working on Gmail, I see things like this: Yahoo and Microsoft have more than 250m users each worldwide for their webmail, according to the comScore research firm, compared to close to 100m for Gmail. But Google’s younger service, launched in 2004, has been gaining ground in the US over the past year, with users growing by more than 40 per cent, compared to 2 per cent for Yahoo and a 7 per cent fall in users of Microsoft’s webmail.”
The grueling process of achieving a product/market fit is one of the primary reasons, among several other important reasons, that we built the core piece of our technology in-house. Because of such, we can listen to our market and respond with the confidence and versatility to switch focuses on a dime.
If there’s anything I am certain of, it’s that tomorrow we will be better than we are today.
Update: As I skimmed my feeds tonight I ran across another post on one of my favorite blogs, Venture Hacks, that touches perfectly on the topic of ‘learning your way to a product/market fit’. If there’s one funny result of tough markets like we are currently in, it’s that it gets a lot of people thinking along similar lines of how do you build something of actual value. Give it a read.