There’s a pretty big movement in the tech startup world now around the idea of a lean startup. Terms like customer development, continuous deployment, and mvp (minimum viable product) are thrown around. MVP refers to the most bare bones version of a product you can build and release and still call it a product. The idea is to not spend two years locked in a closet building the “perfect” version of the site, do a massive launch, only to find out nobody wants it and it doesn’t solve anyone’s problems. Build the most basic version, put it out there in front of customers and see if the thing has legs and iterate.

I think the MVP is a great idea and eliminates waste. What a lot of people don’t talk about is team makeup. What’s the minimum required amount of people and what roles do you need in order to build a successful web product.

Like everything in life, it depends. There are also a lot of counter examples that I think it’s hard to make a generalized statement. In Apple’s case, the minimum was an engineer and a business guy: Woz and Jobs. I would argue though that the particular business guy also had an eye for product and that’s not something you always see. Which brings me to my point.

More and more, I see the really successful ones require you to have strengths in these 3 roles: technology, design, and sales/marketing. These are in no particular order. Without technology, you can’t make the product work. Without design, it’s not intuitive, easy to use, and aesthetically pleasing. Without sales or marketing, nobody knows about your product or you can’t get people to buy it. I’m not saying you can make a successful company if you don’t have those 3 components, but it will sure make it a lot easier and increase your odds.

You might say, Larry and Sergei were two engineers and Google isn’t exactly known for design but we’re talking about edge cases here. Not everyone can be like them. A lot of developer types would like to think that they are the MVT. Being able to build the product is just one leg of the successful stool. Sure you can sit on that stool, but it’s wobbly. Design is another leg of the stool and I’m glad to see that nowadays, user experience and design has become a key component in many companies. That’s still only two legs and is not stable. I think the biggest and most crucial piece of the ingredient is sales. Sales is what makes everything run.

Being on the design and tech side, I’ve always thought that if I could just build it, people would use it and somehow it would build on itself. I’ve come to realize that organic viral growth is the exception and not the norm. The antidote is of course great marketing and or sales. I don’t think enough people realize how important sales is in the tech industry. People giving you money to make their problem go away is absolute validation to what you are doing.

And there you have it – the three legs of the stool that is the basis of a successful startup.

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