Be Wary of Building More Product Features

Three thoughts you should consider before you build too much, too soon.

A.T. Gimbel
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October 11, 2022

Understanding the problem before building more features

I have recently met with several entrepreneurs who are pre-revenue and trying to raise several million dollars to go build a product they believe people will buy. As I have written before, I am a bigger fan of selling first versus building first. Here are some additional thoughts on why I would be careful building too much, too soon.

Customer will always ask for more features

During the sales process, potential customers would tell me that they loved the solution, but come back when I built feature XYZ and they would buy it. So of course, I would go build that feature and come back to say I was ready. Yet they would then say, well actually go build ABC and then we will be ready to buy … What happened? The reality is they never had any intention of buying - they were just being nice and didn’t think we would actually ever go build it and come back to them. With existing customers, they often would request new features that created a laundry list of things to prioritize. While using a Customer Advisory Board can be helpful in that process, the reality is most of those were just “nice-to-haves.” Really make sure you understand the problem to be solved versus just building more features.

Building product takes longer and more money than you think

I have heard countless stories from entrepreneurs that what they thought would be a $20K build ended up costing way more … and it took twice as long! Inevitably there will be changes, revisions, and other things that can push out the development. This doesn’t even include the “cost” of technical debt when you have to rebuild later, opportunity cost of focusing on the wrong things, and user challenges from having a feature rich and bloated product.

80% of the initial features you build will be wasted

This is a reality. There are lots of feature requests that sound great in theory, on a whiteboard, in a mockup, or from the customer’s mouth. Unfortunately until you get the product in the hands of paying customers who are using it, you never truly know. There are many features I thought would be big hits that flopped, and others I thought didn’t matter as much that turned out to be amazing. Be prepared that your first iterations will have a lot of waste.

So what to do? Really make sure you understand the problem, have vetted authentic demand, and know customers will pay for the product. Build together with your first paying customers as development partners so you are aligned and more focused. Lastly, always take a feature request with the right amount of cynicism to challenge is it really the answer.

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