Why so many small tech product businesses fail to scale.
Disclaimer: If you are an existing small business tech founder and struggling to make business or scale your business, then this might to be a tough read for you. You may not want to hear some of the messages about cause and effect behind your struggle.
If you are a newer tech founder, then hopefully you are more open to take swift corrective action before its too late and too hard to.
If you are a tech investor, then please pay close attention, because this article outlines the real secret sauce behind the ~10% of tech startups who set themselves up for long term success.
Tech businesses that never reach the scale they want to is a seriously big problem today. Not because it is bad compared to something catastrophic like global climate change, but because this is already a known and solved problem, but yet, still too many tech founders are failing at it, and that’s having a negative effect on those working in tech and those participating in tech investment.
Far too many tech businesses pop, then fizzle for long while, and then die out (far too slowly )— never learning where they went wrong, or why, or how. Something like 9 out of 10 startups fail within their first 3 years. They blame their staff, they blame their tech, they blame themselves, and eventually they blame their ideas. But they rarely discover the real causes.
There appears to be a very tantalising and universal, but very wrong assumption, in a lot of tech founders heads, that: all it takes to build a tech company is:
- A really good idea
- Some experience in some relevant business (to the idea and market for the idea)
- Hire a bunch of smart people, and then proceed to
- Tell them what to do — your ideas, your way, the way you know how
… and with this recipe, you can mix the ingredients in a bowl, put it in the oven, and tada! create a successful brand-new business, and get rich and famous quick. How hard can it be, right?
Many founders are still treating the building of their product like they treat the building a their new house, or renovating their bathroom. Where does this mindset come from?
At EndGame, we’re very passionate about working with early startup businesses as joint partners to ensure that they build sustainable SaaS tech businesses that can scale from day one. We know what it really takes to grow a tech business, and more importantly, what is wasteful to spend time and money on, what to leave to the experts, and how to make it sustainable long term so that their business have a chance to succeed where others will fail.
Over the course of a couple of articles, I’ll attempt to examine some of the most common issues facing founders, where those issues come from and what propagates them. Then, in a second part, I will provide some guidance on how to avoid letting those mindsets and behaviours steer you down that long and painful dark hole into oblivion and irrelevance.
Startups are difficult enough to make successful without handicapping yourself with these known common problems and solutions. Leap ahead the others!
Many founders of new tech startups today will have had a bunch of experience in various industries, and in some cases quite diverse careers. This makes a big difference, but in ways you may not be expecting. Most non-technical founders (not trained in the tech industry) are coming into a “tech product development business model” from past careers in predictable, stable corporate business models — we will call them “established businesses” for this discussion.
These established business models are predictable and measurable, and (by necessity) only tolerate small amounts of “incremental” innovation over time. They will never put at risk their cash-cow lines of business for some brand-new risky untried innovation — certainly not on a regular basis! “Disruptive innovation” (separate to “Incremental Innovation”) is even less likely to be experienced in these kinds of businesses.
By definition, the difference between a startup and a established business is that a startup does not have a stable business model. A startup is trying to find a stable business model that works, and that can then scale. When it does find that business model, then it has a chance at scaling to be a profitable, stable and predictable business model. (by that time, the founders have either stepped aside, or been pushed aside, and likely exited for greener fields).
Now, a startup that does “product development” (of any kind) is by its nature entirely the opposite kind of the business model to any established business you will likely to have seen. Innovation and experimentation is the primary game here, not stabilisation. Founders have to realise very quickly that a product development tech startup has little to no predictability about any of the following things:
- What to invest precious time and funds into?
- What actually sells? and how to make it sticky?
- Where can we sell and to whom?
- Where will the future revenue of the company come from?
- And how to sustain and scale that revenue - for years to come?
Without certainty in any of those kinds of things, life gets a little scary and hairy for founders, and for their boards and investors. That fear needs to be managed quite differently than the way stable businesses are used to being managed. This is key for tech founders, tech company boards and tech investors to embrace, not to be fixed with traditional stable business tools and mindsets.
The mindsets, the processes that need to be built, and the cultures required to operate and sustain this new kind of innovative business model will be unfamiliar to most of these new founders/boards/investors. It will be very challenging, and regressing back to what they knew before, will be a battle for them everyday. The thinking, behaviours, processes and tools that the founders are already skilled in and used to applying to solve problems in a stable business, like: handling competition, managing risk, minimising risk and making decisions simply won’t be efficient or effective this new business model.
