Back in 2012, I co-founded a startup that focused on disrupting the film rental market. Think 'Uber' for high-end film gear.

I was co-founder and CTO. I worked like a dog for 18 months.

It didn't work.

It didn't work for a few reasons, and in retrospect, I could've saved about 20k and 18 month of my own time and resources, not to mention our investors money. If I invested more time in understanding the problem and the people that it impacted, I think I would've either concluded that it was a bad idea, or, I would've changed practically everything - the product, the user-acquisition strategy, the time invested, the stupid t-shirts (100% cotton though, so maybe not everything).

Myth: "Once our users see it, THEN they'll get it."

This is a common misconception and, in my experience, predicated on two things; a) laziness b) fear. Laziness, because, frankly, designing and building a product is way more fun then talking to people. And Fear, because if I ask if people really would want my product, they might say no. And, damn it, I've come too far to turn back now!

Former me was more of an idiot that present me. I wasn't a 'dreamer', I was a fool. I pulled on every lever to overcome that nagging self-doubt about the product - "Steve Jobs said stay hungry, Stay Foolish!!", "I'm a visionary! I see what the world doesn't see!". Ugh, get a grip.

What I lacked in market research, I made up for in delusion.

My time again

Ok, so here's how I'd approach things today, me being wiser and all.

First, I'd start with defining the problem / opportunity space.

For example, A camera guy owns a 100k camera. He rents himself and the camera out for 3 months out of the year as a contractor. For the remainder of the year, his gear is left dormant, depreciating in value.

Is it just one person that works this way or is it more common? Why does it work like this? Does he lend his gear to colleagues or friends?

I want ask at least as many people as I can these questions. I can then start grouping them and finding patterns where I can apply potential solutions.

I think if I spent three months researching instead of delving straight into build, I'd either realise that my "idea" wasn't going to work -at all- OR that the solution would be executed differently. I'd have a better idea of the problem, how our potential users thought about it, and what we could do to ensure our approach would work.

If you've got an idea or an inkling of something, take a breath. Do your research, or get us to help you. You'll save time, money, and be far more likely to have product-market fit.

Just because you build it, doesn't mean they'll come

Why product-market is less product, more market.

Brent Wallace

March 7, 2024

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