Product – Good idea or it’s time to bail out

Sam McAfee – Product idea – How to know when product idea is a good one or is time to bail out.

Marzena Kmiecik: How do you know when a product idea is a good one? how do you determine that, and how do you know when it’s time to bail out?

It’s an interesting question, and I think that there isn’t really a one size fits all. I think that certainly, many of the examples I’ve seen, there’s a founder and an entrepreneur that’s solving a problem that they have. What’s interesting about that is that you might have the problem, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that other people do, or that they’re willing to pay for a solution to that. So that’s one thing to keep in mind. Just keep going.

If it’s a problem that you actually have, and you’re inventing a solution for yourself, that’s very common. We hear that a lot with technology companies. Chances are, there are probably other people that have that problem too. And so the first thing you need to do before you build your grand solution is to go and find out if there are people out there that have this problem. And those are really the main startup techniques. The techniques from Steve Blank’s book and Eric Ries’ material, all deal with the question of how do you get out of the building and go find prospective customers before you even start building anything?

So that’s one school of thought, there is a solution to the problem that you have. But there’s also another school of thought that is equally interesting, is that entrepreneurship, particularly in product development, they’re very energetic, creative, passionate, with activities, and it’s definitely possible that the right chemistry and a group of people will find really good problems to solve. So what’s interesting is when I see people starting companies, and they get their friends together or a killer team of people they want to work with forever.


It’s like, you know, Tim and I have been at lots of different companies and we’ve known each other forever, but we never really had that chance to work together, but we know it’s going to be great. And then we finally have an opportunity to actually build something together. We may not even know what our first problem we’re going to tackle is. But if you have the right chemistry, you can really approach lots of different areas.

It’s interesting because I think that the genesis of many successful companies isn’t necessarily a specific problem or solution, but more taking a pool of talent and looking around for appropriate problems in the world that a team of people could really handle and crush it with some great solution.

Marzena Kmiecik: So how do you feel about innovation, actually coming out with the fun ideas?

Sure. Well, innovation is one of those really sort of elusive concepts, right? There’s definitely a school of thought. There’s a guy named David Snowden who is a cognitive scientist, who talks a lot about complexity theory. One of the things he actually pushes organizations to do is to flirt with introducing little bits of chaos into their otherwise very structured company environments.

Because sort of controlled chaos can bring about innovations. Break a few eggs, mix things up, see what emerges. So innovation is very much about being able to look at, have sort of lots of things flowing around and let things happen and kind of watch where the value goes and see what comes out. It’s very exploratory, and in itself is a very creative process. I don’t think there’s really a formula for creating innovation, but it’s definitely like you can create environments with people and process or, I wouldn’t say lack of process, but the right kinds of loose processes to encourage more innovation. Or like, when something innovative happens, you’ll recognize that and be able to foster that and help scale it.