How to Build Your First Product: A Guide for Startup Teams

There it is, you’ve got that first inkling of an idea. You were just talking with your friend about the problem they were having - and you’ve got the solution. It’s so genius, you think, how come no one has ever thought about this before?

You reach out to the people in the network who can help you launch this new venture. You’ve got your friend that knows about marketing. They’ll help drive all the traffic to your new app. Another tech person you know, they’ll be the CTO of this new company and can answer all of the technical details from investors. You’ve spoken to your old college buddies, and they are on board - this is going to be huge.

24 hours haven’t even passed yet, and you’re already printing logos and business cards and thinking about how investors are going to start throwing money at your team. This is it, your big idea is going to make you rich!

Not so fast, Elon Musk.

Accumulating talent and having a great idea is only one small step of the problem. At this stage, you don’t quite have the next unicorn startup. No, you have an idea, and it’s time that you turn that idea into a product to validate it.

Here’s how you can build a product before you build a business.


Why A Product and Not a Business?

First of all, it’s important to understand why your goal is to build a product first before you get to the business stage. That big idea you and your team had is still only an idea. Until you test and determine the extent to which people need your idea, and ultimately are willing to give you money in return for solving their problem, then you only have an idea.

The goal in the early stages of your startup is to validate your idea and produce a minimal viable product (MVP). An MVP is a version of your product with just enough features to be usable by early customers who can then provide feedback for future product development. Building a SaaS startup can be a challenge, so before you pour all your resources (time and money) into developing something no one wants, your first goal is to create a product.

An MVP gives you clarity on the concept for your startup and allows you to focus on the user experience. Ultimately, your product is meant to solve a problem for your customers, not boost your ego and an MVP helps ensure you’re moving in the right direction.


Research First aka Trust, But Verify

Now that you understand why you need to build a product first. How do you do it? You need to start by researching if it’s indeed something your potential customer base is going to want.

Start researching your target market. You know the problem your team wants to solve because a friend or someone you know has that problem, but what about everyone else? How big is this potential market?

Your gut will tell you that there is a problem that only you can solve and the biases within your team will tell you this is the path forward. Unfortunately, the only way to know if you should put all of your marbles into this potential course of action is by confirming that other people out there need the solution you’re trying to build.

Search forums, do interviews, and reach out to any potential customer of your target market to determine how much demand there is for your potential product. Once you know that and confirm interest, then the next step is to build an audience.


Build An Audience

Building an audience is a way for your team to get real traction behind your idea. While the research stage is critical to verify your initial hypothesis about a problem and that it needs to be solved, you won’t know if you have a product until people start buying from you.

Create a mock-up of your potential product and get to work marketing. Direct your customers to a landing page that shows them your idea and explains how you can solve their problem. Use social media platforms, blogging, newsletters, and any marketing tactic you can think of that will help you find your first paying customers.

The ability to build an audience is the first litmus test for your product idea. If no one is interested in learning more about your product and potentially pre-ordering it (if your product is paid) then it’s time to return to the drawing board.

If you have hundreds or thousands of people joining your potential audience, then you could have a real product idea on your hand, and now is the time to start building your MVP.

Test & Analyze

Your MVP is simply the first iteration of your product. While many startup founders want their first idea to be perfect, that usually isn’t the case. Your team will need to use your new-found audience to start testing your product idea. Once you’ve created your MVP then you need to start testing it.

While internal testing and validating are important, in the beginning, your team won’t be the ones using your product. Make sure the first version of your prototype is up to scratch, then release it to the public.

But what happens if it flops and no one likes it?

That’s exactly the point of building an MVP. Your team can use that information to further improve it, testing new ideas, tweaking your audience, and iterating on your product until you find something closer to product-market fit.

Next Steps

Once you have your MVP then it’s time to get to work launching your full startup and building it into a thriving SaaS business.

Here at Mintbit, we can help you get your MVP off the ground. Maybe you and your team have a great idea, you’ve validated it and started to build an audience, now you need help with wireframing your piece of software and making it viable.

That’s exactly where we come in. Contact us and let us help you turn your budding idea into your first product.