When and how to use the North Star framework for your start-up


Steer your start-up towards growth with the North Star framework.

You're a start-up founder trying to find your way in the world of product development. With so many frameworks and methodologies out there, it can feel overwhelming to know where to start. But there's one simple tool that can serve as your guiding light: the North Star framework. In just 100 words, we'll give you the lowdown on what it is, when you should use it, and how to apply it to your start-up. You'll see how it stacks up against other popular frameworks like the Business Model Canvas. Whether you're just forming ideas or knee-deep in product dev, the North Star framework can get you oriented and headed in the right direction. Read on for a straightforward overview that will help you navigate the seas of building your first product.

What is the North Star framework?

The North Star framework is a product development strategy focused on growth. It helps start-ups build products that customers love and scale their business. The core idea is to define your company's vision or "North Star" that guides decision making.

Product vision

Your North Star is your long-term product vision - where you want your product to be in 3-5 years. It should articulate the core customer problem you're solving and your solution. Defining this vision helps ensure your team is aligned and working towards the same goals.

Key metrics

With your vision set, identify key metrics that measure progress toward that vision. These should be quantifiable and directly impacted by the product. For example, if your vision is "the easiest way to start investing", key metrics could be number of new signups, deposits, and share of wallet.


Next, map a product roadmap with initiatives that will move the metrics and get you closer to achieving your vision. The roadmap should cover the next 6-18 months and be reviewed quarterly based on learnings.

Using the North Star framework helps start-ups build purposeful products that create real value for customers. While it's not a rigid process, the core principles of vision, metrics, and road-mapping can help technology companies scale strategically. The framework is lightweight but powerful, perfect for start-ups looking to find product-market fit and accelerate growth.

When should you use the North Star framework for product development?

The North Star framework works best when you need to define a long-term vision and roadmap for your product. As a start-up founder, this usually means in the early stages of your company when you're still figuring out product-market fit. Using the North Star framework at this point will help align your team around a shared vision and build a strategic roadmap to get there.

Clarify your vision

The North Star framework pushes you to articulate your vision in a single sentence that captures the core problem you're solving and who you're solving it for. This helps provide clarity and focus for your team and ensures you're all working toward the same goal. For example, your vision statement could be:

"We help fast-growing tech start-ups offload their finance function so founders can focus on building great products."

Map your roadmap

The North Star framework also helps you plot a course to achieve that vision by identifying key milestones and initiatives along the way. These represent the key problems you need to solve to build your ideal product and business. The roadmap gives your team guidance on what to focus on both now and in the future.

In summary, if you want to set a bold vision, align your team, and build a strategic roadmap to achieve it, the North Star framework is an excellent tool to use, especially for early-stage start-ups. When used well, it can be the difference between wandering aimlessly and reaching your destination.

How to apply the North Star framework to your start-up

Define your vision

First, determine your start-up’s vision and purpose. Ask yourself: what problem are we solving and for whom? Your vision should be ambitious yet achievable. It will guide all your product decisions.

Identify your target customers

Figure out who your key customers are and their needs. Conduct customer interviews to gain insights. Look for common themes and pain points. Your target customers will help determine what solutions you build.

Determine your product roadmap

Outline a roadmap of solutions that aligns with your vision and customers’ needs. Focus on key problems you want to solve in the next 6-12 months. This roadmap will help provide direction for your team and allow you to measure progress.

Build and get feedback

Start building your solutions, get customer feedback, and make improvements. Launch a beta test or pilot programme to get insights from real customers using your product. Their feedback is invaluable for optimising your solution.

Measure and iterate

Finally, define key metrics to measure how well your solutions meet customers’ needs and impact your vision. Make data-driven decisions to iterate, improve or pivot as needed. Regular measurement and iteration will help ensure you stay focused on your North Star.

The North Star framework provides start-ups with a structured yet flexible approach to developing products that fulfil their vision. By defining your purpose, understanding your customers, determining solutions, gathering feedback and measuring impact, you can build products that create real value. Apply this framework to set your start-up on a trajectory for success.

North Star framework vs. other product development methods

The North Star framework differs from other product development methods in a few key ways. Compared to the waterfall model, the North Star framework is more agile and iterative. Rather than following a strictly linear process, you continually revisit and refine your North Star based on customer feedback and changing needs.

The North Star framework also provides more strategic guidance than other agile methods like scrum or lean start-up. Your North Star gives the product a clear direction and purpose, not just an incremental build-measure-learn loop. However, the North Star framework works well combined with scrum’s sprint cycles or lean start-up’s minimally viable products (MVPs) to execute the product roadmap.

