Chip Kennedy

Feb 8, 2021

14 min read

Startup Product Building 101

A product-building guide for startup founders

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

🤷‍♂️ What is this?

🔍 Some Definitions (to get us on the same page)

  • Product Market Fit — the measure of how the thing your startup provides is wanted by the people you’re providing it to. Often measured simply by how many paying customers you can attract.
  • Product People — professionals that work in the web and mobile software fields. This primarily means software developers, product designers, and product managers; but can also include marketers, data scientists and engineers, and professionals with many other specific and relevant skillsets.
  • Scope — the relative “size” of the product you’re trying to build.

✏️ Lesson 1: Building Products is Hard (but we knew that)

Not really, but’s let’s dive in anyway (via giphy.com)
Product building is like an onion (via giphy.com)

✏️ Lesson 2: You Don’t Need a CTO

The internet telling you how necessary it is to find a CTO (you don’t have to listen)
  • Bring on a Product, Design, or Development Agency
  • Hire a Part Time or Full Time Developer with Startup Experience
  • Hire Various Product Freelancers
  • Learning Product Skills Yourself
  • Various Hybrids of the Above Approaches
  • You have a sense of product market fit
  • You know the general scope of what you want to build
  • Your time is better spent on other parts of your business
  • You’re not confident in your product management skills
  • You don’t yet have a sense of product market fit
  • You don’t have the funding or resources for an agency
  • Ask your local startup community for agencies that other entrepreneurs have used in the past
  • Find startup projects that you like and look up the agency that built their applications
  • Make sure you understand everything in a proposal/contract. If you don’t ask questions and get second opinions
  • Don’t pay for services you don’t think you need. Keep scope of service small and add on as necessary.
  • You don’t yet have a sense of product market fit
  • You’re confident in your product management skills
  • You don’t have the funding or resources for a hire
  • Your company doesn’t need complicated technology right now
  • You don’t yet have a sense of product market fit
  • Your budget is limited
  • You’re confident in your product management skills
  • You’re not ready (or don’t have time) to tightly manage your product building process
  • You’re not confident in your product management skills

✏️ Lesson 3: Start Small and Iterate

Lean Startup by Eric Ries

✏️ Lesson 4: Your Business Goals == Your Product Goals (and they should be simple)

When you know you’ve got the right analytics for your company (via giphy.com)

✏️ Lesson 5: Stick With Your Gut

Sometimes running a startup comes down to trusting the process (via giphy.com)

👋 What Comes Next?

If you’re excited, so am I (via giphy.com)
  • Lean Startup by Eric Ries — the original (and still relevant) definition of learn startup methodology
  • Sprint by Jake Knapp — playbook for running product design sprints
  • Running Lean by Ash Maurya — deeper dive on startups, product, and product market fit

🗺 Appendix

  • How did they handle cost or time overages? Did they communicate them well?
  • Were they open and willing to go along with pivots and changes?
  • Did they handle push back well? Did they push back professionally when necessary?
  • Walk me through your last client project. Explain the technical concepts.
  • What do you think is different about working with startup teams? How do you handle those challenges / parameters?
  • Explain something to me in your field that I’ve never heard of.
  • What was their role on the team? Be specific.
  • How did they handle changes to scope and project?