My dad's new venture and a framework for early stage products

I have been helping my dad with his new venture, Bridge with Kista, that aims to help Bridge players improve their game with deliberate practice - by playing tournaments and then hearing my dad's expert analysis and feedback of the boards they played. We have been able to get this going remarkably quickly - from idea to 150 weekly paying users in just 3 weeks. 

The joy of working on any new venture is the energy, creativity and speed of execution. It is also a critical phase where your decisions and approach can make or break the product or your enthusiasm for the venture. 

Here's my framework for developing and evolving early stage products. 

4 phases of early stage products

Product Evolution

Customer base Evolution

You start with a specific hypothesis. For Bridge with Kista, it was that users will pay for. You then explore different versions of solutions for the hypothesis and get feedback from target users until you to get to a Product-Market fit. I'm a fan of Rahul Vohra's framework for getting to P-M fit

Once you have evidence of P-M fit (user retention and very positive feedback), you narrow your focus to a core product and user segment, so that you can perfect it. 

“Build something 100 people love, not something 1 million people kind of like." - Brian Chesky, Airbnb

Focus is important to improve the product quality, which will help you retain users, attract more similar users and create a moat. You should also increase operational efficiencies, which will reduce your costs, effort, quality and reliability. One early mistake with Bridge with Kista was that we tried to deliver too many formats of analysis (Zoom, document, Youtube) and we tried expand to more users before we had evidence of P-M fit - which distracted us from perfecting the product. 

Most companies don’t get past their first product market fit. But if you do, you can extend to adjacent product areas (like Facebook and news distribution) or productize a core capability (like Amazon and AWS), or enter a totally new domain (like Uber and freight).

Common Pitfalls 

1) Not having a systematic approach for product-market fit. This would mean you wouldn't learn what works or doesn't, and will feel stuck and demotivated whenever you don't get traction. I prefer to lay out hypotheses, riskiest assumptions, and systematically designing experiments/prototypes and a feedback process to validate them. Learning and validation is progress. 

2) Pre-mature optimization during exploration. This would mean you move too slowly and are inflexible in exploring ideas. Try to figure out the quickest way to validate and have a mindset of being ready to throw away all prototypes. 

3) Focus on growing before achieving product-market fit and perfecting. That'd make you lose focus on exploring, iterating and getting to product-market fit. It's easy to grow when you have great product-market fit. 

4) Lack of focus. If you don't narrow down your product or target audience, you lose focus and dilute product quality.