Unlike design thinking, the North Star framework starts with your business goals and customer problems, not just user needs and experiences. It ensures your product vision aligns with your company’s overall strategy and mission. But the North Star framework still benefits from design thinking’s focus on empathy, prototyping, and experimentation.

For tech start-ups, the North Star framework may be more useful than growth hacking techniques alone. Growth hacking can drive lots of users, but without a North Star to guide the product experience, it may lead to churn or lack of differentiation. The North Star helps ensure you build a product that sustains long term growth, not just a short-term influx of users.

In summary, the North Star framework complements many existing product development methods. It provides the vision and strategic direction often lacking in agile or lean approaches. But it works best when combined with their iterative build processes and focus on the customer experience. For start-ups, the North Star is key to sustainable growth, not just growth hacking wins. By integrating it with other methods, you get the best of both worlds: a product roadmap and philosophy that is both visionary and actionable.

Common questions about using the North Star framework

Many founders have questions about how to apply the North Star framework to their start-up. Here are some of the most frequent ones:

When should we start using the North Star framework?

The sooner the better. As soon as you have an idea for a new product or feature, define your North Star. It will guide all of your product development decisions from that point forward. Don’t wait until you have a prototype or MVP before figuring out your North Star.

How often should we revisit our North Star?

You should revisit your North Star at least once a quarter to make sure it still aligns with your product vision and business goals. Your North Star is not set in stone - it may evolve as your company grows. Regularly re-evaluating it helps ensure your team is still headed in the right direction.

What if our North Star changes?

That’s ok - your North Star should change as needed to match changes in your product, vision or market. When it changes, communicate the new North Star to your team right away. Explain why it changed and how it will impact product roadmaps and priorities going forward. The important thing is that your team is aligned around a shared North Star, even as it evolves.

How do we align our team around the North Star?

Communicate your North Star frequently across the company. Share it at all-hands meetings, in product updates, and in one-on-ones with team members. Explain how it connects to team members’ day-to-day work and priorities. Ask for input on how to improve measurement of key North Star metrics. Foster a culture where everyone feels invested in achieving the North Star. With continuous communication and involvement, your team will develop a strong shared understanding of your product’s purpose and direction.

The North Star framework is a simple yet powerful way to build better products. By frequently revisiting your North Star and keeping your team aligned around it, you'll ensure you're always headed in the right direction.

North Star framework example

Let's look at an example of how to apply the North Star framework. Say you run a start-up that develops scheduling software for small businesses. Your vision is to help business owners save time and streamline operations.

Identify your target customer

Your target customer would be small business owners, likely in service-based industries like retail, food and beverage, salons, etc. These owners often struggle with managing employee schedules efficiently while keeping costs low.

Define your customer's problem

The problem you're solving is the difficulty of creating schedules that meet all constraints - available staff, facility capacity, employee preferences, and labour laws. Doing this manually is time-consuming and prone to errors.

Determine your solution

Your solution is scheduling software that automates the process. It lets owners quickly build schedules that optimise for their key needs. The software is easy to use, affordable, and integrates with their existing systems.

Define your value proposition

Your value proposition is "Save time and improve productivity with easy, affordable scheduling software designed specifically for small businesses." This clearly articulates who you help, what problem you solve, your solution, and the key benefits.

Set your North Star

Your North Star is to become the leading provider of scheduling software for small service-based businesses. You aim to gain 50,000 customers in 5 years by focusing on an amazing customer experience, word-of-mouth marketing, and strategic partnerships with related software companies and industry associations.

This is a simplified example, but it illustrates how the North Star framework helps provide guidance and alignment for your start-up. Defining your vision, target customer, their problem, your solution, and value proposition sets the foundation for growth. Your North Star gives you a concrete goal to work toward, even if the path to get there changes along the way.


So there you have it - the North Star framework in a nutshell. By focusing on your company's purpose and values first, this framework helps you make product decisions that align with your overarching vision. While it takes more upfront work than other frameworks, it pays off by keeping your entire team aligned. The clarity it provides makes it easier to evaluate new opportunities and say no to distractions. Whether you're just starting out or looking to realign an existing product, give the North Star a shot. Implementing it could be just the guiding light your start-up needs to find success.

Want to improve performance, scale the business and prepare for investment in your tech business?

Sign up for our latest insights