You can build it, but can you sell it?

I’m not an engineer, scientist or technologist, nor have I every played one on TV. But I’ve found after many years of mentoring technology startups, it’s not about the technology.

In fact what I fell my mentees is I certainly believe that they can build what they say they plan to build (Though I haven’t run into invisibility cloak or perpetual motion machine inventors, yet.)

But the big question is: can you (or some 3rd party) sell it?

Too many entrepreneurs focus totally on the supply side, creating the product and seem to have an “If I will build it, they will come” attitude. Where I find most startups need help is almost always in a non-technical area: customer acquisition, team building, raising capital, creating partnerships, and other, what have been called “soft skills.”

There are always a few exceptions where the product or service is either something I am very familiar with or pretty straightforward, where I can add value in advice about features or functions – usually suggesting how to cut some to get to market sooner. But mainly I confine myself to recommendations for usability testing, A/B testing, minimal path implementation (presentation, demo, prototype, beta, MVP), tech support, feature/function prioritization, and similar issues.

And the time to start finding out if you or a third party can sell your product or service needs to be done in parallel with product development, not after you have developed your product. See Steve Blank on customer development.

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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