Having demand that breaks your product is a great problem to have. But how can you make sure you're unblocking growth quickly, whilst making sure your product is bulletproofed for future?
In our latest Product panel event, we brought together 5 Product Leaders from some of Europe’s most successful FinTech’s to discuss the risks and challenges of scaling in the current market and how to overcome them!
Discussions centered around how to balance your product’s current growth demands, whilst also investing in its future capabilities. Our speakers shared tips and stories from their personal experience on how you can embrace a growth mindset, from MVP stage, all the way to securing funding and scaling internationally.
We’ve shared a round-up of their key insights and advice below and you can also watch the full recording of the night here 👇
A massive thank you to Tide for hosting and to our fantastic panellists! 👏
The panel kicked off with discussion around MVPs, the first question being ‘how do you pitch an MVP and get buy-in from your stakeholders?’.
The answer was to take your stakeholders on the journey with you. Make sure that they understand all of the steps along the journey and let them know that they can give feedback and be a part of developing that journey. As Elina pointed out, no one likes being told what to do, but people do like to feel listened to and taken onboard. Also be sure to make it clear that the MVP is only the first step on the journey.
Elina explained that at Shares, they include all of their stakeholders in everything from brainstorming, ideation, validation and listening sessions. This includes everyone from User Researchers, to Designers, Engineers and Executives, which helps to ensure buy-in and contribution all-round.
Vanessa made a counterpoint, that sometimes getting all of your stakeholders involved can lead to ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’. If this is the case, its then about being equipped to manage situations in which you have conflicting opinions and creating an environment in which there is the correct balance between getting people involved, versus everyone feeling as though they need to have a say in the decision making.
The panel then discussed, how should you mitigation a situation in which your stakeholders don’t want to release an MVP… they want the end product?
Magda raised the point that often your stakeholders are worried that once you launch an MVP, you won’t have time to then go back and develop features and optimise the product. This is when the roadmap comes in. The roadmap shows that there is still time, and you have specifically blocked out time to develop to the MVP along the way.
When it comes to testing, it’s good to have plenty of communication to show your stakeholders the development of the product. Share the data: the KPIs, the OKRS, your hypothesis and the results, as well as what tests are coming up.
Likewise, it’s worth asking your stakeholders, what does a ‘full solution’ look like to them? It’s likely that this will be filled with lots of assumptions, which you could validate much quicker, cheaper and more effectively by testing along the way, rather than actually building it.
So, what happens if you have your MVP, but everyone has different opinions as to what direction it goes in? How do you validate quickly and decide what you should or shouldn’t do?
The answer is Lean Experimentation. Do things as quickly and as cheaply as you can and get the data. A lot of the time, the best way to do this is through prototyping. As Nima explained, “It’s very rare that a bad idea in a prototype becomes a good idea in a product.” If it’s a bad idea in your prototype, go back to your stakeholders and communicate that it was wrong, but then establish how you can build a pipeline of experimentation in which anyone can bring an idea and it can be turned around quickly. If it’s a good idea, great. If not, show the process that you can do to get to the right idea.
The final topic of discussion around MVPs was, at what point do you pivot or even abandon your MVP? Especially if you are building other products that might help you scale faster?
In Nima’s opinion, if you are experimenting or testing your riskiest assumptions early on, you hopefully shouldn’t be in the situation in which you are abandoning or pivoting. But, if you are, it’s all about looking at the signals. Look at the KPIs. Is there a roadmap to hitting them? Have you exhausted all of the experiments? If yes, move away as quickly as possible and on to the next highest value thing.
The panel then moved on to discussing growth. The first question, how do you plan for growth?
First, think about it technically. Do you have evolutionary architecture? Can you build something that you can easily evolve and change, rather than making firm architectural decisions that you cannot then change later down the road?
Secondly, be very clear in your prioritisation framework that growth comes first. Think about distribution as the main way of growing. In Nima’s opinion, a bad product with good distribution beats a really good product with bad distribution. Make sure that how you are putting your product in front of partners and customers is always coming first, even before customer experience and revenue models.
How do you continue to scale and prioritise growth functions and features whilst still taking care of BAU, tech debt, etc. all of which you need in order to grow?
For Magda, this all needs to be reflected in the roadmap. The roadmap is a living document that should always change, you need to start thinking long term because you will struggle to scale if you only look at the next 3 months. Think about the appetite of the business - the North Star always have to be there.
A question that generated a lot of discussion was ‘how do you plan for international expansion, and how do you structure your org?’
The first point was it’s not necessarily a bad thing in you are beaten to an international market by a competitor. Learn from their mistakes.
Secondly, consider cultural differences. Look for economies of scale when expanding. Vanessa shared that Monzo has a very small presence in the U.S. and a key cultural difference is that people in the UK like to split bills with Monzo. However, in the U.S, people already do this with Venmo, which is well established. You need to figure out what your ‘secret sauce’ is, and where this fits into other countries, and if there is a gap in the market for you.
When it comes to structure and establishing culture internationally across different squads and tribes, seeding your new office with people from your previous location. Let those people hire there and continue the journey.
The final the topic for the evening was funding. The first question was a big one – how should you pitch your product to get funding?
An important factor is how you paint the picture of the problem that you’re solving. Nima used the analogy of a hero’s journey in a movie. You need to pitch your product as the solution that is going to help your hero overcome their obstacles and become the saviour of the story.
Likewise, what investors are looking for will differ depending on the size of your business. If you are pre-seed, you will need to focus on selling your founder, the problem that you’re solving and the mission. Whereas for business that’s perhaps Series C, it’s likely that investors will be much more interested in your customers, your retention, your margins and ultimately your profitability.
Market sizing is also important. Will you hit a ceiling? You need to be able to show that if you will, that you’re planning to move into new markets, or, due to the impact that your product is making on the market, the market will grow with you.
The final question for the panel was do they think worth getting an early valuation?
For Nima, the answer was no. Early customer attraction is more worthwhile than early valuation. The panel also agreed that in the current market, growth is not as important as profitability. Learn from some of the recent and very public cases of early valuations and abundances of funding leading to a downturn in profitability and a consequential need to downsize.
A huge thank you to our 5 excellent panelists! If you'd like to give event speaking a go yourself, you can register your interest here and let us know what topics you're interested in sharing with the tech community. We're always keen to hear what you want to see and hear at these events, so please share any thoughts with us so that we keep organising events you actually want to attend!
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