Podcast Episode 48

From Concept to Scale: Unveiling the Art of MVP Transformation with Adi Behlulovic 

In this podcast episode, Ryan Davies hosts Adi Behlulovic to explore the journey from MVP to full-scale product in the startup world. They discuss tech stack considerations, collaboration, networking, overcoming challenges, and offer valuable advice for founders.

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Introduction and Background

Ryan Davies:  Welcome, everyone to the tech business roundtable podcast show. This is a podcast show dedicated to shining a spotlight on tech innovators, entrepreneurs, founders and the compelling narratives behind the movements they’ve established. I’m your host, Ryan Davies. And I’m hosting today’s discussion, from concept to scale, unveiling the art of MVP transformation with Adi Behlulovic. How close, better , worse, nice? He’s given me some good lessons here. I feel like I’m you know, we’re old friends now going back. So thanks so much for joining us here today. I really appreciate it. This is gonna be gonna be a great episode for our background on Adi. He’s an entrepreneur by nature, decades of experience in constructing startup products. So what a perfect fit for our audience. And over the years, as he’s assumed various roles from software developer, business analyst, product manager, project manager, and founder at scale up.ba. So scale up, you know, its primary focus revolves around collaboratively developing digital startup products with founders and partnering companies. But Adi really just embraces the role, and the title of product creator. So from this vantage point, you know, everything that we’re talking about in our podcast today, and really fits into our series as well as offering that unique, unique perspective on the entrepreneurial landscape. And I think we’re gonna dive right into this here. Adi, I’ll let you color up that background a little bit more for me a little bit more about you. And really, you know, what, what led you to establish scale up with a focus on this collaborative collaborative development of digital startup products? 

Adi: Sure, yeah. Thanks. Thanks, Rob, for the great intro for learning my last name. Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. I think you’ve covered the kind of the core, you know, like the, the core that led to essentially establishing the scale up, right. It was an I think that diversification or, or, or kind of covering all of the roles in that product development cycle is actually the the thing that that led to the moment to find the scale up, you know, like, having that aspect of of building the product from development role, then from project management role, then from product management role then from, from business analyst role. I also had to have my own startups before founding founding scale up, and then work working as part of scale up working with different founders from different regions, different cultures, different languages, and everything and working in building their products, kind of gives the entire circle of kind of knowing what to do or what not to do, at least from from that experience that I have. So all of those previous roles kind of led in and working with different types of tech companies, which led to the conclusion that there is a gap to fill in, in a way that business is conducted by tech companies, with startups with startup founders. What am I talking about? It’s mainly like, majority of the companies that I worked for and worked with, in building startup products. The main issue was that they’re trying to like the oldest concept, the enterprise concept, right? Like all this concept of it, tech companies are outsourcing like, Okay, I’m going to give three developers to some enterprise clients, and then they are going to have literally like, have the three developers on their own side. And when startups come came along, and basically when startups started outsourcing their tech, tech companies started implementing the same process that they have with enterprise companies to startups and they said, like, Okay, we are going to give you two front end developers, two back end developers, one new Ibex designer, that is going to be this X amount of money every month, sign the contract, and that’s it. On paper, everything looks cool, right? a startup founder gets the team, the same way that enterprise, a client gets the team, but the issue is that the startup founder doesn’t know what to do with that team, right at that moment, like you suddenly have five people in your team. And it’s similar that as you employed five people in your team, what to do now, like, how do I manage them? How do I What kind of tasks to give them what to who is going to learn teach me how to do the product development, how to do the design of the product? Because essentially, the product needs to give the tasks and everything to the developers and every nearly every tech company that I work for that issue and kind of educating founders in a way how to lead the team and how to lead the product. So when I started tail up back in 2019, my soul or my main purpose was to fill that gap to kind of offer a startup founder, truly the experience of building the product and teaching them along the way. So basically, we are kind of trying to be a one stop shop, everything tech related, you know, like, founders have me on right now on whatsapp on Viber. They are calling me anything that they need. Basically, I’m their shop, like scale up is there, we are doing the monetization strategy, which started with startup founders, we are doing the financial advising, we are doing strategy, business strategy, advising, we are doing animations, we are doing marketing as well. So we are trying to kind of do all of these things, surrounding startups, assisting them and taking that burden off their back. While keeping the main core focus on tech, obviously, software development, this is our core, but we are trying truly to be really like partners to them. And kind of like you know, like, scale up, we need this scale up, we need that etcetera, to cover everything. So that is that key differentiator, what we are trying to achieve. And so far we are achieving that with all of the startup founders that we are working with.

