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The advice makes sense, but isnt it a bit of chicken-and-egg? How do you sell something you haven't built? (or is it really .. build a little, or enough to illustrate; then 'sell' to validate and seek market fit; and then finally truly build?)

It's essentially the build a little/sell/build a lot cycle you mentioned, but you want to minimize the first step as much as possible. As tech folks, it's easy for us to overestimate the importance of technology to our end customers. They're not buying code, they're buying a solution that will make their life easier/better.

"Sales" is a long term process, but the first meeting usually starts with understanding the customer's problem. If you build something before that (and demo it at the beginning of the meeting), you can bias the process with your assumptions. Instead, if you try to get inside the mind of your customer, you can get closer to the correct solution.

For a lot of those first sales meetings, you don't necessarily need technology to demo. Instead of showing/telling your customer, you're starting by listening. Then, you can build a small demo of something interesting before the next meeting (often, this is more to keep the conversation going and explore new ideas than to immediately solve the customer's entire problem).

I agree with the other comments mentioning an initial (days/weeks long) MVP build cycle. However, over the past few years, I've found it helpful to adopt this mindset: "my idea for the best possible product is at least slightly wrong, and the more code I write the harder it is to fix". There's a psychological concept of functional fixedness, where you view an object only as its traditional use. I think a similar concept exists in technology. Particularly as a founders-only company, the technology you build has some inertia, and impacts your mental models of the problem you are trying to solve. The more code you write, the higher the "cost" of changing (both in your mental models, and the technology itself).

All this really means is you're right about the build a little/sell/build more cycle - but what you build is less important than what the customer says. The first build is often just a means to start an interesting conversation about the customer's true problem, and you might need less technology for that than you initially assume.

MVP or fake page with credit card info or email information that says you're sold out.

If you can convert random users to paying customers then you're on to something. Otherwise your project is most likely going to flounder. Some people may think it's dishonest but without verifying you're going to spend weeks to months working on something that will never be used.

That might work for physical product, but when you claim your software download is sold out, people tend to give you funny looks.

You can definitely put up a product page where users can enter an email address and start building up a mailing list, but obviously mailing list recipients are not guaranteed to pay you money.

The purpose is to get some kind of signal that you're on the right track. Many times I've seen would be founders just go off of a hunch without a buy in from any possible users of any degree. Even their voluntary email sign up is far more of a sign than what the founders know users want.

Or, even better, build a minimal MVP (1-2 weeks dev time) and use this to attract attention and get feedback.

Not every product can get to MVP in two weeks. If you were building a new kind of airplane, it better take more than two weeks. Our software is quite complex and there isn't going to be an MVP in two weeks, lol!

I do think that building a UI prototype that you can click through is a good first step for complex software.

Absolutely, good point.

Ok, but such quick MVP should have some secret sauce - ideally introduce a complexity with a special dependency, otherwise nothing stops a potential lead to take the idea and implement it with someone else.

In the brief period I was running my own company (with a friend, not solo) the product we sold was largely unbuilt, or were selling features we hadn't yet built.

We were the 'technical creatives' and with an idea and a cost, and went out to find people who we could sell it to to enable us to build it and make it better for all the users. As our product was video crossover - this was a little easier as people are used to paying for a video before you've made it, but video was actually a very small part of what we were offering - and sometimes not at all.

But selling things that have been bukt yet shouldn't be impossible, or even hard - as long as you can show a track record of delivery.

for me, at least, it feels like "selling first" means getting product feedback first.

so, setup a landing page with a "send us our email so we can tell you when our tool is read!" form and see if it attracts people.

Depends the kind of product you are building but you don't necessary even need market validation, you only need it if your product is exotic enough that there's nothing close to it.

realistically this only works for unique products there are so many alternatives for EVERYTHING that most people will just move on to something that is ready today instead.

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