What Should a Non-technical Founder Be Doing While a Developer Is Building Their Product?

What Should a Non-technical Founder Be Doing While a Developer Is Building Their Product?

Contrary to what some non-technical founder’s believe, a great SaaS product isn’t built by giving a programmer a list of requirements and then waiting as they work in solitary confinement for a few weeks to produce a polished Minimal Viable Product (MVP).

Rather, building a great product is a process that involves constant interaction with the product’s potential users. You need to discover what your customers want, and use this information to improve your product via repeated cycles of product development and customer feedback.

So just like your developer, CTO, or technical co-founder, from day one you should be focused on building the best product possible.

It’s your job to find early adopters in your market, share your product vision with them, and to work together during each iteration of the product development process to shape your product into something that solves their problems in an optimal manner.

This is your ideal workflow:

  1. To start, talk to as many people in your potential market as possible. Discover their most pressing problems.
  2. Use the information gleamed from these interactions to decide what key product features might be most important for solving these problems. You can’t know for sure if these are really key features at this point, you can only make educated guesses based on the information that people in your market share with you.
  3. Put yourself in your user’s shoes, and write some user stories for these features from their perspective.
  4. Show these stories to a designer and have them produce some basic UI layouts. Show some potential customers these and get their feedback. Revise if needed.
  5. Prioritize these stories so that the most powerful features will be built first. This is your product roadmap.
  6. Working in weekly or biweekly blocks of time (sprints), your developer, CTO, or technical co-founder can build the first iteration of your product, following the prioritized roadmap. After the first sprint, you should have your most important feature(s) working.
  7. Now it’s your turn again. Introduce what you’ve built so far to early adopters. Gather their feedback on the first iteration of your product. Is it getting closer to solving their problems? What’s missing? Are you completely off course?
  8. Using this new information, revise your product roadmap to fix any issues you’ve uncovered. Make these fixes in the next iteration of development.
  9. Continue this cycle of development and feedback gathering. Eventually, you’ll reach the point where your customers tell you that your product is solving their problems. This is your MVP. Your customers determine when you’ve reached the MVP stage, not you.
  10. Stop adding features at this point and polish what you have to make the customer’s experience rock-solid.

As the non-technical co-founder, you’re a vital part of every stage of this process. You’re the conduit between the customer and your development team. Your understanding of the customer and their problems is what will make or break your product.

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