Yesterday I read a post on the StartupCFO blog titled “It’s all about product….” It’s a really insightful post about how a kick-ass product is key to startup success. Being a product person, I would really, really love to be able to agree with his argument that nailing the product, user experience and value proposition is a recipe for success.
Unfortunately, that has simply not been the case in my personal experience. I can count at least two products that were done right in every conceivable way – end users loved them, usability was wonderful, all that good stuff. In both cases the products failed miserably.
The first one didn’t fly because for all the success we had in nailing the needs and wants of the end user, we had failed to meet the needs and wants of the sales channels. This product ended up fighting for attention with another of our own products which cost 10 times as much. Needless to say, the channels had to protect their own interests first. They kept right on selling the older, costlier product and ignored the new segment that was supposed to get us exponential growth. The product was taken off the market within 18 months and died an uneventful death.
The second one didn’t fly because the company never quite found a business model that worked. Once again, we focused too much on the needs and wants of end users and nailed everything we could nail, but we failed to focus on the needs and wants of the buyers (huge global entities that moved to a glacial timescale in comparison to our needs). Eventually all product development ceased while sales continued valiantly to try and figure out some angle to sell this wonderful, wonderful product that end users loved – up until the day when the company closed its doors.
I agree with the author that nailing the product is crucial to success. But much as it pains me to say this, a kick-ass product is at most half the equation. Kick-ass execution all the way through the whole value chain is the other half. Success won’t happen without one or the other.