How Hiten Shah forced me to launch Growthmentor one week ahead of schedule


This is a story about the hoops I willingly jumped through in the name of a single short Skype call with this dude called Hiten Shah.

It was a calm August evening, the 21st to be exact, when all of the sudden I received the following email from Hiten Shah.

(Pre-emptive troll deflection: Yes, I do realize I was part of a mailing list)

For a product geek like me, Hiten’s basically a celebrity. 

He is co-host of the podcast The Startup Chat with Steli Efti, my #1 favorite podcast in the world.

If I had to choose any two entrepreneurs to mentor me, it’d be those two dudes.

Some facts for context:

  • After 9 months of development, I was about 2 weeks away from finishing our final sprint before launch.
  • I felt like I was in over my head as this is my first major solo product launch.
  • One of the best product managers in Silicon Valley just asked if I wanted a 45-minute coaching call.
  • He also happened to be the co-host of my favorite podcast which I listen to religiously.  

Booking the Call

I filled in the Typeform application by answering a few questions posed about how I manage customer feedback, the tools I use to do so, and what challenges I face doing so.

Since Growthmentor wasn’t really “live” yet, I referenced EuroVPS, the company where I’m currently also product manager and head of growth.

Apparently, my answers qualified me sufficiently as the next day I received a follow-up email with a Calendly link.

I booked the latest date I could, September 4th. 

I needed to buy as much time as I could as I still didn’t have the front-end code for the website delivered yet. 

It was tight, but it was doable.

If I had the code by the 27-28th of August, that’d give me around a week to sort out all the web copy, scripts, CSS snafus, and all the other “stuff” that coincide with website launches.

I just knew one thing, there was no way I was getting on that call with Hiten on September 4th without Growthmentor being online.

There was no way I was passing up the opportunity to a.) hear Hiten’s honest opinion first hand on the concept and b.) ask him as many burning questions I had about how to deal with certain aspects of product management which had been bugging me the past few months.   

Getting a bit tight on time would be an understatement…

So I got the code delivered the day of the call, at 12:44 PM.

Our call was scheduled for 7:30 PM.

That gave me a grand total of 6 hours and 46 minutes to get it ready.

I was that green frog for 6 hours straight.

But by the end of it, I had launched the leanest most MVP version of Growthmentor possible.

But it was up, the app was functional as it should be, the homepage had all the web copy diligently inserted expressing the value proposition, and I was content.

Score.

So … how did the call go?

We talked about Growthmentor for the first 12 minutes, then transitioned to EuroVPS product management and the overlap with customer feedback for 15 minutes. The rest of the time we spent talking about a variety of SaaS, product, UX, and market positioning topics.

He pointed out a few major flaws in my assumptions which ended up giving me a major headstart as he planted the seeds which ultimately led me towards pivoting back to a closed platform model with more of a manual matchmaking process.

This has already paid its dividends as the pace of learning is much higher now since users are forced to divulge their pain points before being granted early access.

The moral of the story

I could have easily said, “fuck it,” I’ll just show him the InvisionApp mockup version of Growthmentor during the call.

But is it really the same?

Showing an InvisionApp vs. showing a production working application is a world of difference. I wanted to earn his respect, and in the product world, you don’t earn respect by showing pitch decks, prototypes, or even by hustling.

You earn respect by delivering the goods and seeing ideas and projects through to a final working product. Ship first, ask questions later. You’ll learn so much more from getting feedback on a working product than by getting feedback on your prototype or ice shelved app on a staging server shrouded in cobwebs. 

If it wasn’t for that call, I’d have all the excuses I needed to just delay the launch one more week until it was “ready.” Sometimes you just need that extra little piece of motivation to push you out of your comfort zone and deliver, even if it’s not 100% perfect.

So thanks Hiten! 🙂