Product Market Fit

Product Market Fit

An early stage startup founder wears many hats and does many things. But at the end of the day, your only real job is finding product market fit (PMF).

It doesn't matter if you do everything else wrong, if you have PMF, you will still succeed. The most notorious example of this is Twitter

"Twitter is such as mess ā€” it's as if they drove a clown car into a gold mine and fell in"

Mark Zuckerberg (after trying to buy Twitter)

Conversely, you can do everything right but if you don't have PMF, it doesn't matter (eg. Google Wave).

Product market fit is notoriously hard to nail down. The two most common ways I've seen it defined:

  1. Qualitatively, it feels like chasing a boulder downhill (after PMF) versus pushing a boulder uphill (before PMF). Both tasks require persistence and followthrough but will feel radically different
  2. Quantitatively, having PMF means that you have a successful channel of converting users into paying customers so that throwing more money at the channel will reliably and repeatedly result in more revenue.

PMF is not just your only job but it is the job that only you, the startup founder, can do. Your investors can help introduce you to relevant people, successful founders can tell you how they found PMF, but ultimately, you are the only person that can determine PMF for your company.

A big part of PMF is timing and luck - factors that are for most parts, out of your control. This is why even other founders that have found PMF are of limited help.

What you can control is the market you're in, your team, and the unique insight that you bring as the founder. Your job as a founder is to leverage these strengths to get to PMF.

Anything that is not in service of this does not matter in an early stage startup.

NOTE: looks like this made the front page of hacker news. if you have something to say, please leave comments in the HN thread