The Evolution of Use Cases
A few years back, it used to be the case where VCs would be all about the grand vision of a startup. Then, a “correction” was made and VCs started paying much more attention to the first product offering and its relevance to the target persona, adopting a more Product Management oriented outlook. Finally, we reached the current (healthier) situation where the emphasis is on both - the short term goal alongside the long term one. Let’s call the former - the foot in the door (FITD) use case and the latter - the grand vision.
Founders often find it challenging to target both goals at the same time, often focusing on one while letting go of the other. This makes all the sense in the world, for several reasons -
They don’t always align perfectly, at least not at first. It could be that the grand vision involves additional buyers/users from other departments or that there is a giant leap (too big for some) between the two in the middle of the journey.
It could be that a later use case may turn the FITD use case obsolete.
There are frequently too many unknowns about one of the two (especially the grand vision, which makes sense).
Technical founders occasionally create a company out of a specific pain they themselves felt, which is basically the FITD use case, and don’t necessarily have the broader plan panned out just yet.
While all these reasons are completely legitimate, my belief is that you should always have at least some idea regarding the two, so that there’s a clear path from the FITD use case and into more advanced ones. As Eisenhower once said, “plans are worthless but planning is everything”. It’s important to continuously strengthen the planning muscle, even in increased uncertainty. But just as importantly (or even more so), all stakeholders involved should be able to let go of a plan if new counter evidence presents itself.
As Eisenhower once said, “plans are worthless but planning is everything”. It’s important to continuously strengthen the planning muscle, even in increased uncertainty. But just as importantly (or even more so), all stakeholders involved should be able to let go of a plan if new counter evidence presents itself.
Having said that, it’s not just the planning muscle that’s important to exercise. It’s also very much about clarity. One FITD use case can lead to multiple grand visions. As such, it would be hard to rally investors or employees around a clear direction without a defined path leading from the FITD use case to the grand vision.
Lastly, while having these two components (at least temporarily - until further evidence is discovered) crystalized is important, another important exercise is creating a use case evolution slide/doc. This is basically the gradual progression from the FITD use case into later use cases and with that showing the evolution of the product vis-a-vis the target market. At the very beginning this might be very hard to predict and definitely to follow through. But as mentioned, it’s the planning and crystallization of the direction that is important here, not the execution itself (at least not yet).