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The Perils of Falling in Love (With Your Product)


Core product features are a funny thing.

They differentiate you.

They uniquely solve your users’ challenges.

For startups they get you in the game.

They disrupt the status quo.

They drive early traction.


It is easy to get attached to them.

You are proud of them.

You get addicted to the response you get.

You can’t wait to show them off to anyone and everyone.

They are essential to gaining product/market fit.

But here’s the rub.

Some beloved features may impede your path to scale.


Consider the following.

We built a cloud integration platform.

It had a powerful user interface.

No code was required to solve complex challenges.


Business and data analysts were empowered.

They could get things done without that scarcest of creature; the programmer.

It became really popular with resellers of CRM applications.

Their impediment to growth was removed.

They completed more customer projects; better and faster.


We then turned attention to an adjacent market.

SaaS software providers had a similar problem.

Customers needed to integrate their application to a host of other apps.

Without integration effectiveness was diminished.

Customers did not get full value.


The SaaS providers began building integrations themselves.

Product managers could not keep up with the demand.

There were too many integrations; not enough programmers.

They needed a better way.


We began selling our platform as an embedded offering.

One that the SaaS Provider could include as part of their product.

The SaaS Provider’s business and data analysts were again empowered.

They could create solutions for customers outside of engineering.

A handful signed up and had success.

We thought we were on to something big.


A funny thing happened though.

Our embedded business flattened out.

We had difficulty increasing our velocity.

It was a classic ‘chasm’ moment.


We stepped back and reassessed.

We conducted a series of interviews with SaaS Providers.

We ask a set of consistent and structured questions.

Our mission was to identify the friction preventing faster growth.

After 10 to 15 interviews the answer became obvious.

We had not fully accounted for a new persona.

The decisions were being delayed or thwarted by the CTO or architect.

We labeled this persona Sheldon.


The challenge with Sheldons is they often did not reveal themselves.

Sheldons had incredible influence over the decision but remained in the shadows.

And while product managers and consultants saw opportunity, Sheldon only saw risk.

That cool user interface we were so fond of became an embodiment of that risk.

How could it possibly solve for our customers’ varied challenges?

What happens if halfway through a project, we get stuck?

What if the integration stops working?

Will we know how to fix it?

When something stops working no CTO wants to admit they don’t know how it works.

There is safety and security in software code.


The strength of our product had become a huge liability to Sheldon.

We had to make a huge pivot.

Our UI had to take a back seat (or at least make room in the front seat) to our platform.

We began enhancing and showcasing its Application Programming Interface or API.

We focused on how you could control the entire platform through code.

We invested heavily in our developer site and built up the community.

Our sales engagement was designed to smoke out Sheldon early.

And our velocity increased, and the business began to scale.


Markets are funny.

While they may seem the same, each segment has its own unique needs.

And those needs can shift and change across each phase of growth.

So don’t get emotionally attached to your features and messaging.

Get emotionally attached to your markets.

To quote the comedian Billy Connelly…

‘The demands are all going to change, so #$%@ing stay awake.’

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