Revenues Driving Features

I had a chance to get together with an old friend today.  It’s great to spend time with someone whom you haven’t seen in some time, but all the better when it’s someone with whom you went to war during the Internet bubble go go days.  We built a company together and watched our fortunes rise, and fall, together.  Good memories.

In any event, he said something interesting today with which I am not sure I completely agree, mostly because of his stringent application of the dictum, but I wanted to share.  In essence, he said:

Product feature ideas don’t matter.  The only place you should get product feature ideas is from someone who is giving you revenue.

That’s a very strong stance to take.  One that I think leaves little room for flexibility.  He’s in the process of building a nifty SaaS application, and showed it to me over coffee today.  Being the “product guy” that I am, I immediately started asking questions about the possibility of this or that.  He was quite quick to dismiss them by telling me the only product input he wanted was from people who were already paying him.

That leads to a tough development cycle.  How does one develop the initial product?  He’s had an iterative process of meeting with potential customers.  He shows them what he has in a demo, and then sits back and listens to what they have to say.  He processes the commentary and iterates through his development cycle.

While on some level this is the right way to go, there is the issue of  taking direction from the vocal minority.  Those most willing to share information, in some cases, may be in the minority, and therefore leading you down a path of development which doesn’t represent the mass market.  In this case, you may well find yourself with a great product for the first 15 people to whom you spoke.