A lovingly crafted product is the entrepreneur’s version of golden handcuffs.
You have this thing, and you know it’s important, and you drive yourself crazy figuring out who to sell it to or how to re-frame it or what the Most Marketable Use-Case is.
You can’t move forward because giving it up feels like a loss. You career and startup are stuck at a local maximum.
This object could be take many forms: your phd research, a patent, a 100k person mailing list, your marginally successful book, or a product people loved but refused to pay for.
You know there’s value here, so you work hard to come up with increasingly exotic ways of making money from this thing you’ve built.
Your asset has become a constraint.
If you find yourself in this quagmire, try this thought experiment:
You are no longer allowed to sell (or otherwise directly monetize) your Big Valuable Thing. It has been demoted from “value proposition” to “key resource”. It’s something which enables the creation of delivery of some other value proposition, without actually being sold itself.
What do you build?
What can you do with that mailing list once you are no longer a mailing list business? What credibility and access does your phd give you? How much goodwill and lead-gen do you gain in your industry by giving your un-monetizable-but-beloved product away totally for free, forever?
It’s a sunk cost problem and you need to re-frame it to make a good decision about how to move forward from where you now stand.
If you were starting a company today and your grandfather passed, leaving you this Very Valuable Asset in his will, how would you use it in your brand new company? Would you use it at all?
Would it hold you back or speed you up?