The following is a guest post by Assaf Guery, Co-founder at Acid (Artificial Creative Intelligence Development)

When you buy a new home or decide where to open a new office, the phrase ‘location, location, location’ comes to mind, with the repetition of the word designed to emphasize how crucial the repeated ‘thing’ is to the success of the venture. Could a repeating ‘product’ mantra be the equivalent for startups, as they set out to win global mindshare?

Product! Product! Product!

Just as a poor decision on the location for your new home or office can lead to major headaches and disappointment, so too can failing to plan and design your product wisely right from the start jeopardize its success later on. Here are some thoughts on how to approach product planning, design and development:

1. Product First.
Sometimes, especially for first time entrepreneurs, starting a company can be extremely challenging. Everything seems urgent. Hiring, business development, process, workflow, roadmap, partnerships. But first things first; if you make the product your key focus in the early stages of your business and address real user needs, growth will come and then your company will have taken its first major step.

2. Big vision, small product.
Whatever the scale of your vision, only through launching the initial product, can the first steps on the path be taken, tested and iterated upon. Concentrate on building the best product you can in a set time and release it. Launch and learn.

3. Product Management is a contact sport.
Products live or die based on usage and utility, relevance and usability. Get out there and speak to your users, see how the product is being used, what for and why. Your findings will often surprise you. What you learn will give context and meaning to the quantitative data you’re collecting, and help focus the company on the essential product requirements and real user needs that will underpin growth. That information is invaluable and – here’s the thing – you cannot get it any other way.

4. A product is a thesis to be tested.
Very few companies ‘get product/market fit right’ from day one. In fact there is no ‘right’. Once the product comes into contact with customers it will evolve based on customer feedback, new ideas generated internally, changes in its ecosystem, competitor products and more. Product/market fit is an ongoing process.

5. Business as usual? Think again.
Start-ups often begin by developing a technology and then looking for a user-base that they may address with it. Working tirelessly to refine the concept until you can clearly, concisely and coherently communicate why you’re building what your building, who you’re building it for and why they need it, might set you on a better path. Are you solving a pain or providing a gain? Ask yourself why is what you’re building truly valuable to your customers and why will they continue using it.

6. Your product can’t live in a vacuum.
As more and more products come to market at increasing speed, the best align themselves with existing and emerging products, remaining constantly aware of their competitors and other complementary product trajectories. They offer strong, well-documented API’s and continually integrate with 3rd party solutions (Aha! and Slack are a couple good examples). This helps maintain their relevance and value to their customers’ evolving needs. For maximum effectiveness, play nice with others and make sure you connect to a broader product ecosystem.

7. Work in small interdisciplinary teams.
A product manager, a designer and a developer. Define, prototype, test, iterate. Review and repeat. Small teams are nimble, communicative and unencumbered by politics. They move fast and find it easier to focus.

8. Don’t fall in love with your product.
This is hard to do. A product lives outside the company and it only works if your users say it does. You’ve invested countless weeks and months to bring it to market so set it free and see how it fares. Listen to feedback, track usage patterns and incorporate your findings into the next release. Uncouple your passion for creating a great product from your emotional ties to the product itself. Be open to constructive criticism. Don’t let your ego get in the way of creating the best possible product for your users.

9. The mechanics of growth are complex.
Having a truly great product is a central to startup success but it’s not enough on its own. Continually analyzing the product’s position in the minds of its users, understanding how the product is used and what value it offers, seeing usage patterns develop over time across user groups and geographies as part of a bigger ecosystem, will all help to pursue a sustainable growth strategy. Growth is a moving target. You must be prepared to constantly adjust. What was right yesterday may not be right tomorrow.

10. Celebrate your wins.
Launching your first product is a fantastic accomplishment. Celebrate this milestone and use it as a time to share gratitude, re-energize the team and refocus on the new set of tasks and goals that stand between you and the next milestone on your roadmap.

Building a great new product? What are some of your insights on product centricity and its role in startup life?

Featured Photo Credit: “River House, Serbia”. Photograph by Irene Becker.