5 things I learned when Google let me work at a startup for 2 weeks…

1. Know your first user really well

Your product or solution is very unlikely to be for everyone. Even if you think more than a billion people might need it in the future, they’re unlikely to be looking for it right now. Before you jump into the mainstream, focus on getting your power users. Think through who your early adopters might be.

  1. “mental-health curious”
  2. “over-spillers”
  3. “mindful self developers”
Audience segmentation is essential

2. Always try to measure your ROI

The Spill team had experimented with several creative ways to get people to try Spill: from sending chewed pencils to journalists to flash counseling around London landmarks to posing as undercover counsellors on dating apps.

Sending chewed pencils for journalists
Posing as undercover counsellors on Bumble

3. Focus is a virtue

One of the things I was really impressed about by the Spill team was their undying focus. They were fantastic at focussing on one thing at a time. A startup is extremely resource constrained so the last thing it needs is its team to spread too thin. They stayed focussed on one task at a time and quickly moved onto the next, saying no to things that didn’t relate to those tasks.

4. Document and test: Docs & Sheets > Decks

A learning from my first week was that experimentation is often prioritized over documentation in startups. This is often because documentation is seen as a waste of time given that so much is in flux. During my second week, I noticed that the lack of documentation causes a lot of frustration and miscommunication. The primary purpose of documentation is to standardize things that work well and share that with others. Documentation is fantastic for communicating and formulating ideas — it ultimately can turn personal knowledge or gut feeling into a group asset. The Spill team built their first definitive product roadmap while I was there.

5. Do things that don’t scale

Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, famously wrote an essay titled Do things that don’t scale, which is very much the premise of my final learning. It’s ultimately very rare that an app becomes virally popular organically without any push. Startups often have to recruit users manually (Airbnb recruited new users door to door) before they hit traction. This may seem counterintuitive to reaching “scalable growth” but if you look at it through the lens of compound growth, take weekly growth rate say of 20% week over week, 50 users on week 0 to 60 users on week 1, within a year you hit 655k users!

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Robin Bhaduri

Robin Bhaduri

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Former Product Manager @Google. Worked in 3 different continents across lots of different product. Former Co-founder @Luna