Before product-market fit, find passion-market fit.

Building a product is a process, not a discrete action. And the Internet is efficiently arbitraged. Every single simple thing that can be done is being done, or has been done. The lesson of history is that product-market fit is very precise—one wrong tweak or slightly bad timing and you can miss the whole thing.

So the only way you’re likely to find product-market fit is if you’re almost irrationally obsessed with the market and if you’ve been working on it for a long time. Where the journey is the reward. Then, you’re likely to have unique insights (in the details) and consistent execution, through thick and thin, to find fit.

Often, the best companies are ones where the product is an extension of the founder’s personality, which shouldn’t be a big surprise, since everyone is passionate about themselves.

Topics Markets

16 comments · Show

  • knowledgenotebook

    Interesting.

    The “journey” metaphor is all fitting, and yet, gas price is getting pricier and pricier by the day…

  • Stu

    This all sounds so “mom and apple pie”…and I would debate the notion that passion pulls you through.
    Solving a problem or creating a new opportunity to do something you would have done in other ways (like twitter), and having great people usually works.

  • Sajid

    Couldn’t agree more, but for some reason a lot of people just don’t seem to get it (maybe because it sounds a bit hokey?)

    Build your company around what you’re passionate about. That way, you’ll be living a life which you find intrinsically rewarding on a day to day basis, irrespective of any future payday.

    You’ll work harder than ever before because you’ll be doing what you enjoy. And you will find it much easier to persevere through all the ups and downs of startup life because your business will be aligned with your personal values and passions.

  • Jim Morrison

    Life is too short to chase brass rings. Chase Happiness. -
    Tony Hsieh

  • jm

    This may seem silly but it has helped me and I think it is appropriate here. When I was at BU I admired an expensive drawing at an art gallery. Naturally as a student that was all that I was going to do until I got the chance for a payment plan. Sounds crazy I know, and all the while I was thinking if I change my mind in the future I can sell it and at least break even. Then a very smart man advised me…only buy what you really passionate about that way no matter where the value goes you will never be disappointed. Some of what I have done has not worked out the way I wanted, but I have learned something new from each attempt and regret at least until now is not a pill I have had to swallow.

  • Paul Chen

    Thanks! The article is very inspiring!

    You never know if you are gonna suceed, but you know your passion. Passion never fails.

  • Peter Su

    I agree with you Naval. To be socratic about it, let me pose a question a to you (one that I faced myself when thinking about co-founding a company)

    Would you rather co-found with a team of great people and figure out a business to go after, or focus on an idea/product and then build the team around it?

    Ideally you’ll have a team that’s the best in terms of their complementary skillsets and passionate about the idea – but that’s not always the case.

    In short, what’s better for the seeds of a start-up, team-centric or idea-centric?

  • Mark from NYM

    Thanks. Let’s me know that I’m only 99% crazy.

  • Stephen

    As I read this, the point is that your odds of getting to product-market fit are a lot better if you are in love with the market — or the market is you. Naval’s not (mainly) talking about personal fulfillment here, he’s talking about authenticity + passion being the best tactic.

    I don’t think he’s promising happiness. Just a better product!

  • Gordon Mattey

    I may be splitting hairs here, but before being passionate about the market, being passionate about the customer and their needs/problems/oppos is probably the first place to start… and it follows through to product-market fit and beyond as you scale and become a mature company..

    Be passionate about your customer and their context first.

  • Steve Deal

    “Every single simple thing that can be done is being done, or has been done. ” I’ve been wondering when people will turn their passion to doing the hard things that can be done.

  • Jim Kovarik

    “irrationally obsessed with the market…” that’s a good way to put it. What most others don’t see for some reason to you is perfectly obvious. That’s probably why so many entrepreneurs question their sanity.

  • Josh

    I agree. I started to think about creating a hoodie for my cellphone long before trying to make it and bringing it to the public.

    It is currently on Kickstarter raising funds.
    http://kck.st/qxydfq

    I admire entrepreneurs who risk time and money to pursue their dreams

  • Terry Leach

    Exactly!! Passion-market fit will lead to product-market fit if it occurs for years, because it leads to a lot of obsessing and thinking.

  • Rob

    Love it. The hardest thing is believing you’re not crazy (well, just not in isolation anyway!). Love the extention of personality idea – and all those comments that followed on. Getting the Market:Product fit was the easy part; to an entrepreneur, that comes realitively easily… I don’t claim to be an entrepreneur, just an enthusiast with a marketplace following: What I’d REALLY love help on is managing senior exectutives as a junior start-up manager. Dudes with heaps of experience and contacts that just haven’t done the hard yards outside of a big corporate to understand what it means to be a start-up. any advice out there??!! How do you teach a wise old owl new tricks, without breaking the fish-bowl?