Tech Founders, tech company boards and their investors need to adapt their mindsets and toolsets, and they need to change their ideas and expectations about: how to structure their companies, how to structure the work that is done, and who gets the work done in them.
Just assuming or hoping (or forcing) a tech startup to provide high levels of predictability and certainty (that perhaps past businesses may have had) is absolute madness, and destroys innovation in a tech startups. Outcome? They build failing products that no one wants. One Hundred percent of zero is still zero.
Tech product development business work very differently than traditional stable businesses, which is why you need proven tech expertise in your company, and in your board, to help you navigate this difference, very quickly. If you don’t have it, then partner to get it.
No doubt as a tech founder, you have some brilliant idea to build some piece of tech (apps, gadgets or services) and probably a bucket load of experience in some relevant field, business or domain. That’s a good start, you got to have something to go after and something to aim for after all. This is where it starts for many non-technical founders. Your rich and deep domain expertise and your initial ideas about what is valuable at the start of your new tech business is about all that you have at the start. But it isn’t always going to be that way.
It is that way at the start of course, but as your business starts to grow, you will be turning “idea” into “vision”, into “execution” and eventually into an actual product or service. You also probably believe that building that product once and selling it multiple times is how to use economies-of-scale to grow your business. But, if you think about it, the thing that actually makes your business money is not the “idea”, it is in fact the “execution of the idea” and what materialises from that execution.
The market, whatever market you want to sell to, could care less about you and your “idea”, they care about what your product does for them. Ideas are easy to copy, modify or adapt, and extend, and being afraid of other people stealing your ideas is super stressful. The “execution” part of the equation is the part that is not so easily copy-able by competitors who start to see you gain some success with that “idea”. Have some faith that you will be safe from your copy-cat competitors as long as you focus on doing your execution better than they do, and do it faster and cheaper than them. Likewise, stop copy-catting others. You have no idea how bad most others execute, and you are simply going to be copying the outputs of their bad execution.
In the beginning of your company, your idea is everything you have, and its that idea that attracts people, resources and investment to your business. However, at some point not far down the track (from the point of actually making something in-market) the value of the idea starts to dwindle to zero, whilst the value of your execution (and the value of the product of that execution) becomes everything you do have. Your “idea” would never have survived battles with real customers and markets, and has now necessarily changed into something more like a vision and strategy, continuing to conform as your markets demand it to.
Ideas are cheap, execution is everything — Chris Sacca
Now that you are underway, discovering your true product or service is the new game you are now playing: trying to out-discover how to generate value, using tech, for those who want to buy your product, faster than anyone else does. But it is marathon, not a sprint.
Building tech products and services for your customers is a whole different game than what you might think, or what would you might be used to. It is NOT about being “right” or being the “know it all” at the top of the company. It is NOT about being the smartest person in the room of your customers, employees and boards. It IS about discovering, building and proving product innovations that actually work, and building a culture around that with smart people figuring out what to do, based on evidence.
This particular aspect of product development can be a scary thought for the uninitiated founder, as chances are that product development work is not the kind of thing a founder has been skilled at up to now in business, and probably won’t initially appreciate just how different it can be from what they do know from previous careers.
Building a product or service in your tech startup is not the same “business model” as building or renovating a house with an architect, builder, landscaper or plumber. (Hoping that you’ve had some experience you can relate to with one of these experiences). The business model that describes how that works, in the tech industry, is known as a “Systems Integrator” or “Service Provider” or just “Tech Services” business model. It is a business that exchanges cost for time and materials to get a service.
That’s not how your tech company should work.
It works like this:
- You define the time, and money to spend on the labor and materials and they provide the service to you.
- You tell them what you want, and they deliver it for you.
- Your satisfaction (and referrals to them) is what they want, not the results that come from the outputs they deliver to you — that’s your problem not theirs.
- If you tell them to build the wrong thing, and they do build it, you will pay through the nose to get it fixed. You’ll tell them what to fix, and they will happily do that for you (at your cost).
There’s plenty of money to be made in this business model as the Service Provider, and this business depends on you paying them for a service that you need and want. You control the cost and time and scope because that’s all you have control over. All the risk is yours, since you paid for it and you defined what needed to be done. Fair deal. This feels natural to you. But success comes after, and only you can define what that is and to what degree — we call this the “Outcome”. Was it a good outcome? Was it worth the money? Did you achieve what you wanted to? Are you happy with it?
