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.
I've noticed that those that ultimately find satisfaction from their careers end up optimized for passion/skill/opportunity fit. They've been lucky enough to find the intersection of work they are passionate about, work they are skilled at, and work that has ample market opportunity. For those early in their careers or who have not yet found such satisfaction, I wanted to share how optimizing for passion/skill/opportunity fit can help you to ultimately find your dream job.
The hunt for finding product/market fit in an early-stage startup is an elusive one, often fraught with chaos, and certainly never easy. I've led the hunt for product/market fit in 3 startups that I co-founded and also had the opportunity to do so for 3 new products launched at established tech giants LinkedIn and Microsoft. Most recently, in advising 5 early-stage startups, I have been helping other founders through their respective hunts.
I put together this presentation to share a framework I've leveraged in my own startups as well as now in those that I'm advising to bring some much-needed discipline to the hunt for product/market fit. While there is certainly no silver-bullet, I do find that leveraging an iterative cycle of defining, validating, and iterating on each of your most critical product/market fit hypotheses is a sure-fire way to bring some predictability to the process and provide guidance on whether your team is getting closer or farther from the ultimate goal. I hope some of the best practices I detail in the deck can be helpful for your team as well.
One of the characteristics Reid Hoffman often mentions he values in great entrepreneurs is that they are infinite learners. Those who possess this quality are constantly expanding their expertise to new domains, regularly overcoming their own shortcomings, and their capacity for taking on new challenges seems limitless. Mark Zuckerberg is frequently cited as an infinite learner who has grown immensely in his ability to lead Facebook’s now 10,000 person organization and shape a product experience that touches over a billion people daily. In the world of technology where absolutely all the rules are constantly being re-invented, being an infinite learner has become a critical skill to the survival and longevity of great leaders and their organizations.