Ryan Davies:  I love that, that’s amazing. I think, you know, that really shows that growth in that ability that you can finally say that one stop shop to kind of get an answer in a direction that is so desperately needed by so many founders right to be able to figure out where to go next? Or what do I do? And I think maybe that comes into that? What is the impact of what I’m doing on each of those right? Or how do I showcase it in some cases. So, you know, you mentioned you know, you prefer the title of product creators over CEO. And I think that that’s really great of how we can see here, your perspective as a product creator is influencing the approach to this development of digital products, particularly in the concept of MVPs. And maybe you could speak to that a little bit more about, you know, how some of these decision making and things go into what goes into an MVP and what, you know, how this development affects again, maybe your marketing strategy, or maybe you know, your, your position, or your finding any anything along those lines, but sort of that role of a product creator and an MVP?

Adi: Yeah, for sure. Like, you know, incense. I think I discussed some with someone like let lately that the marketing and branding, you know, like every startup founder that we that we are talking about talking with as a scaleup. A lot of them like to have the goal of product development. And then they are saying, Okay, after that, I’m going to focus on marketing. After that, I’m going to focus on branding, etc. But the reality is that the moment that you start talking about your idea, either consciously or unconsciously, you already started with branding of your product. You know, like, if you’re you, Ryan, instead of telling me about your idea, in a way you’re already brand and branding it in a way that you’re going to explain your idea. So essentially, that branding and marketing really starts from the moment that you decide to pursue your idea and to turn it into an actual product. It’s not a bad thing, or it’s not something to stress about. But it’s just as important to understand that. So at the point where you need to formalize your brand new story of marketing, you need to take a look back and see basically, what was the progress of your product. And basically, at that point, you need to compel that storytelling and story of your product and incorporate that into branding and marketing. Because it’s already there. You just need to reform, formalize it a bit or structure it in a bit different way. So it’s maybe more easy to explain to someone else that. But yeah, as I said that marketing and branding really starts from the moment that we start talking about the idea. And to go back to your question. Essentially, regarding the MVP, it’s kind of really hard to have multiple if no startup is equal. Like we have truly tried to create a process that would be set in stone for every startup. But it’s not impossible, but it’s really, really hard to do it. Because no startup is the same right? Some startups are in the idea phase, some startups are in the start with the development, some startups have sketches. Some startups have wireframes. Some startups have designs, they all come from different industries , they have different customer bases, etc. So it’s really too hard. Or I would say, people are losing time to create tailored processes for every startup. The reality is that there are some things that you need to put a template to be, but allow the imagination to lead the process with every startup because every startup is unique. So in a sense to help us and to help founders. We have crafted two or three packages with different startups. Depending on, like a broader scope, it mostly goes like if they have built MVP, or if they haven’t built MVP, etc. So for example, for the founders that still don’t have MVP, we are basically trying to brainstorm them, they are the end pick up the brain and lead them through a couple of weeks of brainstorming sessions, where we’re trying to visualize the idea were trying to get, get some some some early adopters, potential early adopters of their of their products, talk with them validate the idea, validate the problem. And after a few weeks, basically, we call that program a head start. We want them to give them basically a better idea of what the product is going to look like. And if that is something that is going to be important for their users that they want to build a product for. So there is back again to the question, there are multiple answers, there are multiple approaches. But this I call it, we call it as a headstart is the most important, I think, because it kind of really, it’s three to four weeks, maybe even sometimes less than three weeks, depending on the complexity of the idea. But after that, that program basically found there’s really no do they want to build it at all. Because that’s a really important question like no, like, everyone thinks, Okay, I’m going to build this, but should you build it at all? Like, if, if after two weeks, we decide that there is no user base for that? Don’t build it? Right. So it’s a really important question, and we try to get as many answers to our questions as possible during that Head Start program. 

