With OC4 Studio Head of Product, Tracy Stevens

How many times have you heard about a product that is launched with much fanfare but then never truly delivers on the hype? The truth is that, depending on your industry, 70-95% of new products fail (1).  So how can you escape the fate awaiting the overwhelming majority of new products?

Market Validation is a process to mitigate the likelihood of developing a product that underperforms relative to expectations. The three key areas of Market Validation are:

  1. Problem
  2. Product
  3. Business Model


I started my career in Product Management at Intuit 20+ years ago. The founder, Scott Cook, had a famous quote that I’ve carried forward into every role since: “If you want to build a big business, solve a big problem.” One of the key factors in success is making sure that your efforts are focused on something that is a significant pain point for a large number of people. As crazy as it sounds this gets overlooked often by the allure of a “cool” interface or exciting new technology. This isn’t to say that design and technology aren’t important--they are critical elements to delivering a great solution. But the first priority is to make sure that those things are employed in service of solving an important customer problem that is not well solved today.


So, assuming that you’ve done the work to identify and deeply understand a genuine customer problem, how do you develop a solution that is Useful, Usable and Desirable (i.e., solves a problem they care about, in a way that is intuitive, with an experience that is so great they will choose it over other solutions)? This is a huge topic and we’ll be deep-diving here in future posts, but the main idea is that you don’t run off and build what you believe is a great solution without validating your assumptions with your target users along the way. No matter how well-intentioned you are about delivering a great product, you will significantly increase your likelihood of success by engaging with users early and often to brainstorm, concept, and test various potential solutions and iterate quickly toward what you are then going to build.

Business Model

“A product without a business model is art.” I don’t remember where I first heard this so unfortunately I can’t give proper attribution, but I love this quote. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of product design and development--of bringing something new and beautiful into the world. But if you can’t get people to use it--or they use it and love it but will not pay for it (and you have no other mechanisms to capture the value you created) then you aren’t going to have a business. Creating value for users is incredible...but insufficient. Art and charity have their place--and when your business is wildly successful, you will be in a position to have more of both of those in your life.

So those are the three foundational elements of Market Validation. Some people refer to this as “Product Discovery” (2) – and if their definition of product discovery includes a component of the business model or monetization/value recovery assumptions, then they can be used interchangeably. But sometimes Product Discovery is defined as activities that are more narrowly focused on the ability to deliver a delightful product – which is great but, as discussed above, not sufficient.

At OC4V we’re helping founders to ensure that they are performing these Market Validation activities as quickly and cost-effectively as possible–to reduce risk and accelerate their success. Look for more of those success stories in the weeks ahead.

By Tracy Stevens

Head of Product @ OC4 Venture Studio


Tracy has held Product and Design leadership roles for many companies including GoDaddy, Appfolio, and Intuit, and is an expert in all things product.

Learn more about OC4 Venture Studio and how we build companies.

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