Interview with a Successful Startup Founder

Spending $12K to Build a Product With Poor Market Fit

Ömer Taban
Ömer Taban
June 22, 2021
Category of startup
Productivity
Country of startup
Turkey
Revenue of startups
Interview with a Failed Startup Founder

Spending $12K to Build a Product With Poor Market Fit

Ömer Taban
Ömer Taban
June 22, 2021
Category of startup
Productivity
Country of startup
Turkey
Cause of failure of the startup
Bad Market Fit

Ömer launched patron.ai, a gamification platform for developer teams. After promoting it on Twitter and Product Hunt without getting much traction, he decided to shut down the project. That decision was mainly due to a lack of product-market fit and not talking enough to users that signed up.

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Hi Ömer! Who are you and what are you currently working on?

I am a 28 years old product manager who has a 6+ years software engineering background. I am based in Turkey. I work as a technical product manager in a startup. Also, I am sharing product management stories in my blog. 

I went through an entrepreneurship journey between 2018-2020. Our product was patron.ai. Initially, it was a task management system with some project planning utilizers then pivoted to a gamification platform for developer teams. I was Co-Founder & Lead Developer. We had to shut down the project due to a lack of product-market fit.


What’s your background and how did you come with Patron.ai’s idea?

My background is Back-End & Embedded Software Engineering. While I was working in a company as an embedded software engineer, I met with Asana and I didn’t find it sufficient. My idea was that current tools at that time were not able to help with project management. They just allow you to keep some records, nothing more.

So I decided to make a project management tool that could report useful information to project managers, especially in project planning.  For example, if there is a new task to assign, this project should suggest which team member is the best fit in terms of time and skill set. We wanted to develop a project management tool that helps to manage and not only keeps records.

Patron.ai Illustration


How did you go from idea to product?

It took 8 months to publish v1.0. We were 2 people. Onur Aslan and I. Onur was developing the frontend and I was developing the backend. I was managing the relations with 3rd parties as well. 

We have used VueJS in the frontend and Flask-Python in the backend. We have used Firebase and Google Analytics as well. 

Maybe the biggest challenge was defining feature sets. It was difficult because we didn’t have clear user stories. So we implemented some features based on our guesses.

Patron.ai Profile Feature


When we launched we didn’t have a proper launch strategy. We just announced it on Linkedin and Twitter. We got really good engagement on these platforms. Then someone listed us on Product Hunt and the product was shared in some email lists. We got 600 signups in a few days. It was very exciting. We couldn’t sleep during the night. 

In terms of pricing strategy, we wanted to make it free for up to 10 users. After that, we would charge 3 to 5 dollars per month per user. We just wanted people to use and give feedback so we removed the price tag.

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Which were the strategies to grow your business?

We didn’t have a strong marketing strategy. Both co-founders were coming from technical backgrounds. So we didn’t realize that marketing is the most important part. We had a mindset like “We will make it and they will come”. They did come actually but nobody was retained :)  

But we did some campaigns through Reddit, Linkedin, and Twitter to draw more traffic. I created some funny posts for developers and designers and shared them in subreddits. We kept posting updates about our project on Twitter and Linkedin. It somehow worked, we got some traffic but retention was low, unfortunately.


When did things start to go in the wrong direction?

We lost all users in 4 weeks. It was a devastating situation. We have talked with users about why they signed up and why they left the product.

Most of them mentioned they liked the product but it's very costly for them to migrate. Also, our value proposition was not outstanding so they had some doubts about the value as well.

We decided to pivot. Patron.ai was not a project management system anymore, we were going to make it a gamification platform integrated with current project management tools. We aimed to increase productivity in businesses by gamification. We set some features to develop. We made the integration with Jira. We re-activated the website.

Patron.ai Scoring Workspace

We couldn't get enough traction. I applied some marketing tactics to drive traffic to the website. I showed activity on Reddit, Twitter. We got the traffic but still very low retention.

We listen to people, do some changes, fix bugs but no tangible outcome. We entered a process called the Product Death Cycle.

This process makes you focus on what they want instead of what they need. So it leads to frustration.

Pivot was a very early decision. Pivot means a new hypothesis for a fundamental change. And these hypotheses should be based on analytics & data. We should pay more attention to measurements of conversion funnels and user journey maps.

Which were the causes of Patron.ai’s failure?

To sum up we could do better if we had:

  • Strong User-Stories (Independent, testable, small)
  • Strong Funnel Design
  • Proper Conversion Measurement Tools


Which were your expenses? Did you achieve any revenue? In the end, how much money did you lose?

Unfortunately, we couldn't achieve any revenue. We spent around 12K$ to build and market it.


If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

I would spend more time on creating strong user stories, reduce the estimations, and collect more data at the beginning. 

Patron.ai Product


Which are your favorite entrepreneurial resources?

There are some books every entrepreneur should read I believe, 


People to Follow

  • Arvid Khal
  • Corey Haines


Websites to hang on

  • Indie Hackers
  • Needgap


Where can we go to learn more?

If you want to get the juice out of my experiences, check my website. I also write about product management and software development on my Twitter.

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