Measuring Product Market Fit

For any early stage startup, getting to product market fit before running out of money is priority number zero. What is product market fit? Marc Andressen defines it as the following:

You can always feel when product/market fit is not happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of blah,’ the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close.

And you can always feel product/market fit when it is happening. The customers are buying the product just as fast as you can make it — or usage is growing just as fast as you can add more servers. Money from customers is piling up in your company checking account. You’re hiring sales and customer support staff as fast as you can. Reporters are calling because they’ve heard about your hot new thing and they want to talk to you about it. You start getting entrepreneur of the year awards from Harvard Business School. Investment bankers are staking out your house.

Rahul Vohra, the founder of Superhuman, struggled initially to get product market fit. Until, he discovered a leading metric to help determine if they were at product market fit:

The product/market fit definitions I had found were vivid and compelling, but they were lagging indicators — by the time investment bankers are staking out your house, you already have product/market fit. Instead, Ellis had found a leading indicator: just ask users how would you feel if you could no longer use the product?” and measure the percent who answer very disappointed.”

After benchmarking nearly a hundred startups with his customer development survey, Ellis found that the magic number was 40%. Companies that struggled to find growth almost always had less than 40% of users respond very disappointed,” whereas companies with strong traction almost always exceeded that threshold.
November 19, 2021

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