Handcrafted solutions: creating a product your customers will love

Ameet Ranadive
May 13, 2017 · 9 min read

“Go to your users. Get to know them. Get your customers one by one.”

Brian recounted an early conversation that he had with their first investor, Paul Graham of Y Combinator.

“We didn’t just meet our users, we lived with them.”

Their goal the whole time was to discover what their customers love. As Brian said:

“More like stories than statistics.”

It also reminded me of a recent learning from Clayton Christensen. In his book Competing Against Luck, Christensen introduces us to the Jobs to Be Done theory. In this theory, customers are not buying specific products. They are hiring products to fulfill a specific job in their lives. As Christensen explains:

“Better to build something that a small number of users love, than a large number of users like”

It’s not enough to just spend time with your customers and develop empathy for them and their problems. You also want to understand what solution they will love. Why? As Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, once said in a different talk:

The product of their dreams

In order to learn what your customers love, you can’t ask them questions about your current product. You should instead ask them about what the product of their dreams would look like.

“Do everything by hand until it’s painful”

Once you have developed deep empathy for the customer, and you understand what they would love in the product of their dreams, you need to handcraft a solution for them. Reid and Brian advise us not to try to build a perfectly scaled solution up front. Instead, create the solution by hand, and then automate portions of the solution as it becomes more and more difficult to do it manually.

“Stripe’s bleary-eyed customer service rep”

Reid also shares the experience of Patrick Collison, the CEO of Stripe, as he created a handcrafted solution. Patrick recounted how they had a chat room for customers, and they had set up alerts so that they would get paged in the middle of the night if a customer sent a chat but didn’t get a response. Then Patrick would “groggily” wake up, respond to the customer, and then go back to sleep. Reid said:

Scaling the handcrafted approach

After you have developed your handcrafted solution (often by serving as the company’s “bleary-eyed” customer service rep) and your initial customers have told you that they love it (and are also telling their friends about it), you’re ready to scale.


PM Insights

A collection of posts that contain lessons learned from my time as a product manager.

Ameet Ranadive

Written by

Entrepreneur. Product management @ Instagram.

PM Insights

A collection of posts that contain lessons learned from my time as a product manager.