Part One — Our Approach to Product/Market Fit

By Zypsy
July 21, 2021

Here at Zypsy, we partner with early-stage founders and teams to co-design their path to "Product/Market Fit" (PMF).

Instead of taking on project-based work, we focus solely on long-term partnerships with selected startups. Through our work thus far, we've found that by aligning our goals with the goals of our founders, we can execute towards improving the trajectory of their companies, and put them on a path towards sustainable growth.

Aligning on the definition of Product/Market Fit

There are many interpretations of what product/market fit is and how to achieve it. Let's start by clarifying a few things, beginning with the definition, before moving on to the "how".

“Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market. In a great market — a market with lots of real potential customers, the market pulls product out of the startup."
— Marc Andreessen

Why does it matter?

Reaching PMF can increase the chances of growth for a founder by directing the company's efforts and, therefore, its overall trajectory. It allows teams to more deeply understand whether or not they're working on solving a real problem that a market has.

For early-stage companies, time is precious and it would be counterproductive to concentrate on growth before first confirming that you have the right product in the right market.

Segment co-founder, Calvin French-Owen, shared his view relating the feeling of push and pull when describing the difference between being pre and post-product/market fit.

“ always felt like we had to push our ideas on other people. We had to nag people to use the product. When we hit PMF, we started feeling 'pull' for the first time. We solved one problem for people... so they started asking us to solve a second, third, fourth, and fifth. Most of our early product iteration was just responding to customer requests.”
— Calvin French-Owen, Co-founder at Segment

As you can imagine, PMF alone doesn't ensure the ability to construct a prosperous business. Many founders obsess over scaling a company prematurely, meaning they emphasize growth before PMF.

Lenny Rachitsky, after interviewing post-PMF tech CEOs, published a framework for what he believes you need to solve to reach "true product-market fit". His findings and framework (below) demonstrate how  "building a product people want" is only a piece of a more complex puzzle.

How is design related to product/market fit?

Our goal is to break the common, usually subconscious, misconception that design is exclusively tied to a product. When picturing the role of design in the PMF process, most people think of output-based deliverables like wireframes or high-fidelity mockups. Although visual, brand, and product design all have their place and importance along this journey, the key is to first understand the concept that design is communication. This idea can unlock the potential of design for a BPMF (before product/market fit) company and it can be put into practice at just about every stage of the process of building a flourishing business.

The core beliefs that influence our model

Great design = communication

Great design is communication and effective communication delivers who you are, and how you matter.

Great design can align for success

Design has the ability to align the founders, the market, the product, and the team, to therefore change the trajectory of a startup from obscurity to scale.

Product/market fit isn't the only factor

While not the only factor, PMF can be the most impactful in influencing a startup's chances of success because the market pulls the product rather than pushing the product on the market.

Design early and often for the deepest impact

Great design can make the most impressive effect on a startup's velocity during its early days, which are critical for the company's health.

Our approach to product/market fit

Along with our key beliefs, we've been crafting and evolving a framework that allows for our team to integrate with founders, assimilate existing information about their market, and develop products and teams from an early stage. These practices have enabled us to have a holistic understanding of the market, their team, and key milestones before testing and developing solutions alongside them.

Through our work, we strive to find a balance between:

The Market

Users, their need(s) and motivation

The Founders

Founding (leadership) team members

The Team

All employees, contractors, partners, investors‍, advisors, and other internal stakeholders

The Product

The solution, model, and distribution channels

These categories are connected to one another in a unique way. In this series, each month we'll dive deeper into our approach to achieving product/market fit, the primary "fits" that we hope to balance with our portfolio companies, and our core belief that communication is the key to long-term startup health.

In this series, we dive deeper into our approach to achieving product/market fit, the primary "fits" that we hope to balance with our portfolio companies, and our core belief that communication is the key to long-term startup health.

Part One — Our Approach to Product/Market Fit
Part Two — Partnering with Founder/Market Fit
Part Three — Defining Market/Product Fit
Part Four — Designing for Product/Market Fit

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