Anatomy of successful products & an unknown soul!

(Trying to knit several unstructured threads of first hand real-time experiences in an unpolished manner. Firstly because I’d like to see & remind myself time & again about them, secondly people like me might relate something with them as well – yes all those better entrepreneurs in the making!)

Note: It is no wisdom, which is not already known, however, presented in different words & examples.

During the college days, while working with Stendek R&D, I mingled up with few finest of the techie minds around, therefore, discussions about great problems yet to be solved among several fields was quite a common phenomenon. It was these discussions that helped me in building a good philosophical attitude towards developing myself as a problem solver (or rather a problem analyzer with a solution oriented approach).

It was only during this time my confrontation with real techie/ engineering temperament happened (given the multi-kind of activities I observed those techie guys getting indulged into day/night). And yes it was natural to develop some beliefs & learn from the ambiance which many times is no more than the misguided learning. Yes misguided learning!

Misguided learning – Almost every programming stud believed (and also forced me believe) that writing “One killer program or application” is what it takes “to establish yourself to eventually start your own company” or in more optimistic/ marketing terms “to actually become famous”. People like Sabeer Bhatia, Alok Mittal etc. have even proved the theory and thus, it’s not easy to turn this perception the other way round.

Heck … if you dare!

Meaning to write on this for long, just that after attending Proto, Barcamp, OCC & some VCs in quick succession, the desire finally grew intense enough to give a meaningful structure to all this wisdom.

Two broad thought processes dealing with WHY & HOW for starting up are now followed further.

Fame Vs Credibility

Today almost everyone has ideas, almost everyone wants to be independent, and almost everyone wants to build a company. Ask them WHY, the answer broadly is to lead their life their way & become successful (with a hidden hint of becoming famous). Fame definitely brings the serial-success easier to achieve, so why not?

Also, whenever got a chance I dug down the “definition of success” that these people actually perceive. Surprisingly even most of the thoughtful people couldn’t define it more than some materialistic gains, which I (including many others) cease to agree, therefore, it somehow just happens to be an ambiguous English word that lot of us strive for.

Within myself I’ve however felt the two approaches that motivates a youngster (youngster here means a first time entrepreneur) when it comes to do something of his/ her interest

1. To become famous.
2. To build credibility.

Since both the approaches lead to self-motivation, considering any of them as inappropriate could be wrong. However, what needs to be understood is the boundary and limitations that both these approaches bring to your vision. Where these self explanatory phrases do not need a mean description from my side, what still needs to be understood is this simple mathematics that other’s experiences teach us:

Fame is the subset of credible track record

After meeting several wannabe(s) and understanding their psyche with due diligence, I realize how less in number the people we have in industry with this ground understanding. Need to remember that credible track record is something that helps you in how soon your product sees the northern trend in terms of funding, building team etc. etc. Striving for fame rarely leads to a “good” product and never “great” unless exceptionally favored by your astrological stars.

Killer App Vs Successful product

What we as programming studs again fail to see are the other ‘dimensions needed for this killer application to become successful & self-sustaining product’. Definitely “the business model” is the next keyword that will hit our mind when we talk about things like “sustainable” & “successful”.

India undoubtedly is one such country where almost every individual inherits good business understanding by birth; thus, explaining that ‘No killer application/product worth a penny without a viable business model’ would just be kidding. The question however remains is?

Is it only the killer app & the business model that you need to make a product successful? Or to say to build a successful organization/ company?

… and then there are hell lot of things like the team, market, research, funding, entrepreneurial wisdom etc etc. Yes we need to get aligned to all these trivial aspects all at one time. Since there is no thumb rule to success in this journey, therefore the wisdom collected at every step from different gurus will inevitably be different. This in turn leaves any amateur entrepreneur confused about how to develop their product in the form that will sustain in most of the unwanted and unavoidable conditions? And eventually struggle is what creeps slowly into our sleeves.

How good would it be, if we could conceptualize all these aspects of starting up process in a pictorial form or something that we can relate easily to?

The other day I sat confused, trying to hammer myself, wondering what exactly most successful companies/ products have in common? Why is that that some plain ideas go to enjoy the heaven while good ones survive? Why is this startup process so tedious even when we have best of the resources & lots of entrepreneurial wisdom all around? And several questions like that …

Their came the visualization of one of the finest products we know ever made on this planet – yes it’s The Human body! Trying to map 2-3 examples of good software products with it, I derived how all those most successful products resembled this Human body.

In my opinion any damn thing in life to become successful (be it a product, company/ or once own career etc.), it should resemble very much like a human body, broadly with these four major parts intact. How?

i. The Backbone (middle structure)

ii. The Legs (Foundation for the middle structure to stand)

iii. The Hands (Muscle Power, provides reach to longer distance being at the same place)

iv. Face (Structure with senses, synchronizing entity)

1. The Backbone (Killer-ness)

Let us assume that our killer app is actually killer in nature based on fundamental research of competitive products or the market needs, by this definition, it should qualify to be the backbone of the successful entity (product/company/career) we intend to build. This also indicates a good start and that we have some framework to build the castle around.

