The man who built products at Stripe, Twitter, Google, and Yahoo reveals how to find the elusive product-market fit

In the latest episode of Prime Ventures Podcast, Shreyas Doshi, former Product Manager at Stripe and Twitter, offers insights on the building phase of a product for early-stage entrepreneurs and reveals the most important principle of finding product-market fit.

Product-market fit is an elusive concept for most startups out there, but Shreyas Doshi has achieved it for incumbents like Google, Twitter, and Stripe repeatedly. 

His secret is simple: make sure you are trying to solve a problem that is among the top three of the customer’s business priority list. 

Shreyas left his product manager post at Stripe only recently and now works as a product advisor to budding startups. He says product-market fit is highly context-based and there is no one framework that all businesses can blindly follow.

He elaborates on the strategy to finding product-market fit by referring to his vast experience, with incumbents and early-stage startups. He says product managers generally ask businesses about problems they are facing at present and then build a product to solve that problem. Three months later, when the product is ready and the product manager presents the solution to the customer, the reply is generally, “Oh, the product is great but we are not looking to tackle this problem right now.” This is repeated six months later as well as priorities of any business keep on changing.

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Shreyas feels product managers should instead try to determine the top problems that have constantly been plaguing customers for some time.

“I follow the customer problem stack rank technique to understand their top three priorities. I ask various questions to find out the general problems that the customer is facing and then rank them, based on the customer’s business priorities. Then, I look to build a product that will solve one of those top problems,” he says, about his technique to find product-market fit.

No available template 

Shreyas is clear that there is no specific template and that an entrepreneur should not have one because that “shifts the focus from quality to quantity”. 

“Basic questions like how do you go about your work or what are the problems that you are encountering should get the conversation started. From there, you need to pay attention to the most surprising thing that the customer says during the conversation. That can become your starting point for building the right product for the customer.”

He shares a unique observation about buying habits of customers, especially in the context of B2B and SaaS domains. 

“I have seen that if you can offer an incentive with your product that makes the buying decision easier, your product almost always succeeds. For example, if your product can prevent the decision-maker on the customer’s side from getting fired, you are almost always certain to make a sale,” he says. 

Achieving product-market fit

Once you have pinpointed the problem that you need to solve, building the product to the product-market fit stage is another journey altogether. 

Here, Shreyas’s strategy is to build a minimum loveable product rather than a minimum viable product. He achieves that by simulating a conversation between the customer and his/her friend.

“Assume that the customer of your product is having a conversation with a friend in a casual setting. And the friend happens to reveal a personal or professional problem that your product can solve. What is that one statement that your customer will tell to introduce your product to his/her friend?” he asks. 

Once you have the answer, Shreyas recommends that you build your product around that statement and try to achieve that description, concurrently addressing the table stakes that you absolutely need to include in the product.

To know more about Shreyas’ take on getting the right product-market fit, listen to the podcast here

Edited by Teja Lele