Failed Startups Can Be a Good Thing
More than likely, if you’ve ever run a startup (or are planning) to you’ll likely come across this phenomenon: failure to launch from a fear of embarrassment. This happened to me.
Here’s what happened: we were three partners: all big idea guys, with varying sizes of networks. One guy was very social and had a huge network, the second guy not as much, and me least of all. The main skill I brought to the team was the technical ability – I rocked code – going from zero to what I thought was MVP in about 6 weeks on my own (the other guys were good but weren’t coders).
I put together the code, got it all pretty (at least what was pretty at the time, even though none of us were designers – one of the other guys had some ideas, plus he brought some friends of his in to help, so we incorporated those ideas in) as far as I was concerned, it worked great and looked OK, maybe not great but OK. It was more than MVP (minimum viable product), it kicked ass as far as I was concerned. I was pretty proud of what we were able to knock together in such a short time frame.
The time came to launch, but our partner with the big network kept hesitating. I couldn’t figure out why. He kept asking for more and more functionality to be added which IMHO didn’t increase the value much. Even after all that was added, he kept asking for more. Now, it was way beyond MVP. He had no problem showing the app at shows to individuals but when it came down to tweeting it out or posting it on his Facebook feed so that his whole network would see it, he never did it. Eventually, he left to get a job somewhere, leaving me and the other partner. I never found out why he was so hesitant, but looking back on it now I’ll bet that he never thought it was good enough to promote to his followers.
We prepped the app and launched it. I promoted it to my smallish network, but my remaining partner seemed to hold back as well. A week after it was up, since we got little traffic, he declared that it wasn’t working and that we had to pull it down and add even more stuff. This was when I realized that he too probably suffered from the same thing the other guy did – ironically the same guy who first told me that your first attempt should be embarrassing.
Eventually, we ran out of money and I had to leave the startup as well. But I learned a lesson, which was:
- Identify the problem & the market
- Build a rapid quick and dirty solution
- SHIP IT
- PROMOTE IT
- Take feedback from the market, give it some time to settle in, get some press
- Iterate until you get it right
Never be afraid to get an MVP out the door to see if there really is a market for it.
It might just be the “founders delusion” that this is going to be the next $1B startup.
Who cares if you’re embarrassed by it? Just get it out the door and iterate until you get it right. LET THE MARKET DECIDE if its useful.
A string of failed startups is better than ones that never launched.
Once you’ve identified a real problem and done your research, start trying to solve it in the simplest way possible. Your first version should certainly embarrass you. “Minimum viable product” has become a startup cliché for good reason. Just build the simplest possible solution to a problem, and launch it.