Strategies for Startup Triumph: Maddie's Expert Guide to Product-Market Fit

July 25, 2023

As an early-stage founder, one of the most important things you can focus on is finding product-market fit (PMF). According to Mar Hershenson, the co-founder of Pear VC, there are two PMF engines that power startups to scale:

  1. Build a product people really like. This means proving that your customers find your product valuable, engaging, and growing. Some metrics to track include:

  1. Build a growth engine. This means figuring out how to efficiently and scalably reach new customers. Some signs you've achieved this include:

  2. You can get non-founder employees to do sales in a repeatable way

  3. Your customer acquisition cost (CAC) to lifetime value (LTV) ratio is greater than 1 (ideally 3-5x)
  4. You have a proprietary and scalable way to reach new customers
  5. Your growth is accelerating, not slowing down

Example of a startup that achieved both PMF engines:

A YC solo founder made a fake demo on PowerPoint. He got 5 paid LOIs (letters of intent) from Enterprise companies. With just a PowerPoint, he raised $1.5m, built the product, got into YC, and scaled to $10m in revenue.

This founder first proved PMF by getting 5 Enterprise companies to sign (and in some cases pay) for a product that didn't even exist yet based on a PowerPoint. Then, he was able to turn on the growth engine by building the product, getting into YC, and scaling revenue to $10m.

Here's an example of a startup that failed to achieve either PMF engine:

A Stanford dropout spends 1 year building a consumer product with no validation on payment. After 1 year of pushing it off, his team was worried about the business model. When they finally asked their audience if they would pay for the product, the overwhelming answer was no.

The key takeaway is that as an early founder, focus on engaging customers and growing. Don't get distracted by things like how much money you raise or how many conferences you speak at. If you can achieve these two PMF engines, you'll be on your way to startup success.

The Most Intimate Founder Community - Your Journey Begins at

Maddie Wang founders of founders cafe solo founder
Maddie Wang
Gay / Solo-Founder / Stanford Dropout

I'm building Founders Cafe because as a solo founder, it can be very isolating. Last year, I lost 4 co-founders and a best friend on a previous startup.

Previously built a Minecraft Server ($61k), Amazon Store ($120k), and Queer Chart, where I met my girlfriend & close friends.

If you're interested in joining the Founders Cafe, let's talk and if it's a good fit, down to invite you!

Contact us at
Apply in 1 min