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Validation and Product-Market Fit (Auckland, August 2018)

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At Callaghan Innovation's Southern SaaS conference (28 Aug 2018): We all resist doing market/product validation before starting the development cycle, but this is one of our biggest determinants of product success.

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Validation and Product-Market Fit (Auckland, August 2018)

  1. 1. Validation and Product-Market Fit (How Product Management Increases Your Startup’s Odds of Survival) Rich Mironov Callaghan Innovation Auckland, 28 Aug 2018
  2. 2. 1. We all resist doing market validation 2. Selling isn’t learning 3. Get (or try to be) a product manager Agenda www.Mironov.com
  3. 3. Goal: scalable business that addresses real (recognized) needs of large audience in a novel way. Profitably. www.Mironov.com
  4. 4. 1. I’ve discovered a new need. 2. My idea is unique/correct/valuable. 3. I’m the expert. I know the answer. 4. Solution focus (before problem validation) 5. “Talking to customers” means telling and selling Five Fundamental Mistakes Almost All Founders Make www.Mironov.com
  5. 5. • Business accounting… Sumeria, 7500 BC • Mobile computing… specs: Alan Kay, 1968. Touch screen: GridPad, 1989. MP3: MPMan, 1998. • Real-time multiplayer online game… Habitat, 1985 • Online grocery ordering/delivery… Webvan, 1996 • Business accounting… Sumeria, 7500 BC • Mobile computing… specs: Alan Kay, 1968. Touch screen: GridPad, 1989. MP3: MPMan, 1998. • Real-time multiplayer online game… Habitat, 1985 • Online grocery ordering/delivery… Webvan, 1996 Brand New Ideas? www.Mironov.com
  6. 6. Venture Capital (Funded Ideas) $37B $47B €17B $NZ1B www.Mironov.com
  7. 7. • Local expert within single company or group • Generalize from unique combination of systems, processes, organizations, goals, roles • “That’s how we do it at my company” • Easy to ignore opinions/situations of others • Imagine themselves as “the customer” Experts Bring Deep Unconscious Bias www.Mironov.com
  8. 8. Most of the success / failure of a product is determined before we assign our first developer or fill out our first story card. www.Mironov.com
  9. 9. • For a narrow audience (qualifications) • Who say they have this problem (their words) • And will pay for a solution (value) • That delivers better results than alternatives (metric) • Within their context (processes, systems, assumptions) Validation: Define Problem First www.Mironov.com
  10. 10. Customers are experts in what they want to achieve, not how to achieve it. - Alex Osterwalder
  11. 11. • Markets are complex and surprising • Your initial theory is always (partly) wrong • You learn from customers and prospects • What’s the pattern? Who are the outliers? • Rule of thumb: you need 20+ in-depth interviews to start seeing patterns Theory vs. Discovery www.Mironov.com
  12. 12. • You are selling when you… • Do most of the talking • Anticipate objections, plan your arguments • Understand the material • Want to “close” in the meeting • You are listening when you… • Ask open-ended questions, be quiet • Take notes • Repeat for clarification • Expect to be surprised, hope to hear “NO” Are You Selling or Listening?
  13. 13. • Confirmation bias • Troll for “yes,” explain away “no,” misremember, overgeneralize • Availability bias • Overweight/remember most recent instances • Authority/bandwagon bias • Executives say this is true • Chooser/user bias • CAB attendee overstates minimal user feedback Stay humble, anticipate your own biases Validation Biases www.Mironov.com
  14. 14. • Get inside their heads • 30+ minute in-person interviews • Open-ended questions • Record session or take good notes • Ask about… • How their business* works • What they name things • What keeps them awake at night (pain) • Current solutions, alternatives, shortcomings, competitors • How they justify spending (ROI) Extended Interviews 14www.Mironov.com
  15. 15. How did 15-30 prospects… • Describe their pain points? Urgency? • Say they would score/measure success? • Get purchase approval? • Identify existing systems, environment, processes? Listening/Learning Enables Selling www.Mironov.com
  16. 16. • Founders “sell” all day: investors, staff, customers • Salespeople answer objections to get to “yes” • Someone must be segment-focused instead of account-focused, objective, realistic/pessimistic, sweating details and practicalities. Internally, who tells the absolute ugly truth? This Is Really Hard www.Mironov.com
  17. 17. There’s nothing more wasteful than brilliantly engineering a product that doesn’t sell. www.Mironov.com
  18. 18. At your startup, someone “plays” Product Manager
  19. 19. Balance exec enthusiasm with honesty • Market fit, whole product, real value • Scalable revenue vs. individual deals • Long-term customer relationships Why Do We Need Product Managers? www.Mironov.com
  20. 20. • Need • 3+ years experience as actual product manager, with product manager title, on revenue products. Experience pushing back on execs. • Not substitutes • SME or deep technical expert • Eager volunteer from another role • Scrum master/project manager • “I did something just like that” Choosing Your First Product Manager www.Mironov.com
  21. 21. 1. Product-market fit is life-or-death for your company 2. Rigorous, honest validation (now) enables scalable selling (later) 3. Customers always propose (wrong) solutions to their problems 4. Product management validation balances founder enthusiasm Takeaways www.Mironov.com
  22. 22. Rich Mironov Mironov Consulting San Francisco, CA, USA www.mironov.com +1-650-315-7394 rich@mironov.com @richmironov