Epic Products

Posted December 19, 2017 by Shasta Ventures

Epic products represent a fundamental part of daily human existence.  Our modern society couldn’t exist without products like the wheel, electricity, or antibiotics.  More recent examples include the smartphone – imagine trying to navigate around the world today without one, or without apps like Google Maps.

Entrepreneurs around the world are busy building the epic products of tomorrow.  Epic products touch the soul and leave a lasting, positive emotional connection.  They surprise, they delight, and they satisfy needs – both on a conscious and a subconscious level – that resonate deeply with millions and millions of users.  In epic products, these design elements come together perfectly and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

But what exactly makes a product “epic”?  What separates epic from the merely great?

Originally a noun, the word “epic” refers to “…a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures.”  Over time, “epic” has evolved into an adjective describing something particularly impressive or remarkable.

In modern terms, any alpine skier can describe an “epic” ski day: deep, dry powder, no crowds, and sunny skies.  Put differently, it’s the perfect, unforgettable, one-of-a-kind ski day.  That same skier knows just how rare it is to have these key characteristics come together in perfect harmony at the same time.

Similarly, epic products share three key characteristics:

  • They serve one purpose exceptionally well.
  • They create an amazing user experience.
  • They stand the test of time.

Epic products have a purity and simplicity about them that belies the efforts which went into their development.  Individual design decisions fade into the background, and are difficult to discern from using the product.  Epic products seem obvious in hindsight, but only the most exceptional designers and entrepreneurs can create them.  Here are some examples.

Serve one purpose exceptionally well.

Noon has built the world’s best light switch for consumers.  It’s easy, intuitive, and emotionally pleasing to use.  Simply press a Noon switch to turn on the lights, and press it again to turn the lights off.  However, there’s a depth of product capabilities, accessed through the touchscreen built into the switch (or via a smartphone application) that reflects a much deeper understanding of what a light switch can and should be.

Create an amazing user experience. 

Mint.com reinvented how consumers analyzed their finances.  Launched in 2007, Mint automatically gathered and analyzed credit card and banking transaction data for consumers.  Traditional alternatives like Quicken required hours of work and an upfront product purchase.  In stark contrast, through product and business model innovation Mint.com created a far superior service that – in addition to saving money for consumers – was fun, easy to use, and free.

Stand the test of time.  

Nest is best known for their launch product: an internet-connected thermostat.  It was one of the first mass-market connected hardware products to improve after installation in a consumer’s home, thanks to regular (and free) software update.  Six years after launch, it’s still considered an iconic design.

Epic products can also be built for enterprises.  One of the original killer applications for enterprises, the spreadsheet, hasn’t kept up with the demands of modern businesses.  Anaplan delivers a user-friendly, highly-scalable, and cloud-optimized version of spreadsheets which allows employees within a large enterprise to easily collaborate when building and updating models for sales, finance, marketing and supply chain operations. People love using Anaplan’s spreadsheet software. It’s a textbook example of the “land-and-expand” growth model where happy users encourage greater adoption by other users within the same company.

Another great example of an epic enterprise product is Glint. Their offering combines new technologies and intuitive design to measure and improve employee engagement. Glint has created anonymous surveys for employees which are easy and quick to complete, but are scientifically optimized using modern behavioral science to provide useful data for managers to improve organizational performance and reduce unwanted employee turnover.

Talking about products – and what makes for an “epic” product – is Shasta’s favorite way to get to know entrepreneurs better. The best designers and entrepreneurs make product decisions based on a superior understanding of consumers and their unmet needs. Together with these insights, the truly amazing companies come from entrepreneurs and designers who are then able to assemble world-class teams to build epic products and bring them to market.  Those are the entrepreneurs we want to back.