The first win: Getting early customers to take a chance with you

New companies face innumerable challenges around fine-tuning their product and constructing the appropriate revenue model. You may be looking ahead to raising some funds and trying to juggle the administrative aspects of running a business, but before all that, the purpose of your company is to sell your solution and generate revenue.

But to do that requires customers, so how do you get someone to take a chance with you?

To answer that question, we convened a panel of three technology industry veterans at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 last week. The panel included Kate Taylor, head of customer experience at Notion; Pablo Viguera, co-CEO and co-founder of Belvo; and Vineet Jain, CEO and co-founder of Egnyte.

Beyond their body of experience in helping build successful startups, each of these panelists’ companies have taken a very different approach to generating revenue. Egnyte, a content storage and management platform, is more of a straight enterprise sale, while Notion, a collaboration and content organization tool, uses the freemium model and then upsells to paid subscriptions with additional features. Belvo, for its part, is a financial services API provided to developer organizations and is monetized when the API is added to products and people use them.

Viguera says you shouldn’t try to do too much with the product initially. Get something out the door and get customers to tell you what they think. “In the early days, the v1 that you’re shipping, that you’re building, will hardly be anything like what you have two years down the road or 10 years down the road. So focus on getting a lot of feedback, not only in the early days, but over time. Really build in those feedback loops and be really deliberate about seeking feedback, even if it’s a complex business,” he said.

At the same time, Taylor says, you can’t let customer feedback push and pull you in too many directions. You have to find a set of committed users and let that core help you guide the product. “[You have to] manage the distractions, because there are a lot of different ways that you can take the product, and a lot of different feedback that you’ll hear. So find those engaged voices, and the people you’re going to bring in the circle that are helping you understand where to grow,” she said.