Late last summer, I participated in a panel discussion at my favorite conference of the year: That Conference. Wait, which conference? That Conference! Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dig in..
You can catch the full video here but first some background. If you listen closely, you’ll realize that we have a variety of types of entrepreneurs participating. We have a few people a solo entrepreneur, one straight consulting business, a couple product types, and a couple who have a product supplemented by consulting. There are a ton of great points from everyone ranging from money management and raising investment to product strategy to horror stories.
Do not just blindly apply any of the advice discussed without thinking about it, discarding the irrelevant bits, and adjusting it to your circumstances.
Regardless, there are three points that I want to double down on that are worth keeping at top of mind.
First, Stealth Mode is crap. I would generally use stronger language but it’s a family event. The reason Stealth Mode is crap is really simple: If you’re not out there talking to prospects and customers, you’re not getting feedback that will make your product successful and you’re not building your market.
When you talk to everyone who can and should be one of your customers, you can figure out that ideas that resonate and are worthwhile and kill the ones that don’t. Like most entrepreneurs, you don’t have months or years to spend on dead end efforts that don’t work. It’s that simple.
On the flip side, this doesn’t mean a public marketing campaign and publishing detailed design docs, wireframes, and the like. I completely agree with not publishing any of that too early or to too wide of an audience. Regardless, if in a 1:1 conversation at a conference, happy hour, or similar puts your idea at risk, you need a new idea.
Second, Pricing is one of the hardest things you will ever do. It is harder than hiring, building your product, and just about everything else you can come up with. It’s not because coming up with a number is hard.. that’s actually really easy. Coming up with the “right” number is hard because there is no right answer. There are lots of bad answers, some okay ones, and a range of good ones.
“Bad” in this sense doesn’t mean that your product stops selling. It could be the opposite.. your product is selling more! The “bad” part comes from the fact that you’re not making enough for the company to be around in a year or three. The worst part is that you may not realize it’s “bad” for weeks or months unless you understand your cost and revenue structures in detail.
So how do you find a “good” price? It’s part science and part voodoo but mostly knowing your customer and their problem cold. If you know how big, critical, expensive, painful, etc their problem is, you know how important it is for them and you can price accordingly. This will never give you a precise answer of a dollar amount but a range to experiment within.
Finally – and most importantly – get over it. As software developers, we hate marketing, sales, interviewing, hiring, telling people to pay their bills, cold emailing, making introductions, etc, etc, etc.
GET OVER IT.
Being an entrepreneur is hard. There are no shortcuts or clever hacks that work long term. If you don’t do it, there is literally no one else in the world who can. There is no one who cares more than you. There is no one who knows as much about the product as you. There are times when everything is exploding, your significant other will be angry, the bank account will be dwindling, your employees will be frustrated, their significant others will be stress, and you still have to get up, go out, and do your best.
If we are not in our own corner, no one else will be. Get Over It.