A common advice for PhD students, and I would say to researchers in general when starting to research, is to have a problem in mind to serve as a guide. In this post, I want to discuss the one that I have.
It always bothered me startups focusing on building a perfect product although the best practices manuals saying the opposite. I noticed it in my professional experience with startups and also later while researching them. In 2012, with the Cuponomia team, I spent about three months developing our product at the 500 Startups office in the Silicon Valley. There, we were flooded with talks from entrepreneurs, angel investors, VCs about creating your startup. For me, a key message was about testing your idea before building your final product. Of course, we learned a lot about marketing (Dave McClure was there, after all), design, funding raising but that was the key message to me. Some months after we returned to Brazil, I remember we spent a month developing what we thought would be a killing feature. The result: almost nobody used it and we lost a month of development.
My point is that, even with knowing about Lean Startup and similar methodologies, we still made the same mistakes. And I’ve seen that happen in many other cases when reading startup stories or talking to other founders. But why? With so many failure stories and recommended practices, why startups still focus on developing a perfect product without knowing if it is valuable to their (potential) customers? Of course, a reasonable explanation is that many people do not have access (or we were not exposed to) these stories and books. But, I’ve also seen many cases (as the above example) where teams had this knowledge.
I don’t know if I was consciously focused on this problem from the beginning. I think that I wasn’t but I am not able to tell exactly when was the eureka moment. In hindsight, even my master dissertation about requirements engineering in software startups is related to this topic.