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HogMail #21: Avoiding the "Product Death Cycle"

Feb 13, 2023

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In HogMail #20, we looked at a failed startup with product-market fit and 500k active users. So, what comes after product-market fit? More on that soon, but first...

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Words by Andy Vandervell, whose retention is rapidly declining with age. 😢

Avoiding the "Product Death Cycle"

If product-market fit isn't enough to succeed, what do you need? In a 2017 article, Brian Balfour says:

"The “go-to” answer for almost every question in startups, is “build a great product.” Every time I hear that answer it feels completely unsatisfied. Building a great product is a piece of the puzzle, but it’s far from the full picture."

He goes on to argue this mentality can lead to what he calls the Product Death Cycle:

product death cycle

In this model, the answer to "how do we grow?" is always launch new feature, but every new launch is slightly less successful than the last, and doesn't lead to lasting growth:

product death cycle

Instead, he suggests successful startups ($100M+ in his reckoning) should seek four fits:

  • Market-Product Fit – A variation on product-market fit.

  • Product-Channel Fit – "Products are built to fit with channels. Channels do not mold to products."

  • Channel-Model Fit Channels are determined by your model, i.e. how you charge and average annual revenue per user.

  • Model-Market Fit – The concept that your market (and # of customers within your market) influence your model."

Balfour makes three final points:

  1. You need to find four fits to grow to $100M+ company in a venture-backed time frame.

  2. Each of these fits influence each other, so you can’t think about them in isolation.

  3. The fits are always evolving/changing/breaking. When that happens, you can’t simply change one element, you have to revisit and potentially change them all.

Full article: Why Product Market Fit Isn't Enough

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