Having shipped enterprise and small business products over the past seven years, I've learned some things about what people respond to when it comes to products from startups. Here, for your benefit, is a simple checklist of six things to help you build great products as a startup.
Solve a Real Problem
Many startups run into corner cases and problems that are silo or specific to a niche. Truly understanding the problem and determining whether customers are satisfied with your proposed solution is critical.
Validate Your Solution
You can do this by conducting interviews, surveys, simply walking out of your office building and talking to potential customers. The biggest mistake companies make is to focus on their creative and amazing solution without asking customers if they are willing to pay for it.
Perform Competitive Analysis
What are the other alternatives in the market? It’s easy to look at your innovation and fall in love with it. Take the time to understand the market and the various options that are available to consumers. Who are your competitors and what are their differentiators? What are your barriers to entry in the market?
Start with a small feature set and work on a strong foundation. Prioritize and truly understand what will constitute the minimum viable product and then build it. Understand the importance of the user need and the satisfaction that a user will get after using the product. Do not allow scope creep or gold-plating to absorb the time and resources you have on hand.
Start with a small scope, build iteratively and create high customer value.
Have a Strong Value Proposition
What are the benefits to users? Why would they use your product instead of going to the competitor? What makes you and your product truly stand out? Define a strong value proposition which will enable users to identify with your product. This also means putting together a value proposition statement that defines at the highest level what your product will deliver.
Leverage Tools to Help Stay Organized
Feature checklists, UI design guidelines, storyboards, burn down charts and the list goes on. There are several tools that you can use to this purpose as you build iteratively. Time, scope, resources, quality, risk, communication and cost are some of the parameters that you will need to plan for and track.
Lastly, focus on your team and make sure you cater to the needs of your rock star team. Great teams build great products!
Sonal Mane is a Chicago-based startup technologist. She writes at Windows of Words and you can connect with her on Twitter. Her team creates a platform for startups to gain visibility and technology support and is also looking for the next high potential startup to nurture longer term. A variety of events form the backbone of Microsoft’s program for entrepreneurs, Windows Startup challenge, Accelerator for Windows Azure, supporting the 500 Startups Demo day, Startup Weekend and DevCamps. The program is also engaged in financial funding and providing great mentors all over the country.