You are a builder - Mixpanel
You are a builder
Product Foundations

You are a builder

Last edited: Apr 15, 2024 Published: Apr 12, 2024
Daniel Bean & Paul Jun

Ask anyone in your company, “What are you building?”

We’ll bet you everyone has an answer.

“I’m building a new funnel to track leads for a campaign.”

“I’m building a feature to help new customers connect their data.”

“I’m building an interview series to generate leads for mid-market companies.”

“I’m building a newsletter for the community’s paid group.”

“I’m building a new user journey for our EMEA market and ICPs.”

“I’m building a program for our partnership ecosystem in APAC.”

Forget job titles and all that jazz; it’s all made up. What do people do at work every day? Make decisions. You think about new ideas to improve the product experience. You look at the data, consider the research, and reflect on your company goals. What you make is not so much the artifact of the customer experience; what you make are decisions. A thriving company is the sum of a thousand good decisions.

Part of our recent brand evolution was realizing that everyone is a builder, but not every builder is confident or well-versed in understanding, using, or analyzing data. So we’ve set out to make it easier for everyone—builders of all technical levels—to use analytics.

Builders make decisions to create change. Analytics is a tool to diagnose change so that everyone understands the quality of their decisions and ideas. Did it make things better or not? Is it advancing our goals or not?

Of course, we know tools are only as good at the hands they’re in. It’s builders like you who make progress possible.

Traits of a builder

We imagine a world where more people are building products and companies, a world where builders are confident using analytics to make informed decisions so that their projects have a fighting chance at making an impact.

Here are the traits we’ve noticed—and exercise on our own—that allow builders to keep playing the game, overcoming failure, and building something people love.

Builders change their minds: Builders have to operate in two realms. On one side, a builder has to be in many ways like a scientist—forming hypotheses, doing experiments, and seeking accurate truths to falsify ideas. On the other side, a builder must be creative, looking up at their mind’s eye and imagining what they want to build and how customers feel when using it. In the center is a possibility: What might the world look like if this thing worked? When faced with new information, builders change their minds versus exercising wishful thinking.

Builders have vision and taste: Tools and data are important, but they can only take you so far. In the same way, the best camera doesn’t make you the best photographer or a chef’s knife doesn’t get you a Michelin star. Builders need vision and taste. No one asked for Airbnb or Spotify Wrapped or pickleball—yet someone had the vision and guts to ship it, and due to a combination of luck and timing, it worked.

Builders take risks: We’re reminded of a story about a startup called Burbn, a location-based social network. The founders hit a stride but noticed that most users used the photo filter feature. They pondered what they could work on next. What would millions of people would love using? They pivoted because the data told a compelling story. It helped them find their next big idea. The startup? You may heard of it: Instagram. I think about this story a lot. Imagine they didn’t have the data on how customers used the product. Imagine if they ignored it and kept investing in something else because of wishful thinking.

Builders learn from failure: As a builder, you will probably have more failures than successes. This sharpens your intuition. You don’t want to fail so big that you can’t build again. You want to place smart bets and, above all, learn from them. Failure tells you what you shouldn’t do, opening a wider field for new possibilities. And having the data on hand over time paints a clear picture.

Data gives builders vision

Think about this reality: Most companies cannot accurately, confidently, and unequivocally see 100% of every decision made and the impact on the business goals, experience, and revenue.

It’s like being blindfolded, spun around in circles, and told to run North about a quarter mile out, then make a hard left turn.

No marketing team understands the full funnel. Most product teams cannot tell you if a change in the product affected revenue or user retention. Everyone is looking at different scorecards and devising ideas based on that information.

And the hardest part of all? Making decisions is always about the future and involves other people. This is why, I bet, people in tech companies call them “bets.”

Annie Dukes, former poker champion turned author on decision-making, said about making bets: “Over time, those world-class poker players taught me to understand what a bet is: a decision about an uncertain future. The implications of treating decisions as bets made it possible for me to find learning opportunities in uncertain environments. Treating decisions as bets, I discovered, helped me avoid common decision traps, learn from results in a more rational way, and keep emotions out of the process as much as possible.”

Such is life: You can have all the right information on hand, make an informed and confident decision, and still have a negative outcome. The weather app will say there’s an 80% chance of rain, yet the day can be filled with sunshine.

Builders look at data to understand the patterns from the past. Knowing what came before, you can spot the gaps and sharpen your ideas. Event analytics is powerful because it gives you the full context and history of all the changes made to your product over time.

There’s the famous saying, “Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.” In the context of building, we would say, “Those who don’t look at the data are condemned to wishful thinking.” Wishful thinking, like sunk costs, obstructs builders from making progress because they get stuck investing time and energy into changes that aren’t working. The scariest part? Many companies throw decisions at the wall in the dark and don’t even know what’s sticking.

We want to help you build

If data and analytics help give builders vision, you can think of them like headlights when you’re driving at night. At Mixpanel, we don’t only want to provide you with the analytics tools to light up your path but also the insights and inspiration, or travel tips and map, to help you decide how to set your course.

Our blog, The Signal, is where we’ll be offering the latter, whether through “how I built it” style interviews with industry leaders and founders or best practices explainers from product managers, designers, engineers, marketing experts, and more.

Be sure to sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this blog to get all the latest. We’re excited to help you build 🛠️

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