As the year starts to wind to a close, one exercise I go through with many CEOs I’ve invested in or am close to is this:

  • Did you ship at least 3 truly game-changing features this year?  Be honest.  What were they, and how did they truly move the needle?

You’d be surprised, if CEOs are being honest, how many fail this test.  Not just at $0.1m ARR, or $1m ARR, but also at $10m, $20m. $50m ARR and later.  The excuses vary at different stages:

  • “I don’t have enough money”
  • “I don’t have enough engineers”
  • “There’s too much technical debt”
  • “Sales is always selling things we don’t have”
  • “The competition raised so much more than us”
  • “We don’t have a strong enough marketing team”
  • “We need a CTO”
  • “Bob quit”
  • etc. etc.

Not launching 3 Truly Game-Changing Features doesn’t mean you didn’t ship any new code or features.  Of course you did.  But if all your time is taken up just keeping up, just dealing with issues, just dealing with internal drama … it’s hard to each quarter ship something amazing.

A Truly Game-Changing Feature is something:

  • That makes your customers’ and prospects’ jaws drop. and/or
  • That materially increases close rates. and/or
  • That opens up entirely new segments of the market. and/or
  • That allows you to dramatically drive up your deal size.

If you didn’t ship at least 3 big features that moved the needle this year, something’s wrong.  The best start-ups at every phase do this.  Be it 3 employees, 30, 300, or 3000.

Why 3?  Well, if you push out at least 1 amazing, game-changing feature out a quarter … and one bombs … you can still get three out a year,

But if you didn’t — it’s time to make a big change then.  Or you’ll fall behind.  Far behind.

If you’re not sure if a feature counts, ask everyone on the management team.  If it really was one — they’ll all agree.

And talk about what the 3-4 are going to be for next year.  Now.  While there is still time.

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