The product cadence is all about knowing how to pace product releases. A seed deal in Q2, 2011 reminded of the importance of the cadence. I loved the company’s product vision; it was in an area that I’ve been working in for a while across a variety of companies and will take a new approach to a very old and persistent problem.

The entrepreneurs of this company had been living the specific problem for a long time and believed they have a unique and very informed way to solve it. Given that the company had no funding to date, the founders had been scrappy and have cobbled together a really impressive prototype that they’d been using to get early customer feedback. It was an ambitious product vision that required some time to fully roll out.

In lean startup language, they had a minimal viable product. However, they were faced with two choices. The first was to polish and release the current prototype.The second was to use the prototype to continue to explore and understand the specific customer fit while building a production version from scratch that incorporates much of what they learned during the prototype development.


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The product cadence is all about knowing how to pace product releases. A seed deal in Q2, 2011 reminded of the importance of the cadence. I loved the company’s product vision; it was in an area that I’ve been working in for a while across a variety of companies and will take a new approach to a very old and persistent problem.

The entrepreneurs of this company had been living the specific problem for a long time and believed they have a unique and very informed way to solve it. Given that the company had no funding to date, the founders had been scrappy and have cobbled together a really impressive prototype that they’d been using to get early customer feedback. It was an ambitious product vision that required some time to fully roll out.

In lean startup language, they had a minimal viable product. However, they were faced with two choices. The first was to polish and release the current prototype.The second was to use the prototype to continue to explore and understand the specific customer fit while building a production version from scratch that incorporates much of what they learned during the prototype development.

In their case, the customer was a business customer rather than a mass market consumer web product. Consequently, having 100,000 free users was not important in the immediate term — I wanted to see them have 100 paying customers which could translate in several thousand users across all of these customers, as our premise was that organizations would have between 1 and 100 early users of the product.

We spent a lot of time in a key meeting talking about this choice as well as overall product cadence. We left it up to the founders to figure out what they wanted to do and what they wanted the cadence to be, but we encouraged a one year top-down view, rather than a quarterly bottoms-up view. We encouraged them to look at where they want to be in a year (remember, this is a seed deal, so we have plenty of ability and desire to continue to fund as they make progress, with or without new investors) and work backwards to a product cadence that works for them.

I didn’t dictate for them to have a once a week, twice a month, once a month, or once a quarter release cycle. But I was fine with any of them as long as they picked the cadence and stuck with it. Given my deep belief in an agile development approach, I didn’t really care what’s in the actual incremental releases at this point as I fully expected the furthest out they would be able to see was one quarter.

It reminded me of something I often tell TechStars teams: “slow down to speed up.” I see so many startups rushing to just get stuff out, without thinking hard about what that stuff is and why anyone would care. Part of this is lack of understanding of what you are trying to accomplish, but some of this is a lack of product cadence. When you have a clearly defined cadence (e.g., a monthly release) you can focus on “what’s next” while in parallel explore “what’s after next.” But in the absence of a cadence, you are always working on “what’s next” and never looking out any further.

Comment by Brian Lim
Product cadence is a good discipline especially at the seed startup mode when culture and good habits get established. My mantra to the product development teams at a startup is "get closure," as in "let's get closure on this before we open that." BTW, closure can be "completed" or "released with known bugs" or "killed because it sucks"... just a non-zombie ending.
April 2011
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