The Quest for Product Market Fit: Lessons from Superhuman
In 2018, Superhuman founder Rahul Vohra published a widely-read post detailing his startup's unique approach to finding product/market fit. Vohra's post struck a chord with many founders struggling to achieve that elusive goal. In this article, we'll explore Vohra's insights on product market fit and the framework he developed at Superhuman.
First, some background on Rahul Vohra. Prior to founding Superhuman, Vohra founded and sold Rapportive, an email company to LinkedIn in 2012. After taking some time off, Vohra was ready for his next venture. In 2014, Rahul set out on his journey to creating the fastest email experience around. That experience became Superhuman, an invite-only email platform aimed at power users.
Finding product/market fit is critical yet notoriously difficult. As Vohra searched for answers, he found thought leaders urging startups to "make something people want" (Paul Graham) and "feel when it is happening" (Marc Andreessen). While compelling, these remained lagging indicators.
The breakthrough came when Vohra discovered Sean Ellis, who pioneered the term "growth hacking" at Dropbox and other startups. Ellis asked users: "How would you feel if you could no longer use the product?" The magic threshold was 40% responding "very disappointed." As Vohra explains:
Companies that struggled to find growth almost always had less than 40% of users respond "very disappointed" — whereas companies that grew most easily almost always exceeded that threshold.
This simple survey question became the foundation for Vohra's 5-step product market fit engine:
Survey users on how disappointed they'd be to lose access
Segment supporters vs. skeptics
Analyze feedback to convert fence-sitters
Prioritize improvements based on user input
Track progress on product/market fit over time
Vohra illustrates his methodology with actual data from Superhuman's early days. The interactive charts allow readers to filter and explore the nuances. As Vohra states, "you can dive deep into the data" to bring his framework to life. Those charts can be accessed here.
Product market fit remains more art than science. However, Vohra's data-driven approach provides a blueprint for founders to iteratively hone in on that sweet spot. For those seeking growth, his insights are well worth learning from Superhuman's journey.