Chapter 7: Build Your Product -
Tomorrow Toolkit for Entrepreneurs
Build Your Product By Andrew Zaleski
What are your initial steps to testing and growing your business, focusing on your product or service? This includes pricing and perfecting what you want to do.

Different kinds of organizations need to take different kinds of approaches for building their product. And don’t get it twisted: no matter your organization, from a homelessness services nonprofit to a restaurant to a software business, you do have a product. There’s no surprise then that your approach to a consulting service or a mobile app or volunteer-led program have different steps to developing what their offering looks like.

But there are plenty of similarities too. And with the explosion of consumer-facing technology startups, the culture of developing products quickly and smartly is worth following.

Celebrated tech business columnist Walt Mossberg has shared principles for launching a tech product that could easily inspire action for any founder. He’s someone who has heard pitches from thousands of early-stage companies through his career, and he has followed the rise and fall of many of them. One of the most important lessons he shares is that when you first build your product, you need to know when to say “no” to features or offerings that can’t or won’t fit — either ever or at least for now.

Remember too that no product or process is ever complete. Take your lessons on rapid, early testing and carry them through the life of your organization. Build the product, and then constantly tweak and improve.

SpeedETab is one of a number of Miami startups looking to propel the city’s tech scene with its own national growth. Before it reached its current form, the app for mobile ordering and payment began focusing on bars and clubs. But CEO Adam Garfield said that restaurants and concessions ended up being the better fit.

“As founders, we have a concept in our heads of where we think our product works best and a lot of times we’re wrong,” Garfield said. “But it’s learning to adapt and figure out how to really pivot and learn where your product works best.”

To make a great product or process, you need to learn to adapt, said Adam Garfield, the CEO of SpeedETab.

Your Checklist:

  • Stay focused: To be successful, you need to have “laser focus” on the audience for your product, which “is not likely to be everybody in the world,” Mossberg said. Hold true to your mission and your business plan and build only what is necessary to start.
  • Be great: “You are simply not going to win with a crappy product.” Mossberg said it’s better to miss a product launch date “by a month or a quarter” to make sure the product being released is good. That’s not an excuse for not launching ever. There’s a fine line to develop something that is great to inspire interest and being a perfectionist. You can improve and widen your offering but be great with what you first launch.
  • Say No: “You’ve got to decide what to leave out.” No initial product will include everything, Mossberg said. “Curate” the product’s functionality, he said. Think like a museum curator: what do people really need to see? You can always add more functionality later.  When making changes, a willingness to cut out what’s already built but not needed is also important. For a product like SpeedETab, what worked for ordering drinks in bars was different for restaurants.
  • Make it enjoyable: “User experience drives the product.” A clear business model is important, Mossberg said, but the user experience needs to be “compelling,” “addictive” and “useful.” He also said to prevent engineers or business people from controlling the product. This carries through to any service you offer. Develop the full process and client life cycle. What are the pain points? Remove them.
  • Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. For millions of people, mobile phones present their primary point of internet access. For more privileged mobile users, they want the flexibility of interacting on the move. “A full-blown website that isn’t a mobile website is likely to not be a rich experience for a person on mobile,” he said. Prepare yourself for how all people will interact with you.
  • Keep the nuance behind the scenes: For tech startups, block out computer theology. “No normal, average, real user cares what computer language the product was written in,” Mossberg said. For that matter, equally unimportant are your “apps are better than the web” arguments. “Your company will take off,” he said, “if you focus on [the] quality of [the] product.” The logic fits for services and social offerings too though. Any industry debates about psychology can be hashed out among peers. Your users simply need a great experience.

The point here is that the gulf between launching a great web app and a great process for underserved immigrant communities isn’t so different at its core. Think of the user and be great.

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