Sequoias Mike Vernal wore many hats. He was VP of Product and Engineering at Facebook for eight years before moving into investing. His portfolio includes Houseparty, Threads, Canvas, Citizen, PicsArt and more, and he continues to invest in companies across a wide range of stages and industries including consumers, corporate, marketplaces, fintech and more.
Vernal joined us earlier this month at TechCrunch Early Stage: Marketing and Fundraising to discuss how founders should think about product-to-market fit, with a particular focus on pace. He covered how to organize around iteration pace, how to account for customer feedback loops, and how Sequoia rates companies in terms of pace.
Be explicit and greedy about every step of the way to get feedback.
What is tempo?
Vernal breaks the tempo into two separate ingredients: speed and consistency.
It’s not just about being quick (which can often lead to recklessness). It’s about setting a pace and staying constant at that pace.
One of the best compliments an angel can give a founding team and include in a performance with us is: “You are just very fast” or “It is a machine”. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean quick in the manner of an uncontrolled, reckless, downing sense. It means getting a little better every day, fast, in a consistent, insane way. And it’s actually one of the most important things we look for, at least when evaluating a team: how consistently fast they are moving. (Timestamp: 2:26)
Vernal went on to say that pace is directly correlated to goals and objectives and key outcomes (OKRs). Building a feedback loop into these OKRs and determining the pace at which they will be attacked is critical, especially during the process of finding the product-to-market fit.
Finding the product-market fit is not a deterministic process. Most of the time, one iteration is required. It requires constant adjustment. My mental model is that it’s really just a turn-based game with an unknown number of steps and sometimes either the clock or the money or both runs out before you can finish the game. It’s a bit like a game of chess. So what’s your optimal strategy? (Timestamp: 4:25)
Feedback is your friend
As Vernal explained, finding product-to-market fit is about feedback, and it has to be an ongoing, integrated part of the process. He outlined how founders can proceed with the design against this background.