Advice from one of my favorite startups, Shortstack, advocates a novel way for tech babies to grow up — namely, without venture capital. Shortstack CEO, Jim Belosic thinks venture capital waters down products and shifts priorities from “the customer comes first” to “the investor comes first”.
I drink Jim’s Kool-Aid.
Is your Product Worth Buying?
Our app, Post Planner, was launched for a mere $2k, and we’ve been bootstrapping ever since. The only funding we ever received was from the user credit cards that continue to pay our bills and salaries. This funding has never been dependent on the slickness of a pitch deck or the whim of some Silicon Valley investor. Rather, it has always only depended on one factor: Is the product worth paying for?
Startups should concentrate on getting a “Yes!” to that question.
Instead of exhausting precious time and energy slaving over a pitch deck and chasing down investors from San Francisco to Sand Hill Road, why not devote those resources to building a product that customers will gladly enter their credit card number to use?
Here are three simple ways to get started:
1. Copy another product customers are purchasing.
Don’t make the mistake of not reinventing the wheel. This notion that your product has to be so innovative that nothing like it has ever existed is a myth — usually an expensive one. My advice is to identify a product people are already paying for and then offer the same core functionality at a better price or with a better user experience (UX), customer service, or features.
For instance, Post Planner wasn’t a unique idea, by any means. But we knew that a scheduling tool for Facebook was something people were already paying for — and that there was a lot of room for iteration and improvement. Boom! A product customers gladly pay for every month.
2. Build a product you or your clients would purchase.
Kill your own pain or the pain of your clients. Identify the procedures that frustrate you or burden your clientele, then build a product that amends them.
- Kill your own pain. Surely you have business challenges that require easier, more streamlined solutions. For example, if you run an ad agency, then as an ad buyer, creative producer, copywriter, etc. experience myriad pain points throughout a typical day. Guess what? Thousands of ad agencies and freelancers, in your same line of business, probably suffer the same pain. So build a lean and practical solution! But make sure it kills your own pain first.
- Kill the pain of your clients. Your problems aren’t the only ones that require paid solutions. If you run a service-based business, for example, then clients come to you to solve their pains — from managing Facebook pages to developing marketing brochures. If you can create a product that automates these tasks and saves your clients time and money, then you’ve got a winning business model.
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