- You've got your idea, you're starting to build that first product, and as you're starting to build the first product, it's very early. It kind of doesn't work very well, you've got some ideas about it, it's really a proof of concept or a prototype, not a complete product. The neat thing about a proof of concept is that that proof of concept is something you can show people and take a lot of risk with. If you show people that early version, you can get their feedback on that early version well before it turns into something more significant.
One of the challenges I think for a lot of startups is that they try to come out with a complete product before anybody really sees it. And there's some large companies that have created this as their business process. Apple is a great example of it. Apple has this huge launch event and it's very exciting, and everybody has all this drama around it, and nobody really knows what they're going to come out with. It's kind of the opposite of what you should be doing at the very beginning of your business. What you want to do is you want to get that proof of concept, that sort of crumby, not quite ready for primetime thing that demonstrates what you're product's going to be.
And you want to get it into customers' hands. Maybe before you get it into customers' hands, you want to give it to your friends. And you want to give it to friends who are going to actually tell you what's good about it and what sucks about it. What you don't want is you don't want to give it to friends who are just going to say, oh this is so wonderful. My mother will never say that something I'm working on is bad. And so she's not actually that helpful for me. But I look for my cynical friends, the ones who are going to pick it apart and really give me lots of feedback so that I can actually make that proof of concept as I'm going towards a product better and better and better.
In addition, when you get it out into people's hands, you often hear the phrase alpha or beta used with software, and it's true for any kind of product. You want to get people that early usable version, or the alpha. You want to get out that beta, which is it's starting to turn into something that is really getting towards the final product but still has lots of problems with it. You want what Eric Ries calls an MVP or a minimal viable product. It's a product, but it's just got enough to barely be over the line of being a product.
So that transition from this proof of concept notion to a minimum viable product as your first product is really important, because what you don't want to do is you don't want to hold that product quiet until you launch it. If the first time people are seeing the product is when you launch it, you've probably launched the wrong thing.
- Define “shiny object syndrome.”
- Identify your customer’s pain.
- Determine the scalability of a product.
- Recall the best time to initiate customer acquisition.
- Review the differences between a passionate employee and an obsessed employee.
- Recognize the benefits of domain experience when building a founding team.