A Note on Pre-Prototyping and Product Development

How beautiful does your product have to be for your first sale? To make it short: it doesn’t even have to exist.

As an entrepreneur, what can be incredibly challenging is to sell your product without even having it yet. As challenging, technically and morally, as this may be, this is the approach used by the most successful entrepreneurs.

Pascal Weinberger, one of the EWOR founders, has raised 8-figure amounts for his venture without having built a full product. It is also said that Pascal Kaufmann, the founder of Starmind, which counts 8-figure yearly revenues, has made his first million in sales without one single line of code produced.

The motto is: sell first, build second. Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness.

Ways that might help you along the way are:

  1. Build your product with your customer. Convince the customer that if she wants to benefit from your product most, a notion of ‘co-development’ is needed. You will hence devote the first month to adjusting the product to the customer. This first month will already ‘cost’ and will give you enough leeway in terms of money and time to get further coders, or whatever is needed to build your product, involved.
  2. Offer your product for free. Only do this if the barrier to entry is incredibly high. Provide the customer with good arguments for as to why you will offer your product for free, such as you being interested in listing them as a reference customer later on.
  3. Build a pseudo-team. If your product/service requires specially skilled talent, find that talent and convince them to join your pseudo-team. This means they will be on your slide decks and are potentially available for work later on, but do not have an executive function yet. Listing a team of 3-10 high performers when selling your product to the customer may be the convincing factor. Once you’ve closed the deal, the pseudo-team turns into your real team and starts working on creating the service/product. If you do not sell your product/service, the pseudo-team remains dormant. 
  4. Turn your product into a service: Disguise your product as a (consulting) service. If you have a strong, experienced team, you may be able to convince a customer that has an especially strong need to buy a service from you that creates a specific solution for that customer. Do this if you can standardise this solution and later on sell it to several further customers with minimal effort. Using this trick, the initial customer may fund your product development without knowing it.