5 Product Engineering Mantras for Start-ups

02 Feb, 2023
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Every startup journey starts with a dream, a big one. It starts with wanting to change, or rather revolutionize, the way customers consume something, like Spotify, Airbnb, or Netflix. These disruptive startups took the risk to develop their ideas, and importantly, at the right time, i.e., when the market is ready. Looking back at their success stories we might oversimplify their journey and come up with many rules. However, blindly following the rule books without understanding the context is what puts aspiring startups at great risk. This fact is not meant to discourage aspiring startup founders, but rather encourage them to be cautious and adapt according to the times because the success of startups depends largely on the idea, market, investors, economy, and readiness of customers. Many startups start small and then grow their products or service offerings after testing the waters. They go not by any rule books, their technology expertise, or gut feelings, but rather by data. Their research is built on customer feedback, not received verbally, but from the data collected. As leaders in software product engineering, these are 5 tips from us to help you carve a stable (considerably) trajectory for your startup.

  1. Every idea is a hypothesis. We love our own ideas and are proud of them. Sometimes we get sentimental about our ideas that we fail to realize that they need to fetch us good returns for all the resources they consume. How can we objectively assess our ideas? Here’s how we do it. Probe why you believe what you believe. Though some may have attributed their success to their gut feeling, we prefer using data gathered from customers and users with the help of tools and not depending on the opinions we hear. In science, dilemmas must be cleared by experiments, not by arguments and opinions. We analyze how customers use software products, identify patterns, and deduce trends with the help of tools backed by AI before developing an appropriate product engineering strategy for our customers. This reduces risks typically common for any startup and prepares them for anticipated issues.
  2. Innovation is not about technology. It is ironic that despite being a technology company we give this piece of advice. Technology helps us bring out the ideas in our heads to the world outside and shape them into useful innovations. However, technology is not innovation. An important point to note is that – It is necessary to use the latest technologies to compete with others in the market, reach out to more customers and geographies, and stay relevant for a bigger future. We need to build architecturally beautiful products with loose coupling. However, good technology or even product design incorporating good technologies is not sufficient to create an innovative product. Innovation is more about providing value to your customers or addressing the users’ needs.
  3. Don’t wait till you finish your research to start making your product. The journey of a startup is adventurous. Founders might get caught up in the endless cycle of refining the prototype and bringing out the best possible. But, by the time they finish their R&D, the world might move on. This is especially because changes in the technology world are too fast and too many. It makes more sense to take care of two things. One, build a product that works fine, though it may not be the best possible one. And chart its growth as per its usage patterns. And two, entwine your R&D with feedback loops of your products.
  4. Differentiation in features is not the key to a startup’s success. Differentiation may also mean better customer support, ease of usage, or reasonable pricing. Many startups invest a lot of effort to provide great differentiating features in the initial version itself at the best possible price using the most advanced technologies. However, evidence suggests that startups should start small. Version 1.0 should contain fewer features. You can then finetune and add more gradually in subsequent versions. At coMakeIT, we build the first version, the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), in the shortest possible time, and then build the product incrementally in further versions. We do make sure that the releases and features are smaller and in line with the user’s needs and expectations. These CD/CI methodologies are especially useful for startups keen on implementing disruptive or fresh ideas.
  5. Consider platforms. The success of platforms need not be reiterated. The world’s most innovative technology companies are indeed platforms. Yet, some startups misdirect their resources to building a product that costs less or assures more profits. It is more sensible to build a product that can evolve and stay relevant forever by participating in a platform. Or if the startup idea is about introducing a new platform, then they can build it with care by following the aforementioned tips.

In a Nutshell..

Rulebooks and fancy ideas do not assure startups their success. Neither does the latest technologies. To succeed, startups too should start with a short R&D, gather customer usage patterns, and modify their innovations incrementally to address users’ needs. They need to rely on data gathered from users, and not on subjective opinions, even of experts. Building an MVP faster, with fewer features, and releasing further versions with more bite-sized upgrades that address users’ issues is the most appropriate way of introducing innovation into fast-changing tech ecosystems. Moreover, startups need to replace their product thinking with platform thinking to build innovations that evolve and stay relevant for longer periods. Do you have a great startup idea?

Share it with us. We can build you an MVP and test it.

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Divya Prathima
The author was a java Developer at coMakeIT before turning into a stay-at-home-mom. She slowed down to make art, tell stories, read books on fiction, philosophy, science, art-history, write about science, parenting, and observe technology trends. She loves to write and aspires to write simple and understandable articles someday like Yuval Noah Harari. We are very happy to have her back at coMakeIT and contribute to our relevant and thought provoking content.

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