Frédéric Dam of GV on product-to-market fit: “You have one chance to have a good experience”

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Fundraising often presented as the most important step in the founder’s journey, but it’s putting the cart before the horse.

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Until a company builds a growing base of customers who are deeply passionate about its products, asking investors for money is largely selfish. However, once a startup achieves product-to-market fit, savvy investors can compete for a chance to get involved.

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Achieving product-to-market fit is a non-linear process, which means each company must find its own path, said Frederic Dam, a GV investment partner who previously led product and engineering groups at companies such as Uber, Smugmug and Yahoo. As a partner, she offers a range of services to portfolio company founders, including recruiting, marketing and communications consulting, and product development.

In an early fireside chat at TechCrunch, we discussed her experience testing product ideas, collecting actionable customer data, building a user-centric work culture, and tackling some of the unique challenges that come with scaling teams from a few dozen people to a few thousand employees. .

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At Uber, Dame led strategic programs that helped the company grow from 80 employees to 7,000, including moving from spreadsheets to systems that provide transparency and accountability. Workers in the early stages are used to using special processes to get their jobs done when they are looking to grow, so I asked her how she approached the job culturally.

Put your ego aside and listen carefully to your customers

Trust me what you don’t know or what doesn’t work because once we invest we still have to work on it. Frederic Dam

“I think the first thing you need to do is hire people with low egos and the low egos yourself,” she said. After the launch of Uber, early customers often experienced skyrocketing prices because the platform wasn’t onboarding fast enough. In response, Deim instructed members of the company’s separate teams of riders and drivers to focus on one issue.

“We realized that there are several products that conflict…between built-in drivers, internal systems, and [including] driver directions in the app,” Dam said. “It’s important to have directions, but if you have prices skyrocketing every time you get on an Uber, or if you can’t call an Uber, Uber doesn’t make sense.”

After outreach to drivers, it became clear they weren’t listening to their customers: in 2011, most drivers used flip phones with basic web browsing capabilities. To register, many visited Internet cafes that did not use the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome.

“They viewed the error page and failed. Understanding the user journey of your customers and what you do with your product is very, very important,” said Deim. “Be obsessive and talk to customers as much as possible.”

Test as many ideas as possible (without asking engineers for help)

To achieve product-to-market fit, teams must iterate quickly and repeatedly to collect customer data, but there is an inexorable tension between the need to test new ideas and the desire to make sure the roadmaps shared with investors stay in line with actual product development processes.

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