In your tech company, unless what is described above is the service (and the treatment) you want from your product/tech people, don’t deploy this business model inside your company. You are not an enterprise business that owns an I.T or Tech department that “serves your business”. Tech is your business now. Cut out the middle-man, and all goes with it.
The software companies who build and sell the tech products and services that you know and love (e.g. Google, Microsoft, Instagram etc), are not hoards of people tucked away in the basement of some I.T department inside their HQ. The people who decide what to build for you and how it gets built and sold to you, actually run the whole business! They are the business, there is no one else but them. This is different than what you are used to seeing in past businesses you may have worked in.
Let’s explain why.
In the Solution Provider model, you engage another entity (i.e. business/company/contractor) to do some work for you. They sell their services to many customers, so many customers in fact, that what they sell (their service) is flexible enough to be anything their customers want — within their area of expertise of course. They make money by selling their time — a proxy for their expertise and outputs. You want their expertise/outputs, maybe even their help on what to build, but they don’t want to tell you what to do or what to build, because that means that they need to take a risk (a pretty big risk) that it won’t work for you or be what you want, and they don’t get paid. So, to mitigate this risk, they ask you to define what to build? “What is the outcome you are looking for?” They commit to build the outputs you ask for which make up the outcome you want the way you want it. You are happy and they get paid. Win-win. They care a little bit that you get what you want, because they want more work like this, and they know that your referral helps that.
This business model is all around you, day and night, and it works. You use it every day at home (eg. landscaping) at work (eg other departments/consultants/contractors), everywhere else (eg at bars, restaurants, holiday resorts). You are super comfortable and familiar with it. But this is not how tech companies work on the inside.
The problem with this business model is that it does not care about “the outcome” that’s on you. Even if they (the contractors) build exactly what you tell them to build, AND they build it perfectly well, AND they do that within your budget, AND also come in under your deadline. If what they build (your product) does not sell to your customers, the outcome is failure for your business.
How the hell can that happen? Well, it’s pretty simple really. You asked them to build the wrong thing — of course.
How does that happen?
Because, you focused all the resources of your company (time, energy and focus) on defining and managing what your contractor actually built, and not enough time, energy and focus on figuring out what to build, AND what actually works. Until it’s far too late.
Now, you are going to tell me that you would not do that, right? That you are smarter than that, and that you would stand up some super-smart new “capability” (all the smart people of course) in your company that would figure out exactly what should be built, and that would deal with the problem described above.
But I am going to tell you that that also does not work in the real world. Because to figure out what actually works, and what doesn’t not work (in what actually gets built) requires your contractors to care about that outcome and take responsibility for it from the start, and at all time in between. And they won’t do that for you, because you defined what to do. You likely wrote it precisely into some contracts (ie, agreements, or stories), and then spent the time and money delivering precisely that. Your smart capability that figures out what to build just can’t do that job effectively from a far without instrumenting and testing and feedback loops from the things that get built, while they get built. They won’t be able to that without the contractor taking responsibility for that either.
But stop worrying about that horror show. The solution is far simpler. Far simpler than trying to manage a risky, distrusting, and contracted relationship between two parties that will ultimately cause a train wreck for your business. This solution has been known for decades.
Stop using this business model inside your tech company, because your business is at stake! Use a better business model that works for your kind of business.
Instead of contracting out this stuff, and treating this “stuff” as a service to your business, make it the actual business model instead!
Combine the “figuring out what to build” and the “building” and the “validation” of what gets built together in the same team of people, and remove the inherent delays of dividing the work into contracted parties. Focus on moving the actual results towards the outcome you want, produced by the outputs. Instead of managing the specification, time and cost of making the outputs. If you want a better outcome, and that keeps the business alive, then focus on doing whatever it takes for as long as it takes to get the better outcome.
This is likely a model you are not used to doing, and so it feels uncomfortable for you because instead of managing risk by managing the spend, it requires trust, and partnership with smart people to do the right things and to do them right.
As a founder of a small tech product startup, and especially if you are the only founder of your startup, then it is highly likely that you have positioned yourself as Chief Executive — at the top of the company. This is often the case in small scale-markets, like here in NZ — where venture funding is scarce, and deep product experience is hard to find.