Ryan Davies:  I think it’s so incredibly important, right? Like, should you do it? Do you want to do it? Do you understand the complexity? And what are you doing? Is the scope right? Or the features? Like I mean, it’s so important, I think, you know, before we started, I said, you know, I came from this world before, to where you get these people with ideas, right? Back of the napkin, they’re coming to you with this napkin drawing going, Hey, I have something I want to do here. And you’re like, Okay, do you understand exactly what it’s gonna take? Because there’s so many elements that come into play from, you know, from tech stack considerations to, like you said to market and user base to, you know, how the UX UI is going to look and things like that, maybe, you know, some common pitfalls that you see, either from the MVP or scaling from MVP side of things that you’ve observed. Some of those that you could share with our, with our listeners, your audience? 

Adi:  Yeah, for sure. Like, the kind of the, from the start, like, the first step is to start and, you know, like, I saw entrepreneurs and founders that are afraid to start because all of these, like, you know, like, you’re going to need to invest a lot of money, you’re going to need to invest a lot of time, you’re going to need to do this and that. The startups are hard, but their users, the founders should start that is the key, right? The first, the first obstacle that fathers have is the fear of starting. And that fear needs to be gone and they need to start and take that leap and start seriously thinking about the idea and testing it out. And that is the first kind of I would say that the first step or first burden is that fear of starting, after they start. Basically, I mean, founder myself, and then their printer, and I built a couple of my own startups, it’s, you always get that debt drive to like, I want it all, like, you know, like, over the night I, today, I have an idea tomorrow, I decided to start and the day after tomorrow, I want everything to be built. I wanted all of the functionalities, all of the features, etc. But the second pitfall is that when you want to build everything right away, the reality is that you should build as small as possible. And that that mantra has been there all over a few years, I would say maybe decades. But that is truly the good, the right way to go. Right? Scale it down, like put, prioritize the most important functionalities, build it out, test it with your closest audience like early adopters of the product, if you get that. Thumbs up for your product, that’s awesome. If someone subscribes to your product before you build it, that’s like a totally clear sign that there is something in your idea. But lower the ego. We need as founders to lower the ego and kind of listen to what the audience said if they want to build something else like pivot you know, like, Instagram pivoted from the start, like they first wanted to build bourbon like a totally different product and then they pivoted to Instagram and look where it got a lot of these famous startups basically are famous products now they’re about startups. But they pivoted, and that was the core success. And in order to pivot as a founder we need to lower the ego, right? We all have great ideas, but along the way, we are going to need to pivot and change something. And that is the most important because I always say, like, founders are not building products for themselves. Founder is building a product for your users, and listening to what they say. And then build it according to that and not by your ego. So I would say that the biggest pitfall is our ego, right?  I love that it is so important to remember, you know, have that customer centric approach and make sure you’re listening, right, because so many people we hear from founders that are, you know, I, I wanted to found this because this is my passion. So first of all, they move into something. And now they’re not even developing their passion anymore because they’re running a business, which was not their passion, first place, right? And then second of all, they’re so dedicated to this idea of their passion, or what they want to do that even if people were like, boy be great if it could do this. It’s like, yeah, no, I don’t want to do that, though we’re doing this. And that’s the end of it. Like you said, this ego gets in the way of me. I’ve already got the great idea, I don’t want to pivot away from it and do something that’s so incredibly important. And we’re talking about this scaling from MVP to product or, you know, into MVP, and then MVP to product, you know, time to market is crucial, right? That’s got to be one of the highest factors here. But also, as you mentioned, quality is important, making sure you’re listening and putting out what people want is important. How do you find the balance between, you know, quickly iterating on an MVP, and ensuring that that final product meets the high quality standards? And I think you kind of touched on this with that kind of, you know, the Headstart program that you were talking about there. But also, you know, other factors come into play in your mind. 

