4 product building lessons for startups & SaaS builders

Zoe Chew
4 min readMar 19, 2024

This post is one of my Multi-Part Product Guide series. You may also like my top-rated guides such as — Profitable SaaS Ideas, Minimum Viable Market, and MVP Experiments For Your Startup

In my previous post, I shared five product-building lessons for building Internet products. Here’s Part 2 of that post (click here to read Part 1).

Whether you’re creating apps, SaaS, online marketplaces, or no-code businesses, this post will give you some tips to help you on your product development journey.

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Lesson #1: Have a “Don’t Do” list

Steve Jobs eloquently stated:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

Prioritization is key throughout the product development process, whether you’re at the initial stages of MVP creation, new feature development, or advancing through later stages of your startup journey.

The art of saying “No” in product building:

(1) Watch out for scope creep:

Clearly outline your project scope by defining the main objectives, project deliverables, and out-of-scope criteria — those elements that fall beyond the project’s intended boundaries.

(2) Watch out for feature creep:

Simply adding more features doesn’t necessarily improve the product. Instead, clearly define what falls outside the immediate scope. For example, consider removing features that don’t address critical user problems or align with the company’s goals.

(3) Beware of shiny objects:

AI is popular, but don’t just follow trends. Instead, focus on what aligns with your product’s goals and user needs. Any integration of AI should serves a purpose and adds genuine value to your customers.

Lesson #2: Customer-First Thinking

Instead of building a product and hoping people will buy it, focus on selling the product concept first, even before creating it.

Start by finding individuals who are willing to pay for your idea, offering it in the form of a concierge service.

For example, if you plan to create a real-estate marketplace, act as the intermediary between buyers and sellers yourself. In addition,

  • offer the core features of your marketplace website through a personalized real estate agent service
  • these service can include arranging property viewings, and providing personalized assistance throughout the buying or selling process
  • charge a commission or fee for successful transactions facilitated through your service.

This concierge service approach not only gets you paying customers before you have a product, but also helps you understand which features and functions your customers value most.

Lesson #3: Iterate Often

Iteration means testing, learning, and improving your product by making small changes based on continuous feedback from these sources:

  1. User’s feedback: What are users saying about the product’s features, usability, and overall experience?
  2. Market trends: Are there any shifts in consumer preferences or behavior that we need to address?
  3. User engagement metrics: Are there any patterns in user behavior that suggest areas for improvement?

Pro Tips:

(1) Launch early:

Don’t wait for perfection; launch your product early in the forms of prototypes or MVPs. Early launch allows you to gather real-world feedback, validate hypothesis, and iterate rapidly to improve your product.

(2) Feedback mechanism:

In addition to using surveys or feedback forms, you can also conduct remote usability testing to observe users as they interact with your product in real-time.

(3) Insights:

When gathering feedback, it’s essential to pay attention to both functional needs (i.e. usability issues or missing features) and emotional needs of the users (i.e. frustrations or desires).

(4) Decision:

Finally, decide whether to stick to the original vision or pivot your product based on what you learned from user’s feedback.

Lesson #4: Experiment, experiment, experiment

Are we making products people want? How should we price them? Will our business model work?

The answer lies in ABC — always be testing.

(1) Start by defining your risky assumptions:

These assumptions could be the initial belief about your target market, user behavior, product features, or business model that could make or break the success of your venture.

(2) Test the risky assumptions:

Next, conduct low-cost experiments to test these assumptions. This could involve creating prototypes, mockups, or running pre-sale campaigns to gather feedback and validate your hypotheses.

For those enrolled in the Rapid MVP Course, I’ve provided an Experiment Database in which you can discover ways to test pricing, features, business models, etc:

Watch Free Course Preview at https://rapidmvps.com

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[2] Get my product-building teardown — Join my newsletter 🚀

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Zoe Chew

Building things on the Internet at Venturescale.to & Rapidmvps.com. Here I share my learnings as an entrepreneur, writer and creator.