Lesson Learned #2 From My First Startup

Lesson #2: Be Clear About the Business Problem You Are Solving


This week I attended VMWorld, which at this same show in 2009 is where lesson #2 really hit me. We built a great product with our startup. We talked to lots of users and really thought we understood their problems. We built a product that was very powerful and extensible, with the ability to do a ton of different things. That was the problem. We were not clear about what problem we were solving so we solved a lot of them.

VMWorld in 2009 was the first time that we really had a chance to be at a trade-show and show lots of people the product. All of us on the team gave demos. One of the best things we did was we had some of our main engineers at the booth talking to people. After the first day, we realized that it was taking us a good five minutes to for us to be able to explain the value. Before the show we had been having real issues creating a clear demo and honing our messaging. All of this stemmed from the fact that we were not clear on the business problem we were solving.

This lack of clarity resulted in us building a product that was not focused on a clear business problem. This really showed in the entire team's lack of ability to demo crisply.  We were all over the place because we could do so much with it. These issues also very directly relate to some upcoming lessons about user experience and keep it simple.

It was interesting being back at VMWorld where I saw a ton of friends in the industry who we built great relationships with over our time with our startup. Many of them asked the story of what happened. Lots of them that we spent time with, understood the power in the product and were sad to see it go.

Next time, even if the product is able to do lots of things, there will be a clear business problem that we focus our use cases, demos, messages and effort. I see this problem creep up in all ares of business. People get enamored with creating cool stuff but not being focused on the problem they are trying to solve. Be clear and make it simple.

What do you think?  Do you see this as an issue in your experiences?