What needs to be still defined is the “killer-ness”. A recent discussion with a great visionary & my all-time personal mentor helped in objectively defining the killer-ness, which in simple terms is nothing but the USP of our product, which could be in any of these forms:

1. Technology – Something that is non-replicable at all else it takes significant time to replicate e.g. Google Search Algorithms

2. Speed of Execution – In any race the winner is always the one with maximum speed e.g. Miscrosoft Operating Systems

3. Innovation – Something which demands expert manpower, which either is unavailable or with greatest of the difficulties e.g. Photo search by Riya

If your product has anyone of these elements present, yes you earn the discount for filing the killer-ness to your product.

2. The Legs (Revenue Model)

Then what we fundamentally need are the legs to make this product run and what else than a good business model will help it to run? In essence, the business model forms the legs part of our framework.

Another aspect to always keep in mind is that the revenue model is never a rigid framework (and don’t let it ever become one); it is a continually evolving concept, demanding regular innovation.

I remember meeting few guys at a technology conference, who had developed a very useful software product for the enterprise application collaboration (I could definitely call that as a killer application) however, what I discovered later is the lack of monetization model around it. It was so pity to see the disappointment in their eyes for nobody having an interest to talk about their product & their struggle to formalize the monetization around it.

3. The Hands (A great team)

What we need for this semi-skeleton is the addition of a new structure that can help having a firm grip around the product (grip in the sense, having strong self belief, being always optimistic, to keep striving continuously, continually executing the business etc etc.). What else than a team can help you in holding your belief, product development, taking decisions and brainstorming etc? Yes once you have that Black cat commando team in place, believe it or not, you have actually come quite far yet too far behind to see a successful & sustainable product/ company etc.

More the power in your muscles better are your chances to lift heavy weight to a longer distance. Great team in a budding startup takes it a long long way even with the bad times looming around over the head.

Now think for a moment, a killer app, very good business model & a great team, what else do we need? Isn’t like all the basic fundamental things are actually in place to build a successful product/ company? In fact there must be some examples of success that might come to your mind immediately. Lets say some people see success with these elements in place, lets now call the success achieved with these three ingredients is CurrentSuccess.

4. The Face (Synchronization)

Can we imagine a body without a face? It assimilates all the most important senses required for a normal living i.e. eyes, ears, nose, tongue and Big B(rain), hence needs to be taken very very seriously. This tells me that even after having that killer App, business model and good team in place, still there’s something that is very very crucial for the product to succeed. Lets check them out what could it potentially mean?

Even if we have all the other parts of body in place functioning perfectly, will they be of any use without some good synchronization?

Definitely not! However, our body synchronizes broadly in two ways

i. Internal Synchronization

It requires an un-drunk mind to synchronize them all, to talk to one part of the body on behalf of another to keep running the complete framework (Backbone, legs & hands to work in harmony). This is precisely the role played by the top management (directors) in the company. An advisory board however, suffice to the thought process & actions being taken by the management at various stages (pre-funding, pre-revenue), they help all the functions remain in control in accordance to their directions & talk to other businesses/ investors/ potential clients on your behalf to build partnerships, bring funding & enhancing the sales etc.

ii. External Synchronization

Ears, Eyes, Nose, Tongue are all the senses that take inputs from the outside world, therefore, helps in synchronizing the body with the external world. And do we have at all doubt understanding the importance of any of these organs in their own capacity.

Today the User Generated Content (UGC) also referred as web2.0 in consumer oriented Internet industry, customer support, after sales service, corporate blogging etc are nothing but about building these senses for the product. All this helps in synchronizing & adapting the product/ company with the external surroundings/ expectations.

I’ve now started to believe that the success a product/ company would see without having facial structure in place (i.e. CurrentSuccess defined above) would be a small subset of the actual success that this product could potentially see otherwise. Lets call the otherwise potential success as PotentialSuccess.

If we now observe the gap between these two successes, it usually is a substantial difference. This difference is actually the success not achieved by the company/ product, which in my view should go to the failure account; thus, whole new definition of failure comes as:

Failure = PotentialSuccess – CurrentSuccess

And probably this is the reason, when we develop a product it is not less than our child. After all it’s about giving birth to a completely non-existent entity. So your love towards it is quite inevitable!

Having mentioned all that realization in print about having a body in place doesn’t necessary guarantee of a successful product/company! A body is always driven by a “Soul”, which still is an unknown & most debated entity to everyone around (including me). Its just the interpretations that exists.

Finally it comes to something, something which is unknown!


One response to “Anatomy of successful products & an unknown soul!

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