Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

We’re excited to announce that AltaLabs recently concluded the first interview in our #ALseries talks! This informative series is a twitter Q&A where we speak with founders doing amazing things in their industry.

For our first edition we had a TweetChat about project management with Adbul Hassan - the Head of Products at VoyanceHQ - a data science infrastructure start-up. Abdul who previously held positions at PayStack, and Hyphen - an AI customer support automation company - spoke to us over a series of tweets and answered questions that every early stage founder should be asking. Read the excerpt of the interview below!

AlatLabs (AL): And we're live! Welcome everyone to our flagship #ALseries. Welcome Abdul (@ijbKID), we're excited to be speaking with you! Can you tell us a little bit more about what you're up to work-wise?

Abdul: Hey guys, thanks for having me. Currently at Voyance, I'm working with our design team to roll out v2 of our product.

AL: Awesome news! It also sets the perfect tone for what we're going to be discussing today - founders creating viable products. So Abdul, what kind of products should early stage founders be focused on building?

Abdul: Founders should focus on building solutions that they will be the first to offer the customer. Ideally, a founder should also be an expert in the field they intend to build a product in.

AL: Founders, you heard it here first; solution-oriented products & expertise are the major keys. Abdul, how do you think founders with no technical background (product-wise, not necessarily engineering) should approach product development?

Abdul: Great question! After figuring out what to build, the next step is to figure out how it will work. As a non-technical founder, you should learn how to prototype visually, it will give you clarity and also help  engineers quickly understand the how. I do this everyday at Voyance using WhimsicalPowers.

AL: Excellent advice! Now Abdul, some product markets are more saturated than others; when it comes to saturated markets do you think it’s wise for founders to replicate all of their competitor’s features from day one? Are you for or against this?

Abdul: This is an interesting one. My sense is that, as a founder playing in a saturated market, copying your competitors' features from day one is surely a recipe for a DOA (dead on arrival). Here's why - you will be entering the market with zero differentiation. If you’re going to copy from your competitor, I think you should study the why’s and make sure to build the better version of that feature.

AL: This makes a lot of sense. Research, differentiation & upscaling > replication and imitation. So following on from this, in simple terms; what is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and why does it matter?

Abdul: In my opinion, Your MVP should be a way of testing whether you've found a problem worth solving. It might not necessarily be a "product" that people can download or use, it could be a very simple Figma or whimsical prototype. The old definition of MVP seduces founders with false reassurances of a clear, linear path to an optimized solution. At the very early stage, we really don't know what the optimal solution or product is. Use your MVP to test your assumptions before building a product.

AL: "The old definition of MVP seduces founders with false reassurances of a clear, linear path to an optimized solution". Incredibly insightful and a great segue into our next question: How then should founders plan their product road map?

Abdul: Once you've passed the MVP stage, the next step is to build a roadmap for the identified solution and in this case, you want to have what I call a triangular roadmap;  1) Necessary  2) Useful  3) Nice to have. Ideally, your product roadmap should have a reflection of your MVP customer feedbacks and your own business goals, then you can use the triangular roadmap to prioritize.

AL: Interesting, so it's a non-linear process & feedback plays a big part. So Adbul, as Product Manager you've undertaken this process several times & you also manage products at a design, tech & business level. What is your personal definition of a successful product?

Abdul: A product is successful when customers are buying, using and loving that product, not by being able to deliver the product (after all, that could be done by a project manager). Additionally, you can mark a product successful if and when it has achieved the impact that you intended as the product manager.

AL: Well said! Now, in your experience what stage of the product life cycle is most crucial?

Abdul:  Ideally, the introduction stage. If you failed articulating the why and what at the introduction stage of your product, it might be difficult moving to the growth stage.

AL: That's great advice; if founders start strong then they'll finish strong. So in your experience, what should be the ideal timeline for building a brand new product?

Abdul: To be fair, the idea of "timeline" works well for founders with a long runway. Ideally, you don't want to spend more than 3 months to release your first product and continue iterating on that based on feedback.

AL: Noted! Now we know you're busy running things at Voyance, so we've got just two more questions before we round up.When should founders kill a product and/or product idea?

Abdul: On product - if and when the product is no longer serving the needs of its customers.  On ideas - if you're unable to "execute" on your idea within 2 months

AL: Very well said!And that brings us to the end of our first #ALseries. Adbul thank you so much for taking out time to speak with us, and thank you for your incredibly astute answers & advice. We wish you all the best with v2 of your product at Voyance and take care!

Abdul: Thanks for having me.

Our audience, also had some questions for Abdul, read the excerpt below:

Twitter User: Can you share what being the Head of Products at Voyance entails and what gets you excited to go to work every morning - weekends inclusive?

Abdul: I help produce our products. Just like a producer in the music industry, my job is to understand what and why our customers are going to buy and make sure that it gets built. What gets me excited every morning is the kind of team we've built at Voyance and the market we're building for. African companies are at the stage where they are generating so much data and I see that as a big opportunity for us.

Twitter User: So if I have a product idea and it is just me for now, where and how does project management come in? thanks.

Abdul: Ideally, this should commence after validating your assumptions with your MVP.

Twitter User: Uhm... a little late to this. Sorry. Question: How does one test with a simple Figma design or a whimsical prototype?

Abdul: You can share those prototypes with your early customers to get their feedback if it will solve their problems.