Product Development in a Startup Venture


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Guest lecture given by Rahul Sharma at Stanford Technology Ventures Program (MSEE 273). This lecture gives an overview of product development in a new technology startup venture. The areas covered include--product, go-to-market and product market fit, process and execution, people and culture.

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Product Development in a Startup Venture

  1. 1. Product Development in a Startup Venture Rahul Sharma @rashrtwit
  2. 2. Creating and Building a Product Product and Technology Go-to-market & Business model Users/ Customers Process and Execution People and Culture
  3. 3. Stages in a Startup Pre-seed Seed Funding Series A Series B Theoretical business model Initial customer traction Proven go-to-market model Planning, Idea validation Product development Product market fit, Customer traction Scale revenue and customers Idea on paper or prototype Initial product Commercially launched product Revenue scaling product Founders with passion and conviction + no resources Founders, 2-3 engineers Founders, Engineering team, Product mgmt, Initial Sales and go-to- market team Scale on sales, marketing and engineering teams Reference: Business model Focus areas Product Team
  4. 4. What to Build? Vision and idea Voice of Customers/users New Unique and differentiated Table stakes **Resource and time constraints Be agile and iterative-incremental on product
  5. 5. Talk to customers all the time. Listen and iterate. Critically assess what makes product different Align the product with business goals and sales, GTM model
  6. 6. Focus on MOST COMPELLING product for customers and users Not just on building a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) Customers First
  7. 7. What not to build is an even more important decision Avoid the trap of Fields of Dreams
  8. 8. Getting to Product Market Fit Target compelling use cases Track measurable business metrics Drive usage from users Get paying and referenceable customers Get tangible validation of repeatable business model
  9. 9. Process: How to build? Choose what applies best to your product and people Prioritize—talk to customers Be pragmatic and agile There is no one process to fit all cases
  10. 10. Options on Process Agile with epics and stories, sprints and scrums Themes, use cases, customer scenarios, releases Iterative and incremental MVP with build->measure->learn cycle Pivot and persevere and yes… even Waterfall
  11. 11. The Team Core team is the most critical Build the team with the best from your own network Scalability of team a must but over-hiring is not a solution: Optimize team size Define and plan team structure, growth, roles and responsibilities
  12. 12. Offshoring and Out-sourcing Ensure critical mass for the team Identify functional areas that can be outsourced: testing, product support Contract manufacturing Trade-off between cost benefit and product execution
  13. 13. Build product the Right Way Architecture and design principles Foundational tenets System architecture and design Use cases and requirements Choices on platform, infrastructure, frameworks and programming languages Build for Quality and system –ilities
  14. 14. Execution Startups cannot afford long multi-year product development cycles Agility on execution a must Release cadence: fast incremental and iterative product cycles Product early and often to customers and users
  15. 15. Financial Plan and Resources Plan, budget and track: – Headcount – Development tools and services – Hardware equipment – OPEX: cloud services – Licensing of 3rd party software components integrated into product – Open source components
  16. 16. Innovation and Differentiation Innovator’s dilemma Patents and intellectual property are MUST New-unique-and-differentiated in product Competition—emerging and existing
  17. 17. Culture You have to develop the culture; it doesn’t happen by itself Work hard and have fun Celebrate each and every success
  18. 18. Remember to… Talk to customers all the time. Listen and iterate. Build along an architecture Figure out sales model early. If you can’t figure out sales model, you don’t have a business, you just have a product. Have fun and do great things