Blue Apron Fmr Product VP on Building Startups vs Products (Part 2) 

Getting Products Made For Your Customers

Founders need to focus on four things when building a startup: teams, product, customers, and capital. In my last article I discussed team, so now I am going to focus on product and customers. For a founder building from scratch, there are a few things that need to be said about building products for your customers.

Product: Building from Scratch

Here are some tips for creating products. These tips are what I have found to help teach me the most about bringing products to life.

  • It’s just you (without the infrastructure)
    • Be that PM + Engineer + Designer + User Researcher + Data Analyst
  • Envision a footlong sub, but ship a small sandwich
  • Prioritize based on milestones that get you step-function traction- a company’s lifeline depends on this
  • Iterate your way to product-market fit with limited runway

Product: What can you do now?

  • Join an early-stage startup (only advisable for experienced PM’s)
  • Learn how to be a “swiss army knife PM”– operate with large scope, learn how to build V1’s (or get on the team that’s shipping V1’s), make tight trade-off decisions, operate with little infrastructure and resources
  • Step back and think- take on the strategic burden to consider why, and do not just focus on the what
  • Develop the habit of hypothesis-proving product development

Customers: Acquire your first

Now let’s discuss customers. In order to acquire customers, you need to know what kind of business you are working with. This is something you need to find out before you can go out and find your first customers. 

Here are some tactics to acquire your first users:

  • B2B Companies
    • Network your way through your first (paying) customers
    • Have a founder-led sales process in the earliest days to develop a sales playbook. This will help you build out a sales team to scale.
  • B2C Companies
    • Acquisition marketing 101
      • You need to know customer acquisition cost vs. life-time value math
      • Create payback loyalty programs
      • Focus on customer retention
    • Iterate and test
      • Marketing channels
      • Creative assets
      • Brand positioning
    • Organic growth channels
      • Word-of-mouth referrals
      • Create a community for your customers
  • Product driven go-to-market strategy 

Customers – What can you do now?

Getting customers is not the easiest thing in the world to do-  it can be challenging. Here are some things that you can start doing now in order to make sales easier in the future. Again, you need to know what kind of business you are working with. From there, here is the advice I have for you. 

  • B2B Companies
    • Get exposure to sales operations and selling
    • Build out your network in the industry and target buyer personas
  • B2C Companies
    • Get exposure to marketing – find people you an learn their thinking and tactics from
    • Get on projects that allow you to experiment with product growth levers

Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 3 (Released on 10/03)

About the speaker
Melody Koh Nextview Ventures, Venture Partner Member

Melody Koh is a partner at NextView Ventures - an NYC-based firm that focuses on investing in early-stage tech companies who are building solutions for the everyday economy. Prior to joining NextView Ventures, she led the product team at Blue Apron and also worked on the product team at Fab.com. In addition, Melody founded WineMe/FirstCrush and also worked for Evercore & Time Warner Investments. Melody holds an MBA from Harvard University and currently lives in New York City.