5 Questions with Ovidiu Negrean (SocialBee): lessons learned, launching your product and product/market fit

After 10+ years of experience working in various companies, ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies, while also having some entrepreneurial ventures in between, Ovidiu Negrean jumped full-time on the startup bandwagon with nugget (acquired) and he is now focused on SocialBee.

Ovidiu developed the Alternative Startup Methodology that shifts the conventional startup model by focusing on the Sell -> Service -> Scale sequence. Instead of building a product nobody wants to pay for, or even instead of creating an MVP, you have to SELL the results first -> SERVICE the customer second -> and only then SCALE your business.

Q1: Your first app –  nugget –  had a tremendous success on Product Hunt, yet you decided to close it down. What did you learn from your experience with nugget?

I’ve learned a lot about the difference between a vitamin (as nugget was) and a pain killer (as SocialBee is). Indeed, some people take vitamins to become even better, but for most people, this is just a nice thing to have. When you have a massive headache you must get rid of it fast,so you quickly look for a pain killer. People (and especially companies) are more likely to pay for a pain killer than a vitamin.

Q2: When is the right time to launch a product? Do you go live with bugs or do you make it absolutely perfect before that?

Reid Hoffman (co-founder and former CEO of LinkedIn) said: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” I totally agree.

Most of the startups don’t build a life-or-death project – like a health device or an airplane flying software. If you do, maybe iron out the bugs before you go live. But if that’s not you, it’s best to launch early and launch often.

Your initial users or customers will be the early adopters. They’re the ones that try out all the new shiny toys – and they know that they can expect bugs or missing functionality. As you will get feedback from this early batch of users/customers and your product will mature, you’ll also start attracting the rest of the market. But in order to get there, you need to launch, learn, improve, and then repeat.

Q3: How do you analyze a market you want to tap into? What’s your strategy?

You need to know:

  • How big is that market?
  • Is it a growing market?
  • How much of a problem is the problem you are planning to solve?
  • Do they even know they have this problem, or will you have to educate them?
  • How does the competition look like?
  • Is this a winner takes all (or a handful of winners take all) market?
  • Do you have a specific go-to-market plan?
  • Will you be able to defend your position? 

If you do your research, you can be right about your market. You don’t need to have the exact numbers or all the answers. You just need to be right with your direction.

Q4: How do you figure out the right metrics for an MVP (and the minimum numbers to hit to validate your idea)?

I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all metric for this. Depending on the market you’re serving and on your business model, you’ll have to choose different metrics. If you’re a B2C startup, you’ll probably need to track daily or monthly active users, while if you’re a B2B startup, you’ll probably have to track MRR.

This video from YCombinator gives a good overview of the different business models and their corresponding metrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTg3RZPXgLg

Q5: What should you do to build traction from the very beginning?

Especially if the founders are technical people (as it’s the case in most East-European startups), you need to make sure you also bring onboard business and marketing people as early as possible.

This is because it’s best to start working on the marketing part in parallel, as you build out your product. This way, by the time you’ll have something to launch, you’ll also have a small audience to launch it to. 

Meet him at the How to Web Conference 2019 on the 30th & 31st of October! Get your early bird ticket here: https://www.howtoweb.co/buy-tickets/.

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