Also, especially true in NZ, many are going it alone because of our innate colonial pride in “having a crack at it yourself”, armed only with initiative, some gumption and a bale of №8 wire — “how hard can it be, right”? She’ll be right!
If you are indeed one of a very small number of founders (lets say less than five) at this end of the startup scale, then it is just as likely that between you all you all have the super-cool tech sounding C-suite and silo-ed titles picked out for yourselves. (eg. CEO, COO, CFO, CMO, CSO, CTO, etc).
Why wouldn’t you have, right? You had the big idea, the ones who have been formulating and verifying the big idea with your family, friends, networks. You are the ones who had the courage to step out and create your tech company after all.
That takes some great courage and no doubt some “money where your mouth is”. Someone had to do it. There weren’t so many others around at the time ready to jump in with cash with you, neither. But you did it, and you should absolutely be commended for that initiative and courage. No bull.
There’s nothing wrong with positioning yourself with these “external” titles in the context of meeting your: customers, partners or investors. These kinds of titles are kind of expected these days in those kinds of contexts for developing out the credibility of the company. Totally understandable social norms.
However, it’s a completely different, and separate story when it comes to facing inwards inside your company, and working “in the business” with others like you, your staff and your hired help. Let's just drop those impressive titles shall we, and get real? You are all just janitors of the company now, in this together, doing whatever needs to get done.
There’s no doubt that a new tech business needs a strong vision and strategy for smart people to get behind. It is the most important recruiting tool you have now.
But, no matter who you are, or what your experience is, how old you are, or where you come from, it is efficient and effective product discovery execution, and forging a strong empowered product culture of innovation, that is what you must have in order to find out what works and what does not work in those markets. You ignore this proven fact (since the 1980s) at your own peril.
Incidentally, in other geographies where there may be more investment in tech, startups are more often founded with a larger collective of hand picked experienced people (and likely with more capital from the get go). It is not uncommon to have ~5, 10, 20, or even more people build a tech startup from day one. Can you imagine all of those people vying to all be in the top CXO slots in the company? Laughable right? More likely, some of those people are going to be experienced in tech product development already, and have already learned (from past careers) most of the things we are talking about here. Those people are going to establish roles in this new company somewhere under the C-suite roles where the product innovation function is. Those C-Suite roles are going to focus their time on the governance and growth of those people, their processes and the business. Not on being the ones who have all the answers, and commanding everyone else on what to do and how to do it. That’s just not how scalable product companies work.
Some of these problems that we see in smaller markets, are simply problems created from of a combination of: small scale, lack of funding, lack of experience and skills, and finally lack of examples of what good looks like.
Now, if you are also operating the sales process for your small business (meeting your prospective customers, gathering intel, creating sales & marketing strategies etc.), then you will also likely see yourself as being armed with all the evidence and empathy that there is to have for your prospective ‘customers’.
Some of your prospective ‘customers’ will be contacts through your previous companies and previous roles. These experienced professionals in your previous respective domains, and in your networks, can effortlessly show support for your ideas, some, in very meaningful ways even. Some of them will support and even follow you taking on such a courageous challenge. Some will throw you some tantalising and affirming ideas. You’ll start to think that they look like your new customers even. Some of your board members, highly regarded professionals in business, will also confirm your ideas and toss in few of their own, and support and encourage you to weave those into your strategy. With all these great ideas, you’ll feel support and encouragement that you definitely are on the right track.
As you talk to prospective customers (in-markets), you will start to qualify them in or out. You will filter out the ones who don’t get your idea, don’t want to get your idea, or who don’t see any value in it. You will focus on what the prospects — the ones that engage with you the most, say about your great idea. You seek their feedback about how great your idea is, and how to improve it to fit use-cases they can relate to. It feels great that they like it, and it feels like you are doing everything right. They also start to tell you what the product should do and how. You’re listening to your customers, and formulating a product vision, that seems to resonate with them, or opportunities they say they see, and naturally you begin to determine the pieces that you heard them tell you they needed and wanted.
Armed with all this ‘customer evidence’ in the form of “solutions”, you’ll feel like it empowers you with some insider knowledge into their behaviors (a “business differentiator”) of what your customers really want, need and desire. You are the top domain expert in this field now, you have all the available context and all the available evidence, and have gathered a ton of ideas. Add to that, a sprinkle of your own personal ideation and flare, and you feel confident to start to formulate a game changing product vision that gives you a competitive edge against all other perceived competition out there.
