One aspect of startups that the ecosystem is getting better at is designing our startups for learning from our customers to find product/market fit. Steve Blank and Eric Ries helped popularize these notions and the ecosystem has embraced them.
But what I've found surprising is that these learnings haven't been readily applied to the development process and they definitely should be. From the earliest stages of a startup, the R&D team should be designed in such a way to maximize learning for improving the R&D process itself.
Every startup I've worked at folks have lamented about how there were never enough resources to accomplish everything they wanted to. Whether it was not enough engineers to build the desired features, not enough designers to design those experiences, not enough marketers to drum up interest, or not enough salespeople to generate revenue. It always felt like the startup couldn't hire fast enough to meet the desires of the business. And the classic belief was that we would be able to achieve our goals if we just had a few more people on the team. It's easy to understand why folks have that mentality given resources are certainly a necessary ingredient to getting things done. When a startup is in the company building & scaling phase, excellence in hiring and on-boarding quality talent faster than others is a potential competitive advantage.
But I want to make the counter-argument for why a minimum viable team, or a small team just big enough to ship and iterate on your minimum viable product, has it's own advantages at the earliest phase of a startup when you are pre-product/market fit.
2015 was the year I returned to writing. It's reminded me just how much fun it is to reflect on what I've learned over the years and try to distill those lessons into repeatable practices for myself and others. I tried my best to keep a weekly cadence in the second half of the year and generally did with a few brief hiatuses.
I wanted to share the 10 most popular posts I published in 2015. While I wrote mostly on product management, design, and entrepreneurship, I had a few well-received posts on optimizing your career and life hacks in general. Take a look and I hope you enjoy any posts that you may have missed in the year.
A decade ago Steve Blank authored the book The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win to share with the world his philosophy for building winning products: customer development. He espoused that the reason so many startups failed was they were too focused on product development without an equal focus on customer development. He suggested we all needed to "get out of the building" and speak directly with our potential customers to truly understand the problems we are solving for them. Eric Ries further popularized customer development techniques with his Lean Startup methodology, which has customer development as one of it's key components alongside minimal viable products, validated learning, and more.
Marc Andreessen initially introduced the concept of product/market fit in this post published in 2007. It was an incredibly helpful notion to explain why startup products were failing left & right as well as provided a guiding north star on what you ultimately needed to achieve to build a successful startup.