How much product development is too much in start-up?

An interesting start-up issue came up in the last The Pitch show on BNN.  I was on the panel with Brian Kobus and Jeremy Gutsche (both pictured with me at the right, having a chat before we go on air). One of the Pitchers was Marina Prospero from Perfectore Canada – a company that sells a resistance device designed to improve posture while we work.

I was critical of Perfectore’s lack of sales traction in eight years when they referenced feedback from over 30,000 test subjects. At what point do you say “That’s enough testing! We’re going to market!”

There’s a lot to balance when it comes to beta-testing with real, early-stage customers to make sure your product is a winner when it hits the market and generating internal cashflow to keep your investors and bankers happy and your product development going. But how much testing is too much?

Normally, I encourage over-optimistic entrepreneurs to test, not to stop testing. So this was an unusual situation. If you are launching a new or innovative product or service, you must seek early stage beta customers to help you:

  1. Work out any bugs or kinks in your product, delivery, pricing or marketing models.
  2. Fine tune the customer value proposition.
  3. Gain early sales traction – beta customers will pay – maybe not full retail but you should be able to generate some cashflow from them.
  4. Gain brand awareness through their endorsement and testimonials.

At some point you have to hit the “Go!” button and take your little piggy to market. Going to market before you’ve done your homework with early-stage beta customers is often fatal. Going to market after you’ve spent too much time testing and not enough time building internal cashflow through sales is also often fatal in business. Just know that product development never ends.  At GoForth, we are on the third revision of our small business and entrepreneurship education program – in 21 months. Will our product development ever be finished? No. I learned to put my perfectionism aside and go to market to great success knowing that our education program – like your products and services – are works in progress.

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