Unbeknownst to you however, you’ve befallen a huge trap. You are only hearing just what you want to hear from your customers/prospects, as you go about your day self-validating your own ideas, and collecting solutions. Validating what you know to be true already is, shall we say: tedious and boring, and seems like double-book-keeping to you. Why do you need to validate your ideas anymore, everyone around you has already validated them! Let’s move on already!
If this situation sounds like your situation, then unfortunately you are also inadvertently creating an un-scalable company structure, and unsustainable working environment and culture, that simply cannot scale beyond you and how far you can grow it.
Why? It’s a company culture and working environment that depends solely on your guesses, gut feelings and confirmed biases. A company culture that is based upon your one and only interpretation of what you’ve heard from your friends, family supporters and friendly prospects. Informed by your own past experiences (in business, and in the world) and your personal experiences shaped by your friendly customers, right now. Littered with some great stories confirming your point of view about your vision of what your customer’s pain is and what you think you need deliver to relieve it. You’ve weaved a great story out of it all and you’ve constructed an awesome solution that will solve it.
Is your own personal cult. Not a company culture.
What if you make a wrong call?, And things don’t actually work the way you hoped? Will you know what went wrong? Or even why you got it wrong? Will you know what to do to correct it? Will you know what parts actually worked and what didn’t actually work, and will you know what to get fixed to make it work?
Are you just using trial and error and generous gifts from some god, to hit-and-hope your way forward? Hoping that something will eventually stick? Or are you actually using the other human brains in your business and their diverse view points to come up with something that really does work for a diverse bunch of customers?
User research has come a long way in the last ~20 or so years. It has taught us extremely critical and counter-intuitive lessons.
The primary lesson being that if you don’t approach user research very carefully and meticulously, and you don’t go to great lengths to remove your own biases (as the researcher) or if you have the wrong assumptions about your test recruits behavior, or you have specific result in mind that you want to prove, then the real value and truth about the thing you are testing is extremely hard to excavate. It will lead you more often that not to build the wrong things.
Far too many founders think that being “customer-driven”, “customer-centred”, or “customer-focused” means listening to what your customers tell you. And it does — but those founders are not, and never were, paying attention to the details. It’s not that simple. The nuance that they miss is that we are not talking about what your customers “say” or “tell” you in words (face to face over coffees, zooms, email, surveys, or slack etc.) We are talking about listening to, and measuring, what they actually “do” (or “did”), and what they have actually “done”. Not what they say they will do. They are far too willing to tell you an ideal picture or story about what they “would” do, and we don’t want any of that.
You cannot expect your customers to willingly and dutifully test your product for you to any useful degree. If you expect that they will tell you when it does not work for them, then you are going to be in the dark for a very long time. This is just foolish.
If you are so lucky as to have a real customer take their time to give you direct and structured feedback about your “baby” and just how ugly it might be, then count your blessings. It is estimated that somewhere between ~75% and ~25% of those customers who experience any kind of issue in your product (whether you think it is a real issue or not) won’t even bother to report it to you, and will just move on not telling you anything. But plenty of them will “bag you”, and your product on social media while they find alternatives better than yours. Worse, when they do report it to you, you have to excavate what’s behind what they tell you, because they don’t have the words or knowledge or mental model to describe it in terms you understand.
Customer statements, their preferences, their testimonies and their feedback (audible or written) are simply not reliable for telling you what they actually struggled with doing. Especially when it is written or face to face, or over zoom calls. They just tell you what they did with your product/service at that time and place, and how it failed them. Your enthusiastic drive to confirm what you think you already know about them and their context by asking them to debunk or confirm your suspicions and assumptions (in words), hides the real truth from you.
This isn’t because your customers want to lie to you. Let’s just say that — you are asking them the “wrong questions” in the ‘wrong ways’. You are instead doing what feels natural to you, and all you get rewarded with affirmations of your assumptions, or in many cases, just confusion about what actually happened. What you may not be aware of is that their “stated” preferences (the preferences and behaviours you ask them to tell you about themselves) will deceive you, and you will go on to build the wrong things.
Learn about Stated Preferences versus Realised Preferences and how they confound people, and then see this phenomenon baffle major businesses.
