Feb 27, 2018

How to Achieve Product-Market-Fit

written by Blake Van Leer

Blake Van Leer

Product-Market-Fit is the first thing any startup should focus on. One of the most common myths surrounding successful startups is that they studied the market, launched an amazing product that customers immediately loved, and became an overnight success on track to be the next Facebook or Uber. In reality, startups are constantly engaging with customers and pivoting numerous times in order to find product-market-fit.

One of my favorite quotes is by renowned programmer, writer and venture capitalist, Paul Graham, “The most common mistake startups make is to solve problems no one has.” After reading this quote years ago, I found myself reaching an aha moment in my career. I could build a product that users like for a short period of time, or a product that users love. Building a product that users love, leads to a network-like effect that fosters steady growth and increased retention.

When my wife and I were searching for an apartment years ago, we identified a problem that needed to be addressed. Our solution was launching Padfinders — a renter-landlord matchmaking service that removes the stress from apartment hunting. After testing the market for a year, referrals started pouring in organically without spending thousands of dollars on marketing. While this confirmed that the problem needed to be addressed, we wanted more information before going “all-in” on our idea. We began talking with customers, researching and finding out where we could offer even more value to our current service. By the third year, corporations and various government departments were calling us to assist them with their relocation efforts.

All this is to say, startups need to start with the “why” and make sure their product is compelling enough to inspire people to organically share and recommend it to friends. If you want to know more about starting with the why, read author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek’s seminal work, “Start with Why.”

Another benefit to taking your time to achieve product-market-fit is the ability to stay lean and pivot. Immediately securing funding and building a large team can be counterproductive. Startups are often better served staying small and agile so that it’s easier to try new things and adapt.

Remember that failure is okay. It’s all about learning from your failure and pivoting until you succeed.