How Bad Products             Happen to Good Startups                      Charles Hudson                       SoftTech VC...
About Me                 •    General Partner, SoftTech VC                 •    CEO and Co-Founder, Bionic Panda Games    ...
Bad Products Happen                 •    Nobody sets out to build (or launch) a bad                      product.         ...
4 Ways Bad Products               Happen to Good PeopleFriday, April 5, 13
#1 Too Much M in the MVP                 •    Never forget the real goal of an MVP - it                      should allow ...
Investors and MVPs                 •    Investors and outsiders are often poor judges                      of what your MV...
#2 Focus on Wrong Metrics                 •    Prior to launch, identify the metrics you think                      really...
Investors and Metrics                 •    Some of your investors will be enthralled by                      vanity metric...
#3 The Weight of                              Expectations                 •    Raising money and announcing your company ...
Managing Pre-Launch                           Expectations                 •    Keeping your team on an even keel as you  ...
#4 Failure to Launch                 •    Launching is a very, very scary thing for many                      companies.  ...
Dealing with Investors                 •    Few things undermine investor confidence in                      product teams ...
What Can Work                        (YMMV)Friday, April 5, 13
Build the Smallest Satisfying                         Experience                      What reasonable constraints can you ...
Build Product Release                              Rhythm                 •    Launch is a singular event and one of sever...
Obsess About the Flow, Not                       the Launch                      Launch is a singular event - focus on the...
Only a Few Stats Really                              Matter                 •    How frequently should your active users u...
Have Conviction About Your                     Core Beliefs                 •    Identify the core beliefs you have about ...
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How Bad Products Happen to Good Startups

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This is the presentation I gave at the Products Are Hard 2013 conference in San Francisco, CA.

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How Bad Products Happen to Good Startups

  1. How Bad Products Happen to Good Startups Charles Hudson SoftTech VC @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  2. About Me • General Partner, SoftTech VC • CEO and Co-Founder, Bionic Panda Games • VP Biz Dev, Serious Business (Zynga) • Biz Dev, Gaia Online • Founder, Virtual Goods Summit (WEBM) • Biz Dev, Google • In-Q-Tel (CIA VC) Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  3. Bad Products Happen • Nobody sets out to build (or launch) a bad product. • Not every bad product launch is preventable; sometimes the market changes. • There are some consistent patterns Ive observed around bad product launches. Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  4. 4 Ways Bad Products Happen to Good PeopleFriday, April 5, 13
  5. #1 Too Much M in the MVP • Never forget the real goal of an MVP - it should allow you to learn about your product and market. • You wont learn much from launching a broken product - people wont use it. • Speed matters, but it isnt everything. Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  6. Investors and MVPs • Investors and outsiders are often poor judges of what your MVP should be. • Investors often push companies to launch so you (and they) can get feedback on the product as quickly as possible. • Launching a poor product too quickly can lead investors to lose faith in your product organization. Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  7. #2 Focus on Wrong Metrics • Prior to launch, identify the metrics you think really matter for your product or service. • On launch, you will get a lot of data about usage, not all of which actually matters. • You can fool your investors and the press, but dont fool yourself. Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  8. Investors and Metrics • Some of your investors will be enthralled by vanity metrics. Don’t be surprised by that. • Part of a founder’s job is to help investors understand the few numbers that really matter. • Spend the time required to get alignment around what really drives the business. Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  9. #3 The Weight of Expectations • Raising money and announcing your company to the press raises your public profile. • A brighter spotlight increases the pressure to have a successful launch. • Pivoting in public is hard and really ugly. Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  10. Managing Pre-Launch Expectations • Keeping your team on an even keel as you head toward launch requires finesse. • If launch is not going as planned, let your investors know sooner rather than later. • Beware of fanning the hype flames too heavily in the press - it can come back to bite you. Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  11. #4 Failure to Launch • Launching is a very, very scary thing for many companies. • You can always make the product better - thats not a reason not to launch. • If your gut is telling you that the product hasnt yet hit the mark, listen to your gut. Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  12. Dealing with Investors • Few things undermine investor confidence in product teams like a failure to launch a product. • Do not let investors pressure you into launching product prematurely if you know the product isn’t ready. • If something about your products or the market has changed, communicate that early. Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  13. What Can Work (YMMV)Friday, April 5, 13
  14. Build the Smallest Satisfying Experience What reasonable constraints can you put on your product to prove that it works? • Constrained domain or use cases • Constrained geography • Constrained platform availability Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  15. Build Product Release Rhythm • Launch is a singular event and one of several times youll release product to the world. • Build a product organization that releases product on a regular basis. • Develop standards for what feels right for your company. Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  16. Obsess About the Flow, Not the Launch Launch is a singular event - focus on the total product experience: • Distribution and Discovery • Registration • Activation • Usage • Re-engagement • Monetization Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  17. Only a Few Stats Really Matter • How frequently should your active users use your product? • Whats your conversion / activation funnel? • How important is viral / network distribution for success in your category? • What small set of metrics will give you a sense of overall product health? Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13
  18. Have Conviction About Your Core Beliefs • Identify the core beliefs you have about your product or market and stick to them. • Not everything worth doing lends itself to testing or analytics. • Make sure you work with investors who share your core beliefs around your product. Products Are Hard 2013 #PAH2013 @chudsonFriday, April 5, 13

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