Adi:   It’s really kind of simple, but complex, the simple question but complex answer, because it’s, I always say like, if you want to foresee the future, you need to see the past and see how everything went right. And knowing the product when it’s a good time to market your product, it’s it’s, I wouldn’t say impossible, it’s not impossible, but it’s really hard to do like, and I can bet that many more products fail because they waited for the time to market too long. More of them fail because of that, rather than basically, they push the market too early or something like that. So in my opinion, we should always try to push as soon as possible and get some sort of feedback and get some sort of response. Because even in the data, like when we push our MVP product live, and it’s then basically available to a wide audience, if we put the important KPIs and important metrics in the product. And we basically, fully fully are focused on that Northstar metric that we have. I bet that that should give us more insight into the market and when to push marketing activities, when to push product upgrades or something like that. Rather than waiting for a product, we’re waiting for the MVP to be published. So as I said, like, I’m taking Instagram as an example. But any other startup basically, if you want me to retract the lead, that they succeeded, because they published the product at that specific point in time, that proved to be successful. That is really true. However, the real question is, did they know that that product, that is the right time to market that product? I bet that majority will say they didn’t know, they just got the response from the audience, and they just went for it. Right? So instead of trying to wait for that perfect moment, let’s focus on the product and get it out there as soon as possible. And again, getting feedback on it. This will be basically my take on that.

Tech Stack Considerations

Ryan Davies: Perfect. I know, we kind of touched on a little bit earlier, and we’re talking about all of the pieces that go into this. And I think for a lot of our listeners, you know, tech stack considerations are probably one of the very key things that come into play, right? Because it’s huge in product development. And you know, at scale up, you help founders make these really informed decisions on what tech stack is best for their MVPs. And considering scalability and future growth in mind, for people that are, you know, overwhelmed with this a little bit help shed a little bit of light on that decision making process and how you can be I guess, as prepared as possible with the right, the right tech stack?

Adi:  Yeah, good question. Like we have two things: scale and scale up. We are trying to be industry agnostic, meaning that basically we are trying to build products for all of the industries. And the second thing is that we are technology agnostic. When I say that it’s more like we, we can build and we can use manure technologies out there. But the question is what kind of technology is appropriate for what kind of product right? It the using it to go back to that program that we have like Head Start, part of that big part of that program is aligning the reading the business goals are reading the MVP functionalities, understanding what what is there to be built, what is there to build the next iteration of the product as well, is the key in multiple ways. The first is basically to get feedback from the users that we talked about. But the second aspect is, it sheds a lot of light on what kind of technologies we will need to incorporate in that product. Because if we understand what we want to build, once we start, if we understand what kind of functionalities we can expect in a year or two, it gives us a great idea of what kind of technology we can use in order to build a product. So again, it’s correlated to that Head Start program, like because we really use that to identify the key technology for the four founders. And if I wouldn’t, I would say that it shouldn’t be a burden for them. And they shouldn’t hassle too much about the technology that they’re going to use. Because it’s at the stage when the product starts or when the development starts. Mostly, it’s about speed, unless it’s a real innovative product. There needs to be a clear difference there. But for the majority of startups, it’s just a moment of starting the product and building the product rather than choosing the right technology. Because at that point, it’s important to build quickly and get feedback. And then if the feedback is possibly positive at that point, basically, we can even redo the architecture of the product or something like that. There is a term called over engineering. And that’s really important, because we don’t want to over engineer startups that are like, we can build this product that can sustain millions of users concurrent users that from the start 10s of 1000s of them concurrently, basically, but should we do it, when we start building a product? Probably not. Because we don’t know if it’s going to have 10 users or 100 users, you know, so that term is really important. It’s already engineering. So the key thing is that we don’t want to overdo engineer, we want to build something quickly, get the feedback, if it’s going to be used, if it gets traction, create some as accurate as possible forecast and then upgrade the architecture. How needed, right?

Collaboration and Networking

Ryan Davies:  Amazing. I, you know, we’ve covered so much already, in terms of you know, the successes and the pitfalls, what’s going to make you successful in the MVP and scaling process, balancing of speed and quality, that iterative development process that you mentioned, you know, they tech stack considerations, making sure it’s all there, I think one of the best things that you do with scale up and, you know, just overall is around the collaboration as well. So like, you know, partnering companies, and making sure you’re collaborating between founders, and those companies, you know, around that, how does this collaborative ecosystem really contribute to the success of turning MVPs into full scale products? And, you know, what, what roles do these external partnerships play in the success plan?  

