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How to win investors and secure growth with the right product team

“All innovation begins with vision. It’s what happens next that’s critical.”  
– Eric Ries, The Lean Startup 

There is a certain rush in developing breakthrough product solutions. The beginning stages of the process are exhilarating. Serial entrepreneurs know this well. 

At the outset, you’re feverishly working to prove that your concept belongs in the world. That it solves a real problem and meets a real need. You do that by building a prototype, or what Eric Ries, author of “The Lean Startup,” calls the minimal viable product (MVP). 

Lean startup methodology offers an excellent product development pathway for entrepreneurs. Creating your prototype is just step one in the process. It is followed by two additional steps. Starting out, the focus of your business should be on just these three things:  

  1. Build your MVP.
  2. Measure impact by testing the MVP with different market segments.
  3. Learn if the MVP is viable as a business. 

When your concept passes these initial tests, it becomes considerably more interesting to venture capitalists. That’s usually when startups are rewarded with the backing of an angel investor. 

However, as Ries reminds us, what comes next is critical.  

Staying lean and growing smart

Securing that first round of funding certainly deserves a huge celebration. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work. More importantly, it’s validation and forward progress. The angel investment should set you up for growth and more product development. 

Smart startups focus on both. However, some get too enamored with the product (this is particularly alluring for startup founders who are developers themselves) and neglect to purposefully manage growth. That’s not particularly surprising. Scaling efforts are notoriously difficult, for seasoned and first-time entrepreneurs alike. 

Tinkering with the product and staying lean comes naturally to most startup founders. Recognizing the need for specialized skill sets and scaling their team at the right time are often more difficult skills to acquire. 

Support for your MVP

Ideally, you’d use your angel investment to keep momentum going and your business growing. You can now hire a few employees and stand up a real business infrastructure. That doesn’t always happen, however. In many cases, growth ends with the addition of a couple developers to beef up the “Build. Measure. Learn.” cycle. 

A common misconception, often observed in developer-founders, is the idea that the product concept is good enough, innovative enough, disruptive enough to stand on its own. Of course, no matter how good the product is, it won’t design itself, market itself or walk itself over to your customers. 

Many startups stay small in the name of leanness, but there is such a thing as being too lean. The (sometimes difficult to accept) truth is, your minimal viable product requires a considerable amount of support in order to achieve market relevance. 

Validating your MVP is a great start, but there’s a long list of goals that have to be completed before your product even reaches the marketplace. That work can’t be done without expertise across a number of key areas. 

To give your minimal viable product proper support, you need to build out a minimal viable product team. 

A Minimal Viable Product team to impress Series A investors

It’s not just your MVP that’s counting on you to build out a great team. Your potential future investors are, too. 

Financial analysts look for certain benchmarks to evaluate startup investment opportunities. One of the biggest determining factors in your ability to raise future capital and continue your growth is the strength and capabilities of your product team. 

Demonstrating that strength decreases the risk for your future financial backers. Why? Because your investors understand that competency across a specific set of product development and business disciplines improves the chances of the product making it to market. They hope to find a comprehensive product team with expertise across the following concentrations. 

User Experience (UX) and Market Research 

You’re building a product for a particular audience or group. As such, you need to understand your customers as deeply as possible. The insights you gain into your target audiences will help you throughout the product development cycle. This information will guide everything: the effective design of user interfaces, the targeting of appropriate marketing and distribution channels and, most importantly, the innovation and evolution of your product idea. 

User Interface Design 

The customer insights gleaned from research and testing have to be translated into compelling, intuitive user experiences. The goal is not to build just a great product, but to create a solution that evolves over time and enhances the ability of the customer to resolve their problem. You have to continually ideate and test new concepts, and you need outstanding product design to deliver fresh approaches. 

Software Engineering 

You also need a deep team of software developers to write the code and build out the product architecture and features. The MVP is just the first of many iterations of your ever-evolving product solution. The “Build. Measure. Learn.” cycle continues perpetually. 

Marketing and Growth

Customer insights aren’t just helpful for tactical purposes. Understanding your end users well holds immense strategic value, allowing you to reach key market segments in more effective and targeted ways. You’ll need to leverage those insights to identify the most productive marketing channels, chart your distribution strategy and look ahead to future product iterations and growth.

Creative Direction 

An eye for creative design and outstanding communications skills are two other critical capabilities. Defining how your brand will be seen and experienced by your customers has to be a top priority. As is shaping your go-to-market product messaging strategy and ongoing marketing and communication efforts.  

Product Management  

Bringing a product to market requires many different areas of expertise to work harmoniously. However, each discipline’s track can lead in diverging directions. To realize efficiency with your product development process, you need a traffic cop, or product manager, to manage all the tracks. At various points in the product development cycle, each discipline takes a turn as the most important. Product managers help to flip that switch, while prioritizing the overall health of the product. 

Executive Leadership 

There is also a need for someone to prioritize the health of the business. This job is best served by the founder. As we’ve pointed out previously, the business is bigger than the product. For startup founders with technical know-how, like design, coding, or user data analysis, that means putting aside your skill set to focus on the bigger picture. Your investors are evaluating your business on its potential for growth. They want to see an executive with a steady eye on the future, not one down in the weeds. 

Scale smart by outsourcing growth 

There’s another reason to create competency across the above areas of expertise. A multi-disciplinary focus ensures that all necessary perspectives contribute to strategic discussions and problem-solving efforts. A collaborative, holistic approach to product development increases the chances that your product concept becomes a breakthrough solution.

That said, it can take years to acquire the required expertise in-house to build your product and scale your business properly. In many cases, the smarter, faster, and easier way to get your product from concept to market is to hire a knowledgeable product development agency with an excellent track record of success. The right knowledge at the right time often makes all the difference.  

Need a little help getting your product concept to the finish line? As a comprehensive product team, we offer a holistic set of skills across the entire product lifecycle. Crush & Lovely can help you get your solution ready for prime time. Let’s talk.