Feature vs. technology vs. product vs. service


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I’m finding that the founders I’m mentoring tend to be confused about what it is they are building and what they will try to sell when it’s built.

Here’s a short attempt at clarifying the differences:

  • A feature is a distinctive attribute of a complete product. Features can be added to existing products. Features are not salable. Features are most commonly customer-facing. They are very hard to protect from copying. Note how Facebook has copied several key features from SnapChat. Features can easily be built by an individual.


  • Technology is the engine of a product. It is not user-facing. It should  be designed into the product from the get-go. as it can be hard to add in later. Technology may be proprietary, open source or a mix of the two. Technology can be sold, if it can be added to an existing product. For example, an API to your recommendation engine could be licensed to added to an existing consumer purchasing app. Technology can be protected by patents or as trade secrets. Note how IBM is marketing and selling its Watson technology. Technology can be built by by an individual but normally requires a team.


  • A product stands alone. It can be sold outright, licensed or sold on a subscription basis. It can be bundled with a service. If your product is successful you will have many copy-cats. Products generally are sold by companies not individuals, as they are the most complex and difficult to build, sell, and support.


  • A service is an ongoing activity by the vendor that delivers value to the customer. A service can be delivered by people or machines. If sold as a standalone it is almost always on a subscription basis. Technical support is a very common service provided to buyers of technology-driven products.

What you are selling determines your customer, your business model and your customer acquisition process – the guts of your business. So make sure you and your team have a clear idea of what it is you are building and are all aligned that goal.



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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