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Focus on needs, not features

Back when I used to help run the Matter Ventures accelerator for media startups (which I really miss doing!), Pete Mortensen ran the program in San Francisco while I ran investments. (Over in New York, Josh Lucido and Roxann Stafford were our counterparts respectively.)

I think it was Pete who introduced one of my favorite examples of checkbox development: when product developers try and add as many features as possible instead of figuring out what the user’s core needs are and focusing on that. It’s always a terrible approach that leads to a spaghetti mess of code and features, which makes it hard to provide a focused message or even to maintain your code over time.

Anyway, rather than try and argue the point, as I might have done, Pete simply showed them the video for the Pontiac Stinger:

Who is this car for? Why is there a garden hose?

Focus on needs, not features is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a developer. After all, for me and people like me, writing software and adding features is fun. As a people pleaser, I intrinsically want to say “yes” to every new ask. But the trick is always to build the smallest, most focused possible thing that deeply serves the people you’re building for. And of course, the first step is always to know who they are, and get to a holistic understanding of them that is better than anyone else’s. Otherwise, how can you possibly build something for them?

The Pontiac Stinger is a great example of what not to do - and one that’s far more memorable than any argument.

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