Only one in ten venture funded start-ups is successful. Six will go out of business, three will be acquired at a loss or a small profit, and one will achieve a significant liquidity event, either through an IPO or an acquisition that delivers a major return.
There are several factors that can impact the success of technology companies, and some are outside of anyone’s control. But the one factor shared by all successful tech companies, large or small, is the ability to quickly achieve product-market fit and effectively scale product development efforts.
With over 25 years experience building successful start-ups and delivering high impact products, Blackstar helps organizations with the following:
- innovation and speed-to-market with proven best practices;
- objective assessment of product and market viability;
- user experience and market research with actionable insights;
- leadership and team performance coaching;
- strategic product planning based on empirical, qualitative evidence;
- systems architecture design.
While sales and marketing drive new customers, product powers sustainable growth by delivering innovative solutions that address genuine customer and user needs. When revenue growth and profitability fail to meet expectations, an underperforming product function is likely the cause. The problem is that few businesses have the experience and expertise to drive product excellence.
IMPROVE INNOVATION & ORGANIC GROWTH
Organizations are frequently challenged by status quo product thinking, driven by sales-led tactical feature requirements that fail to yield long term value while distracting from transformative, high-value opportunities.
Ideating product innovation and objectively assessing, prioritizing and committing to the right product initiatives is the most common challenge faced by today's technology companies. It is also the most crucial.
We help clients adopt a user-centered, problem-focused approach to product planning and development, resulting in rapid deployment, innovative technology and defensible market differentiation.
Increase velocity & Time-to-Market
Product development often takes too long, costs too much, and ultimately fails to deliver on its goals. While engineering is frequently the first to blame, the truth is that development velocity is a direct by-product of an organization's product management practices. Features are insufficiently validated or scoped, impact and risk are inadequately predicated or measured, cross-functional communications are lacking, expectations aren't accurately set, and engineering is uninspired by the product vision.
We help clients to implement development practices that increase time-to-market and ensure that the right features are being delivered to the right users at the right time.
Maximize launch impact
A disciplined and highly focused go-to-market strategy is vital to long term product and business success. With competing market opportunities distracting from the path to achieving a long-term vision, it's difficult to execute a launch strategy that builds and sustains momentum. Too often, unrealistic expectations of a silver bullet "minimum viable product" (MVP) with an immediate "hockey stick" revenue impact derails the long term mission.
A clear, long-term vision and a sequenced approach to market sets appropriate expectations for executives, employees and investors, and ensures that efforts remain focused on achieving measurable goals.
Optimize product planning & Execution
Product success is 95% about planning and execution. This includes how workstreams are structured, objectives are established and impact is measured; how features are prioritized and trade-offs are made; how stakeholders are involved and decisions communicated; and how sprint planning and retrospectives are conducted.
In essence, product planning & execution encompasses the entire product lifecycle, from ideation and launch, to analysis and improvement iterations. No matter what the industry, an organization that doesn't excel in planning and execution has little chance of success in today's competitive market.
Our services are tailored to the needs of our clients. Most engagements begin with a discovery phase so that we can gain a better understand of your needs and assess multiple dimensions of your product and engineering efforts. Following the discovery phase, the work we do generally includes some combination of the following projects and deliverables:
LEADERSHIP TRAINING & PRINCIPLES
Good leadership is vital to sustaining motivated, high performance teams. The traditional "command and control" management style is both outdated and ineffective. Gaining direct insight from your teams and working one-on-one and in small groups, we'll establish best practices and guidelines for how to most effectively lead and support your product and technology teams.
Professional Development & Growth
The training tech professionals receive (if any) is often focused solely on hard skills. Mastery of specific skills is crucially important, however growth along fundamental dimensions such as execution, independence, innovation and communications are equally important in one's development. We work with clients to establish growth programs that improve product outcomes by accelerating individual and team skills development.
Product Planning & Go-to-MARKET
Product planning is the single most important endeavor you undertake. If done well, it provides a path to success. If done poorly (or not at all), it's a guarantee for failure. Our experience delivering and scaling high impact products has taught us that there isn't a single blueprint that can effectively be applied to every situation. We work with our clients to develop a plan that is rooted in best practices, but customized to the particulars of their aspirations, industry and resources.
User Experience & Market Research
Research is vital to discovering user needs, creating an informed product strategy, and formulating a go-to-market strategy. Many businesses rely solely on past experience to formulate a strategy and make critical decisions. But to drive user adoption and organic growth, you need to understand complex and evolving market dynamics and user behavior. We establish practices that put user needs first and help organizations to identify areas of innovation that uniquely address those needs, providing the guidance to establish defensible market differentiation.
Technology assessment & architecture design
Determining the right features to address user needs is an important part of product planning. This answers the "Why" and the "What," but the importance of the "How" should not be overlooked.
The wrong technology and architecture choices lead to disastrous outcomes. Technology decisions are often driven by the interests of the engineers coding the solutions, and their interests tend to gravitate towards the newest and most promising frameworks, languages, services and tools.
Exploring the vanguard of technology is vital for engineers to remain engaged and continue learning, but it is far more important to select the right tools for the job at hand. Especially for start-ups, where runways are short and resources are limited, the wrong technical decision can set a company back by months or even years. These are mistakes that a start-up simply cannot afford to make.
Our experience building consumer software with billions of daily active users, highly performant embedded systems and mission critical business applications where each millisecond of latency can cost millions of dollars in lost revenue, we understand how to build highly scalable service oriented systems quickly and affordably, and how to motivate engineers to focus on the best technical design for each use case, rather than the latest tools.
Gannon Hall is an entrepreneurial product leader with over twenty five years experience building high impact software solutions across a wide spectrum of consumer and enterprise industries.
He has built several start-ups and was Chief Product Officer for Shopify, the world’s leading e-commerce platform, and Ticketfly, which was sold to Pandora for $500M and is now the music division of Eventbrite.
Gannon was the executive product leader for Google Maps and Local Search (including location services). Among other achievements, Gannon was instrumental in driving Google’s mobile first and machine learning personalization strategies.
Gannon was a lecturer and student advisor at Cornell Tech, working with both PhD candidates and MBA students. His lectures covered a wide array of topics, from advanced machine learning to technology leadership principles.
Gannon works with a global client base, but primarily splits his time between San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City. Check out some of his articles on Medium, or more details about his professional background on LinkedIn.
Interested in transforming your team into a world-class product and engineering organization? We can help.