Building Too Much, Too Soon, Can Backfire: Here's How to Avoid It

Prioritize customer discovery and authentic demand before building an MVP to ensure a must-have product.

A.T. Gimbel
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July 18, 2023

Building an MVP : The Importance of Authentic Demand and Customer Discovery

I meet with many entrepreneurs who want to raise money to build an MVP. While that may be the right answer at some point, they are often moving too quickly past the important learnings of customer discovery and authentic demand. First, make sure you are solving a must-have problem for a specific target customer and have early customers already paid and signed up to use the new solution.

Don’t be fooled by desire to show “progress”

Entrepreneurs are naturally doers. It’s easier to show progress by pointing to a product you built than to customer discovery learnings. But be careful that progress can mean more technical debt, more dilution to the founders’ equity given money raised to build a product, and less certainty over the true problem to be solved if you go build too soon. Customers will also tell you to go build it and then they will buy it - hint, they are usually just being nice and don’t believe you will actually go build something.

It’s much harder to pivot once you start building

Having seen many startups and built many products, 80-90% of the features you build in your first version are wasted. Things you think the customers want (and say they want) they actually don’t; and things you thought were not important may turn out to be critical. Once you build, you now have to either maintain excess features that were not important (which adds cost/complexity) or remove them (which adds cost/time). It is much easier to pivot a solution at the idea stage than after building and launching a product.

Validate in other ways first

Ultimately you do have to get your product into customers hands. But you can also use landing pages, paid contracts to perform consulting services to hone in on the solution, and signing up development partners as ways to further narrow and refine your product scope before you actually take the step to build the first product. Investors are more likely to invest in someone who has 1,000 signups on the waitlist, 50 customers paying deposits, and three development partners to build an MVP than someone who wants to build an MVP and believes the customers will naturally follow.

The good news is there are lots of no/low code options to quickly setup working prototypes. But really uncover authentic demand and a must-have problem before you start building and hoping that is what customers want. You will save yourself time, money, and frustration and increase your likelihood of building a must-have product.

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