Last week I did an informal poll asking several entrepreneurs how long it took to get to product/market fit. Consistently, the response was two years. I took this feedback and shared it on Twitter, resulting in a large conversation:
Now, the big question is “why does product/market fit often take years?”
Great question. Let’s dive in.
Most entrepreneurs start with an idea and no customer discovery. After building a product — usually much more than a prototype — they get it in the hands of a few customers only to learn that there’s a major flaw. Perhaps the customer doesn’t really care (a nice-to-have product). Perhaps the customer doesn’t actually need it. Perhaps it’s too early for the market. Regardless, it’s time for a pivot and 6-12 months has already elapsed.
Now, for round two, the entrepreneur employs customer discovery and spends several months talking to potential customers, listening to feedback, and honing in on a new direction. With a direction chosen, the new product is built using regular feedback and input from potential customers so that when a quality prototype is done, the prospect starts using (and paying!) for it right away. After several more months signing up dozens of happy customers, it’s clear product/market fit has been achieved.
Quite often, this research-test-pivot process has to be repeated several times. One of the top entrepreneurs in town did this process four times over several years to find product/market fit, and ultimately it worked out in a big way.
Product/market fit often takes years as it’s mostly trial and error, even with all the great methodologies out there. Settle in for a long journey and know that it’s a critical step in the process.