Adi:  I mean, their role is key. Like, when I say collaborative, it’s more like, obviously, building product is is something that needs to be done by founders, in its core, and all of the ideas and everything needs to be validated by founders in a way that because they own the product, that is the product, they need to know what what their product do, and what kind of functionality is going to have. In that way. It’s really important to find that silver lining, and engage them as founders as much as possible. But not to overwhelm them with a number of meetings, right? Because it’s, it’s, they have a lot to do in their daily activities, right. So, so, what we are trying to do is we are trying to keep meetings minimalistic, but yet be super focused on what we are building and what we have built. So in an hour every two weeks, basically we are trying to make that as a collaborative session, where basically we are showing what was built, what we are going to build the next few weeks, etc. So that collaboration with founders, I would say that it’s key to and it’s but it’s really important to to keep it as minimum as possible to get the highest highest outcome, right. I always love broad rules like, you know, I’m bad. Like if you have a lot of meetings that are 10-20% of those meetings, it’s 80% of the value is the rest of 80% of the meetings are just wasted. And I’m fully with that. So we’re trying to be as minimalistic as possible, but keeping the Add collaboration at a high level. And the other aspect of collaboration is something that’s really important in our world in the startup world. That is networking, right? So so. And it’s often neglected, you know, like, we have founders that have big networks, we have founders that have small networks, those with big networks are usually the ones that have higher chances of success. And what we are trying to do is we are trying to open net, our net, our own network to the startup that we’re working with, and find the experts they need from their industry in the smallest amount of time possible, and connect them with startup founders as well. And I think that that really is key as well like connecting the startup startups with the right individuals, right companies from the industry. So basically, we maximize or increase the chances of the startup success. And that is that second aspect of collaborative, collaborative product development, because we need to include all of the stakeholders and introduce fathers to important stakeholders in order to make that product successful.

Overcoming Challenges and Advice for Founders

Ryan Davies:   Yeah, it’s just so so perfectly well said, I absolutely love that, you know, how networking is just such a key point of success. And we’ve had a couple, you know, discussions about that on our podcast before, and that’s something that just keeps coming back is making sure that, you know, a big part of this roadmap in this journey is, is being connected, having the right people being able to talk to the right people, you know, people like yourself as well, right. So just kind of, I think, is a closing comment here, as we’re coming to the end, based on your experience, you know, that last piece of wisdom of advice for tech founders who have either, you know, successfully launched an MVP, and are now looking to scale it to a full fledged product. And just a little bit about, you know, that point, I think, you drew up really well, you know, about the, you got to know where you’re at. And I think we understand that portion of it, right? If you’re if you’re trying to get somewhere on a map destination, you know where you’re going, but you don’t know where you’re starting a map is useless, right? So that Headstart is going to help you a ton for that. But maybe that last piece of you’ve, you’ve launched that successful MVP, and you’re looking to scale it now into that full fledged product. What’s that hurdle and a little bit of advice from you there? 

Adi:  Yeah, like the overall advice is never give up. I mean, that’s definitely all advice for startups and business in general, you know, like, having my own startups before, the reason why they failed is because I as a founder gave up. And looking on into that retrospectively, they, I gave up at the point where, basically, if you look at the curve of startups, you know, like, it goes up, you’re super excited about startup, when you have an idea, when you start talking with people getting that positive reactions, then you start building that and start working on it. Essentially, every product is hard. And then it goes down, you know, like, it goes really dark. At that point, when it goes down, it’s really important to gather as much feedback as possible, get as much information as possible, and then start implementing that feedback into your product. And it basically goes up. And the moment when I fell with my two startups, when I gave up, essentially, it was on the lower end of that curve. You know, like when I got all of the information, I just needed to implement all of the feedback that I got. And at that moment, the startup basically started gradually to rise and start increasing revenue and everything. So definitely, regardless of the position, regardless of the stage, it’s never give up. And never give up on believing in the startup. In believing in your success, primarily not in the idea of your product, because it’s you shouldn’t be stubborn about your idea you should pivot if if there isn’t a chance to pivot, if market says if users say pivot pivot, but never stopped believing in yourself and that you’re going to succeed. And that is I think the core where regardless if you’re in pre MVP, if you’re in MVP, if your past MVP, if you’re raising series A raising series, B or precede regardless, like never give up, that that is the core, which is throughout the duration of your startup. And for that scaling up like, it’s, the thing is, like, whenever you you have a big milestone with your startup, you think, okay, I know it all, you know, so, you know, like, at the moment like you have an idea before you have an idea you you feel you’re you you don’t have idea you’re either stupid or you’re you’re not innovative or something like that, but then you get an idea and you think, oh my god, I’m a genius. I have an idea, you know, and then it comes to building your product and you realize, okay, I don’t know anything about that, you know, and then you think for yourself, you’re I’m stupid, etc. And then you build your product and you’re thinking awesome, I build a product. I’m a genius, you know, and then you get zero users in your first week. And then if you think about oh, I’m stupid. No, and then you get your first 1000 years, and you think I’m a genius. And it’s really a roller coaster, you know. So it’s the same as post MVP, you know, you build a product, that’s awesome. But that is really the start of your journey. So if you worked really hard before that, now you

