The Risk of General Purpose Toolkits as a First Product

I will sometimes encounter an entrepreneur or team who is developing “a general purpose toolkit for X.” This may be at a Bootstrapper Breakfast or other networking event. They have often developed a core of a promising technology and see applications for it everywhere.

Here is what I normally suggest:

  • Write up a few examples or use cases that are extremely specific as to need and benefit.
  • It’s OK if these examples only apply to a very narrow population or niche market. The most important thing is that they bring the prospect a lot of improvement–preferably that they can quantify–to their current situation.
  • You have to be careful that you can envision all of these possibilities but they come with “some assembly required.”  It’s the fate of an entrepreneur with a new product to see broad applicability, and you may ultimately achieve that, but focus on where you would bring the most value rapidly.
  • Think about offering a new Perl compiler and saying “you can do anything you want with it.” If you have paying customers look at what they have done with it. Specifically. What benefits have they gained?

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