Product Preciousness is a Terminal Disease

Product Preciousness in a Startup

Ah, your incredible new product. Built to address unmet needs in a huge market.

Alas, the sad news: It will never be perfect, NEVER!

You will always have an image in your mind of what it should look like — an image that is some distance away from the current manifestation of your idea IRL. But you have to be in the market, to know if you’re on the right road, need to shift slightly off current course, or turn around entirely. As a very successful entrepreneur I know says, “real entrepreneurship starts when you get your first order.” And to get the first order, you have to make something that the customer/user actually wants.

I’m guilty of not following my own advice here, of polishing the apple endlessly, waiting way too long and expending too much elbow grease, before finding out if it even tastes good, needs honey, or is rotten and should be thrown out.

A lot of this behavior is wrapped up in fear of a failure that you can’t fix or come back from. We grow up wanting to get the A+, the 100%, on our first attempt, because in an academic setting it hits our GPA and can’t be changed. And in an academic setting, to some degree you can spend copious amounts of time planning and studying before the big day. But in the ferociously competitive environments where startups operate, time is your worst enemy, buyers and consumers say one thing and do another, and customers make complicated decisions in the moment with how they spend their time and budget. BUT, especially IRL, you can come back from a bad grade…but you can’t come back from a product that never launched because it was ‘being perfected.’ The easiest way to fail is to avoid actually putting your product into the ultimate crucible — the market — where real life potential and actual customers will vote with their wallets and their budgets.

We’ve watched teams waste precious time and runway in the vacuum, designing what they think the customer wants and what they believe the market needs, only to waste months and to then release their product/service to crickets or head scratching or disgust.

I don’t have a scientific answer for how to measure where the “good enough” line is, but I know it’s way easier to identify and see with the right culture, mindset and systems in place at your organization…and this flows from the top.

None of this is rocket science. It’s all been said before by smarter people in other ways. But it’s important to repeat the basics when you see ‘product preciousness’ happening over and over again in the hands of very smart, capable and well-funded entrepreneurs. Ten different coaches can explain the same issue they see in an athlete, only to fall on deaf ears. And then the 11th coach says it in a slightly different way, and it all clicks and makes its way into the real world in the form of better performance. Hopefully this post serves as that 11th coach and triggers something in your approach to things that you know you “should” do, but now finally nudges you into the camp of “it’s good enough. So, SHIP It, and let’s analyze how it performs, how actual consumers respond, and then optimize based on what the market actually needs/wants/and dreams about.”

-Wills Hapworth, TIA Ventures

Twitter: @TIA_Ventures



TIA Ventures is a seed-stage venture capital fund that partners with companies building emotional and visceral connections with their consumers.

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TIA Ventures

TIA Ventures is a seed-stage venture capital fund that partners with companies building emotional and visceral connections with their consumers.