Lots of people talk about ‘before product market fit’ and ‘after product market fit’ as the two main phases of a startup’s evolution. I’d argue that what Ho Nam (Altos Ventures) proposed in his recent blog post might be a better, more granular way to look at the startup evolutionary process:
Getting through the first breaking point is not about rushing into execution mode. It’s a gradual process that will never end. A framework we’ve found useful in assessing progress along a continuum is the Capability Maturity Model see the five levels of maturity below. It’s a development model whose origins trace back to studying software projects and failures in the 1960s when computer science was in its infancy and few “best practices” existed. Within any company, there will always be processes at different levels of maturity. It’s important to keep in mind that even successful large companies will have chaotic episodes and continue to live with countless undocumented, ad hoc processes that are developed and refined over time. Initial – the process is new, ad hoc, chaotic and undocumented. Individual heroics are relied upon to get the job done. The focus is on outputs. Repeatable – the process is somewhat documented. Repeating the same steps may be attempted. It’s not clear if the process will yield desired outputs. Defined – the process is well defined, documented and confirmed as a standard process that can produce results. Managed – the process is quantitatively managed in accordance with agreed-upon metrics. Optimizing – process management includes deliberate process optimization and improvement.