Back in 2007, we sent out a, presumably, attractive looking Christmas & New Year greeting card to our customers. A dozen or so of them reverted with a request to make one for them as well. We obliged. It was a small job and we did not charge them for it but on probing, we figured that almost all of them would have spent an average of US$ 80 for such a card.

We sensed an opportunity in the requests. US$ 80 for one card, or even US$ 50 multiplied by the number of events globally coupled with little production effort made a great business case. Even at a 1000 cards monthly, there was potential for a self-sustaining business. Get to a million monthly cards and you have a unicorn. Simple!

In our excitement, we booked ‘CustomGreets.com’ and got cracking on the idea. We started compiling a list of all the global and regional ‘Greeting Worthy’ events, languages, potential buyer databases and design references. Much like all starts, ours too was full of excitement with 18-hour days full of activities.

The area we were least worried about was the product itself. We were a million dollar services startup, building software for giants like Discovery Channel and Bank of America. Effort-wise, this was a miniscule requirement. Piece of cake. Right?

Wrong!

CustomGreets.com never took off and the reason, believe it or not, was that we could not put together a product. This is when it hit me that a product is not just design and technology. It has many more variables that we failed to factor in.

Then there was a student portal where we crammed it with so many features that by the time we launched it, no one knew what it stood for. There were a couple of other efforts before we finally managed to get it right first with BitGifting, then with BitGiving, then CrownIt, BroEx, Pluss, HalalTrip, Khana and many others around/after that.

Products are misunderstood and often given less importance than they deserve. With few exceptions like LinkedIn, look around and you’ll see that the ‘last business standing’ is, usually, backed by a superb product.

On 13th December 2015, we’re conducting a workshop to share our experiences of the various aspects of software product development for startups and others. The details are on the link below.

http://www.hellomeets.com/t9l

See you there!


Originally published at medium.com on December 6, 2015.