Why So Many Products Fail to Create Value

Guest Post at The Product Guy by: Sherzod Abdujabborov (Mentee, Session 7, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Dan Mason]

The day we reached 200 daily users was a critical milestone – more a psychological one for me personally than anything else. Somehow it proved to me that we were moving in the right direction. We had built a platform tailored to the specific needs of the local market to connect small businesses with their customers – for restaurants to reach out to potential diners, for hairdressers to find people who want a haircut and so on. Local businesses paid us to be on our website, and people told us that it saved them time. Nine months later we put the project on stand-by (eventually sold it for a bit of money – can I still call it an exit?).

We started off as a platform for restaurants and cafes – think of a local version of Yelp. We quickly realized the importance of liquidity on both sides of the platform for our success. We had no clue about what “Lean” or “Agile” or even “Startup” essentially meant, but we spent most of our time out in the streets talking to our customers. I personally talked to dozens of restaurants and cafes to convince them to join our platform. We refined the message and added features important for our partners and users. Once we had a couple dozen big names, it was easy to convince the laggards.

We went into a frenzy and wanted to grow bigger. We changed the website to accommodate all types of businesses. Overnight, our website became a place for all the small businesses in town. We added support for two languages. We also started doing offline events. We started a blog section to write long posts about featured businesses. We started churning out features and adding new functionality almost daily. What a pace, what a velocity. Somehow, in the process we increased the time spent on building and minimized the time spent on discovering. We grew into a strange beast, a Frankenstein-like platform that targeted everything and everyone. The problem was that in doing so we stopped satisfying any single problem superbly. 

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