What came first, the Product or the Company?

by Nathan Mullings

What came first, the Product or the Company?

I talk to people all the time about starting businesses. Sometimes these people are already running a fast growth tech startup that has already raised millions. Other times, these people just have an idea and are exploring how they’re going to start this business. After speaking to various people, reading articles about successful companies like Google and Facebook, and deducing my own opinion through information from many sources, I came to a non-all-encompassing conclusion: You always start with the product. Starting with the product the determines the nature of the business. In fact, it’s better to get as far as you can in the product alone, before worrying about the business.

Before I carry on, I use product as an envelope for products and services. I also use “company” and “business” interchangeably. Okay. Carrying on.

An Explanation

It’s called “tech company” for a reason, and not “company tech”. The tech comes first. In most cases, the tech needs to first be validated, before the company part comes into play. Validation can take many forms, but the best validation, is market validation. Validation from the target market using a core version of the product, and giving feedback. Once you have something that people want, then you have permission to create a company around it. Sure, there are nuance situations where this doesn’t apply, and I accept that. It’s usually quite straight forward though.

An Example

You can go directly to Google for their origin story https://www.google.com/about/our-story/. Larry page and Sergey Brin met in 1995. A year later they started working form their dorm rooms and built a search engine that used links to determine the importance of individual pages on the World Wide Web. They called that search engine Backrub. They renamed Backrub to Google. It wasn’t until 1998 however, that they took investment of $100,000 and officially became a company.

To be put simply, one of the most valuable companies in the world, spent 2 years just being a product, before it officially became a company.

An Issue

Nowadays, people get caught up in the idea of building a company, they forget the company is just there to facilitate building the best product possible. So caught up in the idea of being an entrepreneur, they start creating business plans and asking investors for money. All this before they even know whether they building something people want. So hell bent on having the title “Founder” on LinkedIn, they forget they should be working towards solving a real problem.

A Conclusion

The product comes first. If building the company is more compelling because of money and status, I get it. Though that means, solving the problem doesn’t mean as much as it would normally require, to build a great company.

Be like Google. Think product, first.