Tech Startups: Why Some Products Succeed and Many Others Fail

Mallory Merrill

Advice for Startups

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Getting your startup business off the ground is hard, and it requires more than just elbow grease. Get you closer to the secret formula that will get your startup on the pathway to success.

Startups For the Rest of Us on Why Some Products Succeed and Others Fail

“It’s a big bridge to cross to get past product market fit, or get to that point where growth really starts coming easy. And it’s almost magical when that happens.”  -- Rob Walling, Startups For the Rest of Us, Episode 334

Rob WallingRob Walling

Mark TaberMark Taber

Startups For the Rest of Us is a podcast by Mike Taber and Rob Walling designed to prepare entrepreneurs for the grueling work of launching software-based products. They've done their time in the industry and, in doing, they’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn't. Now you can gain from their experience by listening to their podcast, “Why Some Products Fail and Others Succeed,” which endeavors to answer one of the grizzliest questions for young startups: why do so many new products fail?

Listen to the Podcast (hint: the best stuff starts at the 12:30 minute mark).
> Or, read the Podcast transcript here.

Here’s DevSquad’s take on the podcast:

Your startup business requires foolproof planning and a stellar product.

First and foremost, a successful product solves a problem. For a product to really take-off, it must fulfill a need. Your job as the entrepreneur is to identify that need, identify exactly who needs it, and offer them a simple solution.

Of course, doing this is a lot easier said than done...

Building a successful product takes hours and hours of hard work. Some founders can’t take it and they drop-out before launch. But there’s more to success than just taking a product to launch; even those who do achieve “lift off” have a long road ahead.

After launch, the next hurdle is gaining customers. For a product to be viable, it must make money, and money comes from happy customers. If you know that users actually want your product and that there’s a legitimate need for your app, then selling it will be a lot easier.


“Try to do as much validation as possible up front to ensure that you are, in fact, solving a problem.”  -- Rob Walling, Startups For the Rest of Us, Episode 334

So What?

In a nutshell, a product’s ability to make money boils down to marketing and its UI (user interface – or, it’s perceived quality and usability). If you’re product is clunky, potential users will bail. And if you’re marketing a product to the wrong audience, users won't bite.

You have to build a gorgeous MVP and you have to market it to the right people. After some trial and error, and if your product is great enough that people want to (and do) pay for it, you’ll find your product market fit.

Even then, you’re not quite over the hump. Let’s say you’ve found a fat niche of paying customers-- that’s great news, right? Well, yes; but unless you’re making more money than you’re spending to acquire those customers, to host the app, and to continue developing your product, then, technically, you’re still in the hole.

To ensure your product is successful, you can’t sell it at a loss. And you can’t sell your product to break even. The best way to ensure that your sales, or more importantly, your profits will trend up, is to:

  • Know your product and identify who needs it.

  • Know your competition and be different (and better).

  • Anticipate the cost of growth (hosting and server costs, development time, etc)

“Once you make it past this point where you have customers and marginal growth, if you can make it past that… those are the apps that we talk about.  -- Rob Walling, Startups For the Rest of Us, Episode 334

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In Summary...

Your startup business can’t grow if it doesn’t get exposed to the right demographic. And it definitely won’t grow if it’s bleeding money. Do the work to put your product in front of the right people and make them believe that it’s better than any other competitor on the market.

Remember that your UI is your handshake. Don’t offer potential customers a floppy, or bloated introduction. Develop a UI that reflects the same TLC you give to your backend product and you’ll gain and keep more motivated users.

And don’t be discouraged by high startup failure rates. If you can do all of these things—build the right product, sell it profitably to the right users, maintain those users and continue satisfying them, the odds for success are staggeringly high.

If you have big ideas but need a great team of developers to build your product, DevSquad can help. Contact us today for a free consultation, and you’ll be one step closer to turning your vision into your reality. Let’s work together!

Want to know more about why so many startups fail? See this post about the top 9 reasons startup companies don't make it.

> Have a story about your own startup business? Share it in the comments below.

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