- People who ask themselves whether they have achieved product/market fit usually haven’t achieved it
- You know when you get there. You feel it. The space ship is taking off. Customers are pouring in. The wind has turned. It’s not ‘OMG it’s so difficult to get customers’ anymore. It’s more like ‘OMG, so many customers, we’re exploding’.
- A great pre-requisite to product/market fit is product/founder fit. When the founders are power-users themselves, that’s a good sign. When the product is used by employees enthusiastically, that’s a very good sign.
- Before Gmail launched, they made sure the product made 100 Google employees very happy (watch the talk by Paul Buchheit, co-creator of Gmail). They have iterated so long until this was achieved. Once they made those 100 Googlers happy, they knew they would make happy many more.
By above standards, I have to admit that I have never reached product/market fit so far in my career.
- In 2004 we had some serious traction with webmasterforum.ch but unfortunately this traction got killed by a stupid mistake of mine that cost us 80% of our traffic (we changed the domain to ayom.com and fell out of Google — our main traffic source — because the domain has been burned by the previous owners. The worst thing: before switching I felt there was something fishy because we tried to index something and it didn’t, but I didn’t take any action. Very stupid mistake, hurts until today. This product would have been 2x, 5x or 10x more popular without this mistake.)
- In 2005/2006 Parlaris lost traction because we didn’t have any working revenue model. Should have pivoted earlier.
- In 2007 Trigami was very close to product/market fit, but we didn’t really get there. The main issue was Google again. 6 months after launch Google launched it’s attack against paid links (and several of our bloggers temporarily lost some or all of their PageRank — ouch). As backlinks were the main value in the eyes of our customers, our value proposition got much weaker. Probably should have taken this opportunity to pivot. We did introduce new offerings (many of them, probably too many) but failed to kill off the non-working ones. On a sidenote: whenever someone starts offering ‘consulting’ services, that’s a sign that something might not be working ;)
We’ll keep experimenting. Maybe someday we’ll get there. Without Google getting in our way :).