It’s not how many features you have

I have met hundreds of startups in the past five years in various capacities — advisor, consultant, senior executive & investor. The one unfailing pattern that I have noticed, especially in first time entrepreneurs is this.

Entrepreneurs always come up with a large set of features

There are many reasons for this thinking:

  • Large is NOT EQUAL to Large: Most entrepreneurs start up because they are excited about a ‘large’ problem that has the potential to change an industry or a target segment’s life. But a large problem most definitely does not equate to ‘large number of features’
  • Time ticks on at the same pace as always: Almost all first time entrepreneurs have a highly optimistic view of the time that is required to solve each of the things that they have committed to taking on via features. It’s very common to hear entrepreneurs who come with a set of 5–6 major features, each of which is potentially a product in itself. Specifically, one of the most common features that most consumer internet pitch decks have is a loyalty / rewards program, because they feel that that will add to their user stickiness and differentiate them from incumbents. Unless the startup idea itself is around loyalty, it should not even be part of your plan till you have sufficient traction — by definition, you will not be able to work out good loyalty deals with partners unless you have a critical mass of users
  • But they have it already: Another justification is that other products in the market already have these features. There are situations when you have to make sure you meet the current hygiene levels of feature sets before you launch a product into an existing market. But you never know the thinking behind a feature in a competitor’s product — so don’t include a feature just because they have it. Your first principles research on whether your product, attempting to solve a specific problem, for a specific target segment is the only thing that should ultimately guide you
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