Two Products, One Startup — Don’t Do It

Whenever I see a startup offering two different products on their website I cringe. It’s so incredibly hard to make one product successful that having a second product means resources are going to be spread more thin. Personally, I’ve tried it three times and have failed all three times. Can it be done? Yes. Is it rare? Yes.

Here are a few thoughts on a second product:

  • Whichever product pays the bills is going to get all the attention
  • Having a second product is actually 10x more difficult that it appears
  • Finding product / market fit still takes 12 – 24 months with the second product
  • Micro apps that are a subset of the mothership’s functionality are fine as long as they share the same code base
  • Building a successful second product suffers many of the same issues as being a part-time entrepreneur
  • If it’s going to be done, consider having a separate, dedicated team of people and website devoted to the product

When the first product has plateaued or is in decline, a second product makes sense to try and start growing again. Regardless, startups should stay away from a second product as long as possible.

What else? What are some other thoughts on a startup having two products?

4 thoughts on “Two Products, One Startup — Don’t Do It

  1. David,

    Spot on analysis. I’ve tried this as well and in hurt both products.

    Fastest way to mediocrity is to try to manage two different products. Team has to resist the entrepreneurial attention deficit disorder urge to build other things that are not core to driving value for the main service.

    As some point resentment comes to both product teams. The one bringing in revenue asks why we’re doing this other project at our expense. The startup/new product believes if they were the entire focus success would be faster.

    It hurts morale, questions leadership, confuses customers and ultimately dooms both products to under performing or failure.

    If there is such conviction to build and there is an identifiable market, spin it out of the company and make someone in charge of it.

  2. Thank you for this timely advice! I was going into development on a pet project and developing a product that my client’s have requested. After this, I am going to table my pet project (like my gut has been urging me to- but my heart wasn’t ready to concede). Great counsel.

  3. David,

    What are your thoughts on starting up a business that provides services but also supplies goods? A dilemma I have seems similar to this. The selling of the goods seems to be like a part time job and not a lucrative. Just wondering what your thoughts were as well as any advice on making a profit from selling goods.

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