From Idea to Launch: How Our New Product Process Works

Alexander Obenauer
Startup Grind
Published in
8 min readFeb 14, 2017


So you think you’ve got a product that’ll fly off of the shelves? As I once found out, that’s not enough. So how do you get a worthy product to fly off the shelves?

In this article, I’m sharing with you our process to help you give your creation wings. This process blends ideation & product design with marketing and development. All three components happen at the same time to make section better and more symbiotic.

This is the process that has propelled our apps to the #1 spot in the app store on launch day.

However, it all begins well before launch day.

Have conversations about:

1. The problem you’re solving to verify its value.

2. And pursue a deeper understanding of the problem.

These two steps happen together when you talk with people about the problem you’re solving.

First: you need to ensure it’s a valuable problem worth solving. People should become emotional when you ask them about the problem. “I absolutely hate email” is a good sign. They cannot be casual about it, otherwise it’s not a problem worth solving.

Second: record others’ qualitative remarks about the problem. Besides helping you craft the right solution to the problem, these words and phrases will help you craft the language you use in your marketing.

Discern patterns in how people talk about the problem. This is how you will want to talk about the product in your marketing website, videos, and other promotional material. By recording people’s language now, you’ll have it later to immediately capture the attention of anyone with the problem by describing the pains they experience in the way they think about it.

Discuss your potential solution with a few people to verify its value, iterate on the concept, and iterate on how you describe the concept.

You’ve ideated, and you believe you’ve solved the problem. Maybe you’ve even used The Toilet Method. You’re done now, right?

Wrong. You have a lot of iterating to do.

Discuss the solution with a few people.

Identify which words confuse, and which resonate. If they supplant their own words that help them understand your idea, write those words down. If you can get them to describe the solution back to you once they get it, write down every word they say. Seek to understand patterns as you discuss it with more people.

This is all to get an idea for how you should talk about the solution. The language you initially use to describe the solution comes from your perspective, which, since you’re now deep in it, generally won’t match potential users’ language.

As you move on to talking with the second, third, and fourth person, start to use their words as you describe it. Notice what sticks; what helps the concept click for the potential user more quickly.

Keep those words. Keep iterating on the language using how ideal users and customers think about your solution, so that it clicks for the next person a little bit faster each time.

Here’s an example:

In the first Mail Pilot concept in 2011, I had the idea of “review by date” — being able to defer dealing with an email until some point in the future. A few people said, “oh, like a reminder?” Ah, yes, a reminder.

A much simpler name that more quickly communicates the point of the feature. From then on I called it, “reminders.” It took no time to click with the next few people, and it went on to become a fan favorite feature.

As you’re discussing the concept with people, you’re iterating your language around it for both your marketing as well as the language you use in the app so your users can get onboard more quickly.

You’re also, obviously, iterating on the concept. You’ll get tons of feedback, suggestions, ideas, etc. You’ll find that potential users start to fall into a few groups of users based on which features each really gravitate towards (later, you’ll try to figure out which group has the problem the worst or is most likely to pay to have it solved).

Once you’ve had a few discussions and think you’re getting the pulse of the idea and how it resonates with people, it’s time to move into the next step.

Should you go on?

It’s also important to note here that at any step you could discover that your project should be abandoned or pivoted. If the problem or solution doesn’t incite passionate responses from people, there’s a value problem, and you should readjust now before investing more time.

So far you’ve only had conversations. Now is the right time to decide if you should move forward with this product, if you should pivot it based on what you’ve learned and what you think you can still learn, or if you should pull to eject.

Create a simple website to iterate the concept and how you present it.

Most people will learn about your product via a website, so testing the concept by showing the website will help you gauge how you present the product and the product itself.

This gives you a low-risk way to test and improve the concept and language before you’ve invested any time into developing the product or even the website.

Show your website’s design to people one-on-one, continue to collect their qualitative responses, and continue to iterate on the concept and the marketing.

This will also help you test the aesthetics. When we initially conceptualized Throttle, we envisioned it as a technical tool. So we designed something that felt very technical, stark.

The feedback in this round told us they expected it to be more polished and designed. I likened it to 1Password: even though 1Password is a security utility, they make it more approachable to consumers through aesthetics.

This helped us redesign the website and the product.

How the website aesthetic changed after our tests.
How the app aesthetic changed after our tests.

Once you feel you’ve got it figured out — when you can show the website to people and most will quickly understand and “get it,” click with it, and want to give you their money, you know it’s safe to start development.

You’ll still iterating a ton, but the needle should at least be pointed in the right direction now.

There’s downtime during the initial stages of development where you’re doing the normal stuff — building an audience by publishing relevant content, engaging that audience, maybe teasing the product a little bit.

But during the latter half of development, there’s a lot to do to involve users to help you make your product better than you could alone, and to build a lot of anticipation pre-launch.

Publish a “Public Preview” to iterate with users, build up anticipation, and create some of the best content marketing you’ll have.

At some point early on in development, announce a Public Preview. This is a period of time — anywhere between 1 and 6 months — where you make a beta version of your product publicly available. It allows you to release something a little more raw pre-launch, and invite early adopters that love to give feedback to try out your product.

Iterate week after week in quick releases using the feedback you’re getting. This is, by far, the biggest thing that has driven up our launch numbers once we actually go to launch the product.

For us, development is at a Public Preview stage before it’s even feature complete — but our cutting edge early adopters are ready for it. We publish a signup, and let in batches of 200 at a time. This allows you to iterate each week with feedback both from users who saw last week’s version as well as users who are entirely new — so that you are ensuring continuous onboarding is strong, and never regresses. It also builds up a little anticipation by letting in a few people every week. You can also prioritize VIPs by sneaking them in early.

Each week publish a new version. Take the feedback from last week and incorporate it — the right way. Be willing to throw out things you were married to.

After a few versions, invite the press into the public preview. Then eventually, it comes time to launch.

The best content marketing you’ll have

While running the Public Preview, start to write and publish blog posts about the changes you’ve made to the product based on things you’ve learned that surprised you or that are simply interesting.

Here’s an example of one I published recently:

This shows your audience all the effort you’re going to in order to craft the right product for them. It shows that this product is artisan made.

People want products birthed out of fine craftsmanship. Publishing these articles helps build anticipation during development, and helps the audience to see that it’s not churned out by a company trying to make an easy buck; it’s real people that authentically care about solving a problem they have perfectly — down to the tiniest detail.

This is the method we’ve used time and again. By helping improve our understanding of the problem, how to talk about the solution, how to get the tiniest details in the product just right, and how to involve users in the process.

Improving our language surrounding the product and the problem it solves, building up anticipation, and creating some content marketing that naturally flows out of the process, we have ended up with launches that have joined the 1,000 club on ProductHunt, topped the Mac App Store charts in over 50 countries, and broken records on Kickstarter.