“Here is the secret to success: have a great product.
This is the only thing all great companies have in common.”
— Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator
Your goal as a startup is to make something users love.
It’s as simple as that. Build a great product and the rest will follow.
Make Something People Want is the motto of Y Combinator, an early stage startup accelerator that has supported the launch of companies like airbnb, reddit, and Dropbox. Build something— not that people need — but rather something they want and are willing to pay for.
How do you build a great product?
Simply put: you must solve a real problem that people have. Not just any issue that mildly bothers them from time to time; no, rather something that really pisses people off — a real problem.
Build something that saves people time, saves them money, adds convenience to their life, improves the quality of an experience — essentially improves their life in one way, shape, or another.
What does this look like in action?
At the core of making something people want are two activities, that if done consistently and thoroughly, will lead you to a successful product.
These two activities are: #1) Building an MVP and #2) Talking to your customers
We repeat: the two most important things you can do to grow your idea and turn it into a successful business is building product and talking to your customers.
These are so critically important that, if Grow Your Idea had a body, we would get “Build Product. Talk to Users. Repeat.” tattooed on our forehead. It’s that essential to the start of your new business.
Let’s dive in a little deeper.
Your idea probably has 1 million different features that you’re envisioning in your head. But do customers care about all of these? You shouldn’t build what isn’t absolutely necessary.
What is an MVP? It stands for Minimum Viable Product, and it’s the minimum set of features that a customer is willing to pay for. In other words, it’s the simplest thing you could possibly build that effectively solves your customers’ problems.
Therefore it is your job to discover which features are the most important — to find the core value your product provides. Start with your number-one problem. What big problem are you solving? What is the absolute minimum features you can build in order to fix that?
Why is this so important? The goal is to prove people want what we have. We’ll be approaching our customers with our MVP to see if it actually solves their problems.
The key to a successful business is in making something people want, and the only way to find out exactly what people want is by talking to them directly. So go out and learn about your customers! Try to understand them the best you possibly can. This is an underlying principle that needs to be taken seriously throughout the life of your business. Period.
We will continue to talk about this because it is of utmost importance. It’s the one thing we tell our entrepreneurs over and over and over again, and that is: GET OUT OF THE BUILDING AND GO TALK TO YOUR CUSTOMERS.
Now you may be thinking — “I’m a member of my target market, so why should I talk to people? I already know what we want!” You may be right to a certain extent, but what if everyone doesn’t think exactly like you? There’s a very high chance that you’ll miss something in your own bubble — and that something could be critical to your success.
To summarize, you must build a product that solves a big problem people have — something they want and are willing to pay for. In practice, this process begins by building an MVP and showing it to your customers.
Talk to your customers on a consistent basis, watch them interact with your product, ask them questions about how to improve, and then go back and make your product better based off their feedback.
This is your #1 priority in the early stages. By dedicating yourself to this process, you will continuously fine-tune your product towards perfection. You will build a great product, something that people want, and that will jumpstart your new idea into a great company.