How To Work With Design Partners

  1. Introduction
    • Launch of standard Design Partner Agreement to solidify early customer relationships.
    • Emphasis on the importance of customer development in the early stages of a startup.
  2. Understanding Design Partnerships
    • Design partners are early supporters who are willing to collaborate with your startup before achieving product-market fit.
    • They provide critical feedback and gain access to the product on favorable terms.
    • The collaboration is centered on co-creation rather than a mere transaction or exchange of goods​1​.
  3. Distinctiveness from Pilots and Betas
    • Design partnerships differ from pilots and beta testing, with a focus on the earliest stages of the company.
    • Pilots: Customers try a limited version of the built product, aiming to solve their problem, potentially leading to a long-term deal.
    • Beta features: New additions to an existing product ready for user testing and feedback.
    • Design partnerships aim to answer essential questions about product-market fit through in-depth, high-touch relationships​1​.
  4. Selection of Design Partners
    • Ideal design partners are the customers you genuinely desire, not just the early leads from product signups or early access forms.
    • They play a pivotal role in shaping your product and strategy, serving as valuable social proof for investors and potential customers.
    • Encourages considering ideal customer profiles and valuable inputs​1​.
  5. Formalizing Partnerships with Contracts
    • Despite potential hesitations, forming a contract can establish a clear understanding and commitment from both parties.
    • Contracts can prevent conflicts and disappointments by setting clear expectations, with a focus on feedback.
    • Suggested implementation of a meeting cadence to ensure regular feedback and nurture the relationship​1​.
  6. Attributes of the Design Partner Agreement
    • Allows either party to terminate the agreement at any time, adapting to the uncertainties of early startup stages.
    • The agreement is notably shorter compared to contracts used for selling production-ready applications​1​.
  7. Concerns Regarding Letters of Intent (LOI)
    • Highlights the risk of using LOIs due to potential issues with intellectual property (IP) ownership.
    • The necessity for startups to assure ownership or valid licenses to the IP in the product during due diligence processes.
    • Advocates for agreements assigning IP ownership to the company to avoid complications​.


Your design partners should be the customers you actually want, not the first leads you got through product signups or early access forms.

The above quote comes from, and this post was inspired by

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