need to work even harder. not harder, maybe smarter, that is the right word.I always say work smarter, the rather harder and always along the way, prioritize objectives. Like once you did build the MVP, your focus is going to shift largely than it was pre MVP, you know, like pre MVP, it was prioritization of functionalities and everything.After the MVP. the nature of your work as a founder changes that now you need to listen to the people, listen to the feedback that you get. you need to talk about maybe upgrading architecture, et cetera. So, regardless if you’re a post MVP or release two or release three or release four, you need to understand that priorities are shifting and that your focus as a founder shifts based on, on the moment where you are with the, with your start up.

So I would say that is the key like prioritize prioritize smartly and work, work smarter after you build a product because priorities are shifted, you just need to sit back and basically decide what is your priority for next week, next month, next year, et cetera, and then double down on that neglect other things delegate as much as you can.But focus on those core aspects of your business and core things that you think are going to succeed. Also, one good advice is kind of I, I read, read it in somewhere but there are two that you have, you can do you need to define what things to, to avoid and what two things to focus, right? In order to do that, one good strategy is thinking about the end road, like your product succeeded. And if you imagine yourself in the moment where your product succeeded, imagine yourself, what kind of steps led you to, to succeeding to that product. I bet that no one is going to say it

was the color of my logo or it was you know, the, the, the, whether I included Google sign in or not, it’s you’re going to define really important tasks that are going to lead to the success of your product. And another exercise is imagining that your product failed. What steps basically led to failing your product. And if you really think about that, you’re going to come up with awesome ideas and, and it’s, it’s really awesome exercise for any business. And I would say that at that point, you think about those two and then you can easily prioritize what kind of tests to do, what not to do. 

Adi: Yeah, I, I would say like a website or but the, the I’m always on linkedin. So, so linkedin is really my network. So, I’m always there, I’m always posting something and talking with people et cetera. So, if someone wants to, to reach out, it’s, I would say definitely linkedin. 

Ryan Davies:  Perfect. Well, there it is. So make sure you reach out on linkedin, check out scaleup.ba get all the information you’re looking for and really take that again, whether you’re, whether you’re working towards that MVP and you’re just spinning tires or you’re not even sure where to get kicked off or if you’re in that incredibly challenging part of scaling from MVP to a product Adi is the person for us. So, with that, I wanna thank you now, take a minute here to thank Adi Behlulovic for this amazing podcast from concept to scale, unveiling the art of MVP transformation and helping me you know, start to learn a new language. Here we go. I am getting even closer with the name each time I say it as we’re going further on. You know what I think, I think we’re gonna have to have you back so I can continue to practice the name more and more. And so you can continue to help us, you know, help our listeners with, with more of the things that they’re looking for because I think you’re an incredible wealth, wealth of knowledge. So thank you Adi for being here. Really, really happy. You were able to join us today.

Adi:  It was my pleasure. Thank you.

Ryan Davies:  Wonderful. And I want to thank our listeners as well. As always, we can’t do what we do without you. So, until we meet again with another amazing TBR episode, I’m your host, Ryan Davies.

About Our Host and Guest

Director of Marketing – Ekwa.Tech & Ekwa Marketing
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Founder @ ScaleUp
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” Building a product is just the start; the real journey begins after the MVP.”

– Adi Behlulovic –