Technology-Market Fit vs Product-Market Fit

stones, stone, tower

Product-Market fit is now a well understood term in startups. Will the dog eat the dog-food is a question that startup founders ask early and often. Companies today have several templates to assess product market fit.

Technology-Market fit, whether a technology meets the performance and cost requirements to provide a solution for a specific market problem, is different from product-market fit. And it adds a layer of complexity in deep tech startups.

Fingerprint sensors in smartphones had product-market fit – they eliminated the need to type passwords. If a startup used a wrong technology to satisfy the size, accuracy and cost requirements for a smartphone sensor, they didn’t have technology-market fit and failed.

But the inverse scenario can happen too; take the example of mobile projectors in smartphones. Several startups theorized that a compact, low-lumen, projector integrated in smartphones would be useful. Few startups had figured out the right technology to fit a projector into a smartphone and deliver perfect projections of slides and video without draining the battery. Samsung and a few others created phones with integrated mobile projectors and brought to market. Alas, there was no interest from the consumers; the need to use your phone as a projector was a great idea in theory – but the dog just wouldn’t eat the dog food.

A deep tech startup needs to manage both these market-fit problems simultaneously. Other startups focus singularly on product-market fit and iterate on it constantly to find the right product. Deep tech startups need to ensure their technology is the right fit for the market need while ensuring the product would be used by customers. These iterations are one of the reasons why deep tech startups seem to take a lot of capital and time.

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