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  • James

SaaS Entrepreneurs: Less is Really More

Updated: Mar 12, 2019

5 Easy Tips to Take Your Product to the Next Level

One question I frequently get asked by entrepreneurs new to SaaS products is: What does it take to build an app or service for my vision, without the experience? My overarching answer to this question is to remember that less is more. Although that phrase gets tossed around frequently, it really should be the baseline mantra for entrepreneurs who want to work smarter, not harder. Here’s why: As a product developer, your drive and passion are what got you to where you are. But oftentimes, that same drive and passion take center stage, causing simple organizational and structural tactics to fall to the wayside.

The first step entrepreneurs should take in this “less is more” journey is to try and develop a solid business and organizational process that helps keep you on track and accountable. The second step I recommend is to cultivate an overarching vision for your software, ecosystem, or whatever it is that you want to bring to the masses. But be forewarned: In the B2C product world, building directly to your vision, right off the bat, is where I have unfortunately seen a few small missteps fall straight off the cliff. Rushing to build too quickly can take your excited energy and passion down a potential rabbit hole that could cost an excess of money and time. Stick to your strengths and stay away from the overwhelming idea of creating a product or ecosystem masterpiece on the first try.

Once you have your organizational process and overarching vision down pat, here are five key “less is more” ways to take your MVP the next level:

1. Organization is king. Whether it’s a calculator app or social media platform, the same methodology and break down should generally be used so all parties involved are consistently on the same page. I love using tools such as Trello or Notion to keep system of records and track progress. Startups can be messy, but trying to keep your business as organized as possible will greatly help, especially as you start to grow. Getting organized, and more importantly staying organized, will allow you to invest your time into building a great product, instead of wasting time fixing operational issues.

2. The product isn’t for you. This is the No. 1 misstep I see over and over. There is a true fine line between being inspired and actually building the whole thing out without validating your own hypotheses along the way. It may seem counterintuitive to try and build a startup that challenges your own ideas, but there is no better barometer than validating and building along the way. Overall, it reduces risk, allows you to be nimble to make changes and takes the emotion out of the day-to-day minutiae.

3. Time is your enemy. Some may argue money is the enemy, and that’s also true, but time is really the most important factor. Time is money and spending more money doesn’t buy you more time, unfortunately.

4. Design first, build later. Never go straight to code without some kind of design validation first. You don’t need to be super sophisticated to build wireframes or simple designs to see how flows work. And don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from peers, friends or family. You might surprised at the tools that are available these days to make these prototypes (like InVision). Going straight to code without really getting any kind of validation on the design only means more work later on to remove or fix at code level. It’s so much easier to find any potential roadblocks in the flows and fix or change them upfront.

5. Answer the question: Where does my product fit in? Product Market Fit (PMF) is a widely adopted term and associated directly with the MVP. I really love the idea of the iterating>getting feedback cycle, as it’s an incredible, and also transparent, process. My experience with PMF is that it can be slippery slope. It takes a combination of time, diligence and having the right people, product and processes in place. Trying to find PMF is where most startup products never make it, no matter how great the product. Like stated previously: time is money.

For anyone just starting out in the field, I highly recommend the Lean Startup book. Although some of what the book talks about is a bit dated, it was created at a time when SaaS startups were entering the “golden age” alongside other mobile technological advancements. The methods used in the book do a great job of helping translate the vision into something actionable for your product.

Additionally, at the time when the book was written, there was a much heavier reliance on getting a developer and designer to spend time trying to build a working prototype of a product or MVP—let alone even launching it into the wild. It was a big deal. These days, it's considerably easier, and more cost effective, to get a functioning prototype that works as closely to a functioning app (in terms of flows) or service than before. A functioning prototype can help save a lot of time and money, both of which can be tight when working with a limited budget. So in a sense, creating a SaaS startup used to be somewhat exotic, but the book really helps provide a reliable framework and approach that can be adopted, or at least used as reference, even to this day.

In general, these “less is more” recommendations for approaching and productizing your idea will take work—but setting your idea or product up for success will be worth it in the long run. And while it may not be realistic to follow all of these tips, they should at least give you a basic rundown of potential obstacles, and how to approach them. Ultimately, you don’t need to be a developer, a financier or a marketer to steer the ship, and your vision, in the right direction.

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