First and foremost, we think it should be a general rule to avoid all industry cliches and buzzwords. In essence, our lesson title has two 1) we mention ‘MVP’ and 2) it carries an heir of ‘Lean Startup’. Don’t think about what we’re about to document as cliche, though. It’s rooted in thousands of hours of practical experience in building hundreds of SaaS products and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
So, what’s the lesson stripped of the cliche then? At the core of what you’re doing as a SaaS founder is building a product. A collection of code that carries some function, leading to a certain automated process, which then grants value to an end-user community of some kind. The technology is the product. The brand simply makes it easier to sell the product, once it’s ready.
Yes, of course, the product’s identity and overall branding are critical to scaling a software company. For optimal word-of-mouth (something you want) and other growth tactics, you need to factor in the psychological, cultural and functional ties of your brand name. If next week, however, is your tentative launch day, then you need to stay laser-focused on the core product. The product’s functions, not its face, is where you should be focusing your attention. We’d argue that this goes for AdTech companies (highly emotionally-tied industries) as much as it does InsurTech (not so emotional). This is also important because it’s most likely going to require multiple iterations to find exactly how your core product is going to provide it’s longterm value to your users. The last thing you want, therefore, is to waste time ideating the perfect name for the first iteration of your product, which could end up miles from your finalized, go-to-market product.
This ideology can extend to a lot of things for that matter. For example, certain founders always come to us with guiding questions, which tend to overlap. What should I name my company? Should I incorporate at the federal or state/province level? What hue of purple should the logo be? I can’t find a .com domain, how am I supposed to launch without a .com?
These are all important things that are correlated to some degree of your platform’s long-term success. But, we’d argue they’re not statistically significant and we can confidently say they’re not ‘today problems’. Before you incorporate. Before you lock yourself in your office (or your neighbourhood Starbuck) ideating the perfect name. Before you jump on NameCheap (much preferred over GoDaddy). You should be focused on writing code, building out functional frontend components that at the very least don’t disgust your users and thinking through the economics and/or monetization strategies.
If I get this product in the hands of 100 of my target users, how much will I earn in revenue? How much will my server and DB costs be? If I get to 10,000 users, do these numbers grow linearly or exponentially? How long will it take me to convince a potential user (regardless of B2B and B2C) to use my product? Are sales cycles long, like 6-months, or short, like 6 minutes?
In the first 6 months of building a SaaS startup, your most important asset is your time. Don’t waste it. Focus on the things that drive incremental value so you can save yourself from the common trap and a founder’s kryptonite – wasted time.