Founders tend to be smart, ambitious people who typically have a lot of natural confidence in themselves. After all, it takes a lot of guts to start something new and you often have to be pretty clever and driven to succeed and overcome the many challenges faced by startups. Unfortunately, these same traits also mean that it is really easy for founders to be overconfident in their own ideas and can lead to them discounting the value of doing the leg work to validate their assumptions about the need for a product.
One of the most important lessons a founder can learn is also one of the hardest for most to truly accept:
A strong market with a mediocre product and an average team will outperform a weak market with an excellent product and an amazing team.
So the first thing a prospective founder should focus on is understanding the potential market your product will serve. Don’t start with the solution in mind. Start with a desire to understand the problem your customers face at a deep level. Only once you have a mastery of the problem space can you verify that there is an underserved market that is desperate for a better solution.
There are a lot of resources out there about how to develop products and companies. However, most of it is noise and not useful. I’ve even found blogs or popular accelerators with contradictory articles and content. So I’ve curated the most essential resources that I’d recommend for any prospective founder. These are based on my own learnings having developed both successful and unsuccessful startups.
The following resources are the ones I wish I had studied BEFORE attempting to build a new product and company. They focus on the fundamentals that apply to all product development and startup creation rather than any specific type of product or market.
MKII’s Recommended Reading List for Founders:
Lean Product Playbook by Dan Olsen
Learn about the right way to develop new products. Olsen applies a process, not unlike the scientific method, to incrementally test assumptions and ideas as you move from hypothesis to successful product.
Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen
This book describes the “Jobs To Be Done” approach designed by famed Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen. It is an excellent resource to help you frame the problem space and ensure you understand what customers really want and need.
Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan
Like the book above, this one provides a great primer on how to think about designing and building great products. Even though this is largely targeted at software products, I believe the lessons apply to any business or product type.
Increasingly, we are seeing that business models are changing from pipelines to platforms. This book provides a great understanding of platform business models and how to design and build successful platforms.
Essential Startup Advice from YC post by YCombinator
A great blog post by Geoff Ralston and Michael Seibel on the essentials of building a great startup.
The Only Thing That Matters post by Marc Andreessen
A famous and often-cited blog post about the importance of ensuring your startup is building a product to satisfy a strong market.
The Real Product Market Fit post by Michael Seibel
Excellent post on what Product-Market Fit really means and how to ensure your startup is focused on what really matters.
Mastering the Problem Space for PMF video by Marty Cagan
An excellent resource on understanding how to build a product with PMF based on starting with a firm mastery of the problem space.