Now, when it comes to your business, your innovation, your product, especially if its not a product or service that people are very familiar with, you simply can’t reliably expect that your customers know what they want or need directly from you or it. They simply can’t tell you that directly. They can’t envisage reliably what your thing looks like for them, nor what it could do for them. They can guess of course, but their stated solutions are rarely ever useful, or rarely ever going to fit the way your thing works for your business.
They can, however, reliably tell you about their experience doing something with the product/service you put in front of them. But again, not how to improve it with your tech, nor what they need or desire from your new tech. If you act on any of those recommendations then you will likely build the wrong things again.
It isn’t your customers job to tell you what they need or want. This is your job. Your job to figure out what will work for them and what won’t work for them, by innovating , iterating and driving business results with data and measurements.
Put something new or improved in front of a customer and observe/measure if they are successful with it. If not, then discard it, or improve it, until it moves the dial on some measurable outcome you really are shooting for. You are the innovator in this relationship not them. Until you innovate and experiment you will keep building things, lots of things, but they will ultimately be the wrong things.
There are so many fantastically inspirational stories of instant personal fame and fortune of those household tech legends who had some unique, identifiable and quirky way of working with people that made all the difference for their business.
You know all the big household names and stories now. It’s so romantic to believe that what made their businesses successful was some obvious “secret sauce” attributed to them personally, that they drizzled over their company or customers that clearly led them to their personal success. You just have to find out what your secret sauce is — the commentators will tell you.
This is ridiculous. The real secret sauce is often overlooked by the fame claims and urban legends:
- Ideas are cheap, execution is everything. You need to realise that there is specific science in building a new product or service. It is not done successfully by some genius creating a grand plan, building it perfectly and customers just fall over themselves to buy your “baby”. It is also not done by trial and error, using gut feel, and “building it and they will come”. It requires tapping deep into real customer problems and pains and looking beyond what people struggle with today and get to the real gold of “what represents progress to them tomorrow”. They can’t tell you what that is, until they see it from you.
- It is not about having all the answers, and being the “know it all” at the top of the company, telling your smart people what to do. That is not how tech companies ever worked. Nor is it about being the smartest person in the room of your customers, telling them what you think should work for them, and changing your product/service based on their solutions. It is about building the right product innovation culture and engine, that discovers, and proves the successful innovations that deliver actual value to your customers that in turn deliver actual results to your business.
- Building a product or service in your startup is not the same “business model” as building or renovating a house. That is not what you are doing now in a tech startup. Your product only succeeds if your customers buy it and stick with it. Managing the spend on the outputs (solutions and features) instead of managing the outcomes (improving the results) that they create/destroy will prevent you from focusing on the right things that make your business succeed.
- A company, culture and working environment that depends solely on you making all the decisions from the top, will prevent your company and your business from scaling. You can’t do it all yourself. Those smart people you hired just won’t stick with you, and eventually your business may need to grow to a point where you can’t physically command and control everything that everyone does — your way. But, in the meantime, you can easily stifle all that, and many founders inadvertently do. The first thing a savvy tech investor is going to do, is to gain control of your business, and then remove you from the top of it, allowing the company to breath, then grow, and then scale in its own in a sustainable way without you.
- No matter who you are, or what your personal experience and gravitas is, save it for the investor meetings: building a tech company is about raising capital, managing a business strategy, and enabling the rest of the company to innovate. Building and nurturing an efficient and effective product discovery, execution and culture is everything your company needs to find out what works and what does not work in the real world of tech products.
- It isn’t your customers job to “tell” you what they like or what they need or want. Stop asking them those naïve questions, and stop using their ideas to dictate what to do, instead of doing the hard work that you should be doing. You won’t find innovation or the truth in their solutions. You will be easily deceived into building the things that don’t work for your product or your business. Build your engine of innovation and let it discover what actually works for your customers and your business. Guide that with evidence and data, not just gut feel and confirmation bias.
In the next part, I’ll be covering what you can do about these things instead of doing these things. We will cover:
- Building the right team and culture
- Why things go wrong, and go wrong, so often
- Some very inconvenient truths that you can’t afford to ignore
- Why founders are particularly susceptible to being blinded to the truth and fooled by their customers
- Why start up success is complex, and you should be focused on that complex stuff, not these well-known product fundamentals