Six principles for a successfull startup

It's essential to have a solid foundation to create a successful SaaS startup: discover these six Product Management principles.

Giustino Borzacchiello

Giustino Borzacchiello

Building digital products is a very complex business. There are many moving parts, even more skills involved, and often the loudest voice is the one who decides, regardless of the quality of their decisions.

We started Donux because we are convinced that we can do better, that we can overcome specific ways of making obsolete products and be able to create ever better products, both for the people who use them and for those who create them.

Here are some of the fundamental principles on which we base our work and which we try to convey to our customers and partners.

Output โ†’ Outcome

Focusing on the features instead of the results you want to achieve is a problem of many product startups.

But what is the difference between Output and Outcome? Let's take an example. You are a content company, and you notice from analytics that there are many more people accessing your content from mobile devices.

Thinking for Output will lead you to say, "The use of smartphones is on the rise among our users. We need to create a new iPhone app."

While thinking for Outcome: "The use of smartphones is increasing among our users. We need to strengthen our presence in the mobile landscape."

The premises are identical; the intentions are not. In the second case, no pre-packaged solutions are proposed. Your competitors probably have an iPhone app, so your first thought is to follow the crowd and create one.

But not everyone may want to install a new app, so a responsive site or PWA might work better.

The risk of focusing on outputs too early is to exclude a priori solutions that could be successful and, in the end, spend more money than necessary.

So think about the results you want to achieve without being limited by solutions.

Deliverables โ†’ Results

A Powerpoint presentation is a means and not an end.

Yet often in our companies, we think in terms of what is produced and not of the results that are achieved. So many of the requests are like, "Get me a presentation for Friday afternoon to present to management on what we intend to do in the next six months."

I'll ask you a question: better a 600-page analysis on how to increase your conversion rate or a 2.8% increase in subscriptions to your product?

The second option certainly brings more value, yet the focus is often on the list of deliverables and trims on the results.

In the next project, try to focus from the beginning on the results you want to achieve; I'm sure it will make a difference.

Are you tired of the usual reports and want more results? Book a free call โ†’ and find out how to get them

Hero Designer โ†’ Co-design

I will be very direct on this issue: in a startup, a product of a certain complexity cannot be designed by just one person.

The days of the art director or the solitary designer who alone manages to design and design a product following only her intuitions are over (or we could say they have never begun).

Because? Because products have become extremely complex, and a designer is unlikely to know the domain enough to handle all the cases.

What is the alternative, then?

Co-design, which translated would be "making team members (tech, business, design, marketing, QA, ...) work together on product design".

Whether they are designers and customers, or colleagues from different departments, collaboration is essential to ensure that the product is immediately examined from various angles, significantly reducing the level of risk.

Where to start? Do they take people, throw themselves into a locked room, and hopefully for the best?

As good as it may seem, it's not the best way ๐Ÿ˜…

A framework like Design Sprint can be a good starting point because it gives guidelines upon which a custom process can be built.

But doesn't having everyone work on the same activity at the same time lower the throughput of the team? In the beginning, it is normal for productivity to drop: on the other hand, you are trying a new way of working that everyone has to get used to.

Over time, however, you will see that downtime decreases, proactivity increases, and also the quality of work. And this is because all team members feel part of the initiative and feel they can make a difference with their actions. Try it; it's magical.

Do you want to apply co-design in your startup? Book a free call โ†’

Phase two โ†’ Next week

The infamous "Phase Two" is the graveyard where good intentions go to die.

The scenario is the typical one: at the beginning of the project, a small circle of people (sometimes one) has an idea for a new product/line/functionality.

From there, he starts writing a list of requirements and features. Following his personal idea of value, he divides this list into "Must have," "Nice to have," "Phase Two."

Sound familiar to you?

I know, I was guilty too. But what is the alternative?

The reality is that "We'll do it in Phase Two" is a synonym for "I'm not sure how much value this feature brings to users, but it seems useful, and I'm afraid if I make this decision now, then one day I might regret it." Yes, it may seem excessive, but not very far from the truth.

A product emerges from the "No" we say as a founder or product manager. From all the things we choose NOT to design, NOT to develop, and NOT to release. Those who say the opposite, those who think that it is how many functionalities the product has, are only postponing decisions that will have a great impact on the economic performance of the company in the medium to long term.

So how do you go about canceling "Phase Two"? The solution is simple: clear the backlog of planned activities beyond two months. When the startup is small, having one or two initiatives to work on and focus the whole team on is the best way to increase productivity.

And in any case, after a certain period of time, the activities must still be analyzed again because the context in which we work changes rapidly.

For each initiative, you must then have the answer to these questions:

  1. What is the goal?
  2. Where do we stand now with respect to this goal?
  3. What is the biggest problem or obstacle that separates us from achieving that goal?
  4. How do we try to solve this problem?
  5. What do I imagine happening (hypothesis)?
  6. What actually happened, and what have we learned?

(Source: Escaping the Build Trap - Melissa Perri)

Kill everything else. If it's not between the two things that bring more value to your users, then you might as well not occupy mental bandwidth and have it around in Jira / Trello / Asana.

That way, you'll always be ready to work on the most important thing, not in Phase Two, but next week.

Gut decisions โ†’ Data-informed

Is it better to be data-driven or guided by instinct?

We greatly overestimate our intuitions and gut decisions.

On the other hand, when designing a product, the only validation possible is that supported by data. There isn't much room for features that satisfy our ego.

The reason is simple: the product we are creating must bring value to its users so that they can bring them to us at a later time.

Order is important: first, you give value to your users and only then do you get value for yourself and for your company.

Product Design is a cruel discipline that requires a lot of psychological strength in not sticking to one's ideas and destroying them if they don't succeed.

We are not all ready to do it, but it is the first step towards a successful product.

But I want to tell you a secret: we prefer to be data-informed rather than data-driven.

The difference?

Rather than being driven by data, I prefer my decisions to be influenced by the information I glean from the data.

Insights are gold for innovation, then supported by data to control and validate them.

So, next time you propose an idea to your team, ask yourself: what data do I have to support?

Being data-driven can give you an important advantage over your competitors. Want to know where to start? Book a free call โ†’

Endless meetings โ†’ Async collaboration

At some point, when working in a team, you have to synchronize.

The most obvious tool has always been to meet in person. How could it be otherwise?

Can you imagine taking stock of the situation by sending you letters and postcards?

But well-done meetings can be counted on the fingers of one hand: most of the time, there is no agenda, the person with the loudest voice (or role) imposes their ideas on the others, they end up without activities to do, and this leads to another meeting "so we close the matter."

An alternative?

A simple Google Doc in which the sponsor of the meeting writes the objectives, possible obstacles, and some references and invites others to write their reflections.

Comments to discuss more controversial points, up to a shared draft of an idea.

By doing this everyone has the opportunity to express themselves, the time to think about what to write and, not to be underestimated, no one has to take notes (which is a very boring thing!) ๐ŸŽ‰

Then, you can always meet to discuss the results and make the final decision in person, but they will certainly be faster meetings!

Conclusions

Thinking about outcomes, producing results and non-deliverables, collaborating asynchronously, being data-informed, working in short cycles, but above all promoting collaboration between teams and departments: are some of the principles underlying the major successful startups.

If you like this way of working and are looking for a partner for your Product Design and UX / UI activities, book a free call or write at hello@donux.com

Subscribe to our product design blog

One day we'll send some emails. Want to be the first to receive them? Subscribe here