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Forget Scalability, Focus on Fit

This weekend, I was invited to speak at a startup boot camp, supported by FB Developer Circle.

The audience was early-stage founders.

I mention this because when imparting advice, Context is everything.

I was asked to talk about (How to) build products that scale.

At first glance, this seems like the right string of words, and something useful for founders. But upon some thought, the topic seemed misguided.

Let me explain.

Product scalability answers the question:

Is your product built to handle fast growth?

For engineers, this could mean the capacity of a system to handle more traffic. For designers, it could mean the design endures as user growth continues.

An early-stage founder is spinning many plates. And at this larval stage, thinking about product scalability is putting the cart before the horse.

Instead, consider this.

Early on, founders should singularly focus on

solving a real problem for users.

Next,

are these users willing to pay for your solution?

And paying could mean using their money, attention, time…or all three depending on your business model. Some real-life examples:

Customers pay using

  1. Money = Chillox Burgers
  2. Attention = The Daily Star News
  3. Time = Using Facebook
  4. All 3 = Universities

If they get this right, everything else (growth, funding, etc) will follow.

Failure to do this will mean death.

The jargon for this would be finding product-market fit.

The latter is what I ended up talking about.

How do you find product-market fit?

Further reading (mostly to understand the jargons)

  1. Survival of the Fittest
  2. Why Business Models Matter

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Ahmed Fahad

Ahmed Fahad

Founding team / VP of Product @ Pathao (pathao.com); Global Shaper @ World Economic Forum. (ahmedfahad.com)