← Techstars Blog

Selling a software product? Selling more than one? You may need to pivot entirely, or kill one of those products. Sometimes the signs are easy to see, but sometimes not; here are some I’ve encountered in companies I’ve built or worked with:

1. The engineers supporting the product are showing signs of low self-esteem, poor health, unhappiness and/or above-average grumpiness.

2. Salespeople really don’t like to sell it (hate it, even), or have stopped trying to sell it, or the sales team has stopped asking for new features for the product.

3. The team is afraid to criticize the product because they think the CEO loves it.

4. You haven’t shipped a new feature in the last three months.

5. A major bug in the product takes three months to fix.

6. A major bug in the product wasn’t noticed for three months (worse).

7. Your product’s new features are not driven by internal innovation, but by feature requests from a small number of big customers, thus making the product less and less generally useful.

8. Your biggest customers refuse to upgrade to the newest version.

9. The biggest competitor for this product just went out of business.

10. The biggest competitor for this product just got acquired, and the acquirer shut the product down (though by itself this might be a good thing because as we know, many acquirers are crazy!).

If you’re a one-product business, pivot. Or if you have multiple products, kill this one and write off the revenue. Fire a few customers if you have to. Sleep better at night.

Rob Leathern Rob Leathern
Founder/CEO at Optimal.com

  • 594Reptilian

    IMO, Items # 1-4, 7, 8 are very valid. Nos. 5 & 6 aren’t really death knells, except when it’s something like the AshleyMadison hack/leak. Nos. 9 and 10 might actually turn out to be blessings in disguise. And this is why I generally dislike listicles. They tend to overgeneralize, and ignore the fact that it’s almost a case-to-case basis for solutions. What worked for one company might be disastrous for another. But credit should be given for brevity and not being high-falutin’

    • Rob Leathern

      Yeah, I’d say these are more observations where often, the issue in question is a warning sign of something else that is fundamentally going on in the business. Like (6), not noticing bugs in your own product may be because your team isn’t using the product itself, they don’t talk to customers, or very few customers use it (or there are features that have bugs that the customers never use). Listicles are purposefully simplistic, but hopefully one or two of them provoke some thoughts.