Plato Elevate Winter Summit has been announced (Dec 7th-8th)

🔥

Back to resources

A Founder’s Dilemma: Choosing Between Technology and Customers

Managing Expectations
Product
Users

27 February, 2021

Amitav Chakravartty
Amitav Chakravartty

Ex CTO at Vaycayhero

Amitav Chakravartty, ex-CTO at Vaycayhero, dissects a common founder’s dilemma: should they focus on the latest technology or their customers’ needs.

Problem

Most founders tend to focus not as much on what but on how they are building their product. They are typically focused on the technology they would be using, programming languages, scalability, etc.

One day, a founder came to me and told me that they were using a particular technology because it scales better. I listened to them for a couple of minutes and then asked them about their customers. I nonchalantly asked, “What people love about your product the most?” They seemed surprised and told me that they didn’t have all that many customers in fact. They asked me then what they should do to promote themselves better in the market to attract more users.

Actions taken

It didn’t take me long to understand what the problem was. Many founders with an engineering background tend to focus exclusively on the technological side of things. They would work hard to implement the latest technology or super scalable database, but that would not be what users are looking for. Customers don’t care what is happening behind the scene. The product needs to offer them something -- and of course, work -- but they will not use it just because it’s shiny.

As a founder, you should be able to understand a customer and think like a customer rather than delving into technical details of all sorts. In the earliest stages of development, technology should come second. The fastest way to get to users is to find the first ten people who would love your product and then find ten more until you reach a hundred. And then continue from there. Technology comes into play when you already have a group of users, a good product-market fit, and know what your users are looking for. Only after securing that, should you start thinking about technology.

Founders tend to be very emotional about things they are building and will interpret any amicable suggestion as a criticism. If they get hooked on the technology, they will have a hard time letting go of it and seeing what users are really looking for. I believe that founders should learn to become emotionally detached from their products because their initial idea can morph into its opposite.

Lessons learned

  • Try to build something that your customers are looking for rather than being mesmerized by the latest and greatest technology. What is important to a user is at the cornerstone of any successful product. You can have the best ever technology, but if a user doesn’t see value in your product, it will not matter.
  • Don’t be emotional about your product. Be motivated by it, but let emotions rule your decisions.
  • Talk to other founders. Being a founder is often a lonely place to be. Share your ideas, plans, or challenges with other founders. Talking to them will help you not get blindsided by all the engineers around you.
  • If possible, get an advisor. Advisors are professionals who talked to a great number of founders before you and will be able to discern what of your challenges are worth addressing. They should help you re-prioritize your priorities. I was in a situation when I was complaining about how my product was not scaling when an advisor asked me, “Why scale?”. That question prompted me to step back for the first time and reflect on why I am doing it. A good advisor will not tell you what to do but will ask you the right question. They should help you grasp different perspectives other than your own.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

Why Overloading Product Teams Never Work

23 November

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi, VP of Product at Evermos, shares how he identified the symptoms of his overworked product team and worked towards defining conflicting priorities.

Managing Expectations
Product Team
Deadlines
Stakeholders
Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

VP of Product at Evermos

How to Pivot a Product Idea at the Right Time

23 November

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi, VP of Product at Evermos, shares how he diligently managed a product in one of the biggest eCommerce companies by being an individual contributor.

Innovation / Experiment
Product Team
Product
Embracing Failures
Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

VP of Product at Evermos

Overcoming imposter syndrome through focusing on your strengths

19 November

James Engelbert, Head of Product at BT, recalls when he had to battle imposter syndrome when managing a new team.

Product Team
Product
Health / Stress / Burn-Out
James Engelbert

James Engelbert

Head of Product at BT

How to Build Rapport With an Introverted Manager

17 November

Piyush Dubey, Senior Software Engineer at Microsoft, shares his journey of climbing up the career ladder through awkward times dealing with an introverted manager.

Managing Expectations
Internal Communication
Collaboration
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Juniors
Piyush Dubey

Piyush Dubey

Senior Software Engineer at Microsoft

The Right Way to Ship Features in a Startup

11 November

Matt Anger, Senior Staff Engineer at DoorDash, shares how he took the risk and shipped features in a startup.

Alignment
Product
Dev Processes
Matt Anger

Matt Anger

Senior Staff Engineer at DoorDash

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.