Starting Your Business

The Developer's Dilemma

Written by James Garvin for Gaebler Ventures

Building your company's first product can be an exciting venture that provides entrepreneurs the greatest creative freedom to design, create, and build great products. However, many entrepreneurs fall into what I call the developers dilemma, the all too often trap of developing too many features for your product or service. Avoiding the Developer's Dilemma will help you achieve quicker success with your product.

Great! You've decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge and build your product that you've been thinking about for 3 years now.

The Developers Dilemma

You start your prototype designs and conduct market research in parallel looking for validation that your product will succeed in the market. You get halfway through your prototype and you think how great it would be to add 3 other features that you think will help your product solve another critical issue for your target customers. One month later, you determine that only 2 of those additional features are necessary, but you came across another great idea that you think you can quickly add to your product that will help you nail your marketing and sales pitch.

The double-edged sword of creative freedom is that it allows for too much creative freedom during your product development that it can be destructive to your business. Too many entrepreneurs (maybe all of them!) fall victim to the developers dilemma, focusing on feature rich products and services, rather than focusing on simplicity to solve the problem your product is intended to solve. During the product development phase, our emotions run high with excitement as we become elated that our product is nearing fruition and we seem ever closer to solving a real problem, and profiting handsomely. In fact, our emotions run so high that we easily get carried away with adding features to our products that we think will make them even that much better.

Rather than trying to solve one problem with multiple features, pick one feature (or the absolute minimum required) to solve the problem and test those features with potential customers. More often than not, customers will disprove your assumptions about your product and service, but they will provide you with new insights into how you can tweak your product or service to a point that they are willing to pay for it. Getting customers involved earlier, rather than later will save entrepreneurs and their teams a lot of pains in the long-run.

If customers agree that your one feature product can help them solve their problem, then you're off to a great start. Quicken, the money management software started out as a program that simply allowed you to balance your checkbook. That one feature alone allowed it to become a leading seller in the personal finance market. Today, Quicken, has more features than consumers know what to do with, but the fact that Quicken started with one feature to solve a problem and added on features in later versions should help you understand that sometimes the bare minimum feature set is the best place to start selling your product.

James Garvin began his education studying biotechnology. In recent years he has turned his interest in technology to helping two internet startup companies. The first business was an online personal financial network and the second was an e-marketing platform created to help entrepreneurs demo their web sites. Currently a student at University of California Davis, James is spending his summer incubating two new online businesses and writing about his entrepreneur experiences.

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