Lessons Learned from a Failed Startup Product with Sherika Wynter, USAC | Product Talks

Sherika Wynter was someone you call a chance Product Manager. She graduated with a masters degree in Industrial Design and dreamt of making it big in automobile design. In her journey to becoming a product manager, she converted various ideas into successful businesses working with startups and large corporations such as Impurture and General Assembly. She now boasts 11+ years as a Product Manager and Entrepreneur & is currently working as a Senior Product Manager with Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC).
We invited Sherika Wynter for a product talk on “Lessons Learned from a Failed Startup Product”.
Sherika started her session by speaking about the problem she aimed to solve with her first product which she developed in order to promote safer sex practices. She says, “I aimed to design an app that solves a wider problem faced by the society, but at the same time keeping the fun element of it”. She and her team put in hours, weeks, months into carefully outlining each detail of the app, making it both fun and useful for customers, but alas, they failed.
Sherika adds, “we define success but we don’t define failure”. We need to learn when is it time to throw in the towel and say “maybe next quarter will be better” or “if we are able to break even, then it’s OK” and sometimes even “maybe we can just sell this, someone will buy it?”

She further delves into why they failed. This so, because no one tells you that the cycle of the product does not end at designing and shipping it. The most important part of the cycle comes next, i.e. customer acquisition, putting money in the right place at the right time and building growth strategies.
She explains this more clearly, by taking an example of a client she had a few years ago. The client picked up a product they liked and decided to sell it to large distributors when they had close to no knowledge about the market for that product and how (or if) it could be manipulated to generate profits. They kept running into problems, one after the other, but eventually figured out how to walk and from there how to run.
Sherika says, there is an important learning here. Just like some problems need more attention than others, some questions need answering before others. We keep telling ourselves, “I’ll do that when I am an established company”. But how do you really define that moment?
She further lays down a three-step solution if you are to get ahead of these problems. First, you must define failure, i.e., box your emotions and objectively assess your audience. Second, build a strong customer acquisition strategy before launch and third, a business plan is only a plan, so be prepared to plan over and again.
Check out this exclusive product talk with Sherika Wynter to know more about her learnings from failed startup products.

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