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Slush Conference Reflective Part 2. Product-market fit

Written by Dr. Wil Williams, Alacrity Foundation CEO.


A ton of stuff is written about product market fit.  I recently attended the Slush event in Helsinki.  Really worth going to, if you can.  It is a tech startup convention where 25,000 tech souls come to learn and network.  During Slush I listened to a talk by Peter Reinhardt of Segment.  He gave some greats insights about his journey to achieve product market fit (PMF).  He did come to sound like the Black Knight (played by John Cleese) in the Monty Python classic, the Holy Grail, “Tis but a scratch”, as the opposing knight, Arthur (played by Graham Chapman), swiped another limb off his adversary.  Goodness, he and his fellow founders were clueless but still managed to raise £500k for something that had no PMF.  The clear message he gave was: experiment fail, amend, experiment … succeed. Peter suggested that one in five attempts at PMF might workout.  I suspect that statistic is really far more grime if the full truth be told.

Peter did make another claim that was interesting: failure is not a great predictor of success.  Oh, now that takes on an assumption that we learn through failure and get better.  Peter stated that success is the best predictor of success; if you have achieved PMF then you know what success looks like, smells like, feels like.  Interesting, he told the story of his own journey which did include a couple of abject PMF failures, which I suspect he learnt from.  In the end Peter and his fellow founders pivoted, cracked it and have made a significant amount of cash for themselves and their investors.

PMF is quite basic – “Will a ton of people buy your product?”   The ‘ton’ is determined by your ambition and your investors’ demands; it is not, “Will someone buy your product”.  Someone is singular.  OK, if it is the US government that is acceptable, but if it is your Mum, then ask a few more thousand people.

You will have to lose a few limbs on the way.  I disagree with Peter; failure is a good way to learn how to succeed.  Once you have succeeded once, I agree with Pete that you will probably know how to do it again.  But, will you have the energy?  Remember failure is “only a scratch”. Pick yourself and your limbs up, get some superglue, reattach limb, learn, and attack again.

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