Every entrepreneur, startup owner or career-shifting guy had at least once this question popping into his mind. And may we all agree that intuition or great knowledge on what actually means to develop the product won’t help when it comes to guarantee a successful one.
Luckily, there have been other people who built, tested and measured the results endlessly, until they have found some guidelines to building a product that actually impacts the market. But before cutting to that part, let`s make some things clear about what a product should or should not be.
A product is beforehand, one that sells. And that means people would buy it, not only could. So the preliminary phase of actually talking to potential clients, investors, specialists can determine if the market is ready to take the product or if it contradicts with the buyer’s habits, knowledge and so on. For the latter, there is more work to be done to pivot for a market fit.
Secondly, the famous saying from Don Draper of Mad Men – `Make it simple, but significant` – could well be applied when building a product. It does not have to have many features, but it has to startle with a few good ones. Writing on this subject, Slava Akhmechet, the cofounder of RethinkDB has split these features into three categories, the `gamechangers`, the `showstoppers` and the `distractions`, following some simple criteria – a feature for which people would buy your product, one that is essential for the product to be bought but it won`t neccessarily generate demand and one that will make no impact on the decision.
Last but not least, a strong emphasis should be on the story the product tells. People enjoy features and innovation but they better respond to a simple, compelling story of the product that ultimately satisfies a need or wish they have.
To pinpoint some ideas of a successful product, we interviewed the people behind Halcyon Mobile, a Cluj-Napoca based company that builds mobile products.
Techsylvania: You have started developing some internal products and two of them got serious attention in the specialized media lately. Can you give us more details about them?
Levente Szabo: We have two products, Dollarbird and MimeChat, and yes, both of them proved to be interesting enough to be featured in specialized, and even mainstream international media, like Techcrunch, Mashable, The Guardian, Re/code, Forbes etc. We think it’s really important to think globally when building products these days, and this applies to Cluj, too. While targeting the local market can work in some areas, we think that the breakthrough we’re waiting for will come from products that are international.
Dollarbird and MimeChat are quite different, catering to different audiences and solving different problems. As you mentioned, both got pretty good media attention, and we also got a lot of positive feedback from our users.
With MimeChat, our interactive avatar-based chat app, we knew from the start that it’s a huge bet to try to “make chat more fun”, and it turned out that we were right… While it’s pretty hard fighting the big 100M+ user companies, we still have a few ideas on how to stand out in this market.
As for Dollarbird, our calendar-based personal finance app, we are closer to our goal. It has become quite popular and we have a really strong product-market fit. We still have to iron out a few things before it can become a truly successful product, but that’s exactly what we’re doing with the next version we’re working on, that’s coming soon.
Szabi Szekely: Eastern Europe shouldn’t be seen anymore as just an outsourcing area, there are many products coming from here too, that have great potential of becoming successful on an international scale. Even though we have some disadvantages (funding, etc.), we have a lot of good tech talent in the area, we just have to figure out how to get them involved in such projects. Techsylvania has been a major influencer in the product/startup ecosystem, so we hope it continues to drive people into it.
Techsylvania: What is the main challenge when developing internal products and how do you overcome them?
Levente Szabo: I’d say the lack of focus is the biggest challenge. To build great products, you must be immersed in the problem. You have to see its components, the relationship between them. Then, you must learn to break them apart and put them together again, in a pure form that leaves just the essential parts, both in terms of design and engineering. I think this is a short way to sum up how good products are made, and it’s really challenging to do this while also doing other things. However, no startup environment is ideal, and we’re not looking for excuses, instead just trying to do things, constantly learning and adapting to bring out the best of what we have. I think great products can be built this way too, it just requires a different approach.
Szabi Szekely: Building and growing a consulting business has a set of specific challenges, while building a product is totally different. There isn’t that much overlap and you can’t really reuse most of the skills involved. Switching the context between them takes a lot of energy. Building both of them uses the same pool of resources (time, money and people) so you always have to prioritize and re-prioritize when things change. Bottom line, it’s a juggling game and you have to be really good at it to succeed in both.
To learn more about how to build great products, you can join us at the third edition of Techsylvania, where highly reputed speakers in this matter will share their know-how on the main stage! Get your ticket today: http://www.techsylvania.co/conference-tickets