In Business Development and Partnerships you will hear a similar feedback every day: “If only your product did this….we’d integrate/partner/etc.” This leads a lot of companies to pull themselves in five directions at once, and lack of focus is one of the biggest reasons companies fail. This also turns you from a startup into a custom development shop. The worst thing you can do is go from being a startup to a custom development shop while still thinking you are a startup.
However, there are two reasons why you would spend time and effort to build something into your product that someone is asking for.
Many companies have asked for the same thing
I have written before about talking to as many prospective partners as you can before you build a product. This guarantees that you will have a market for something before you build it. If you talk to 100-200 prospective partners, building the right product will end up with 10-30 launch partners. “If only your product did this…” becomes something that your product should do because there are tons of people/companies that want it.
A big company has asked for it (and there is a contract)
This is when things get tricky. You really want to work with that big fish but they’ll only work with you if you build the thing that they want. Oh, and that thing is going to take you a month or two to ship. I remember working at a previous company, we had a lot of people asking us to build custom things. Our CEO smartly decided that at that point we weren’t going to do that. We were going to build a product for everyone and only once we hit a certain level would we even consider building specific things for companies. It worked out well and eventually those bigger companies used the product we built as it was because it became the standard in the space.
The only exception to building for a big company is if it wouldn’t take a month or two to build (any more than a week’s project can be very detrimental), and if they’ve put in writing that once you build it, they will integrate/partner. Only then, would I recommend building what they want.
Remember: In startup-land, a wasted month or two can derail your entire company. Stay focused, ship great products, and build for the masses.