In Silicon Valley everybody will always pressure you to get out your product as quickly as possible, abusing the term “lean startup” in what is ultimately an effective strategy to get you to fall flat on your face. An army of unofficial advisors will argue that the entrepreneur is totally wrong for not getting their product out the door quickly. The advice is based on a legitimate strategy, but it is misinterpreted and incorrectly executed over and over again.
The $10 Million Business Plan
When I met the IdleWorship team back in May, it was for a story on AllFacebook that I was doing. The company had yet to release their game, but they had already received a ton of attention thanks to the executives involved and the technology they were developing. They showed off their game to us, but throughout the conversation I couldn’t help but wonder how the CEO of the company had convinced Rick Thompson (Co-Founder of Playdom which sold to Disney $760 million) for millions of dollars in funding without launching anything.
I asked him and he showed me a guide which was larger than a full-length motion picture screenplay. It was comprehensive documentation of his ambitious vision to create a new type of God game. The plan was ambitious but more impressive was how the company was methodically testing the product that had already been in production for over a year. They had a beta group that was actively testing the product but they had yet to formally launch. In other words they were approaching testing the right way, not the way many people will advise you in Silicon Valley.
Launching The Right Way
For the entrepreneur, one of the greatest fears is having a bad launch. Internet entrepreneurs have startups like Color engrained in their mind as examples of launches gone wrong: lots of hype and a failure to deliver. For most, the fear is that if you don’t get it right the first time, you’ve lost your opportunity. It’s a legitimate fear. However the pressure to launch should actually be about the pressure to test. Launching an untested product is a recipe for disaster.
You get your product out the door, get coverage in various publications, see a surge in traffic, and then watch all of it disappear as the product fails to meet the expectations of its users. While you were able to get some tests completed, you’ve now done some damage to your brand by delivering an incomplete product. Don’t abuse your brand name by releasing untested products into the wild. At Holler, the strategy that we’ve begun using is developing products under different names, some of which will be in verticals completely unrelated to ours.
The result is that we’re able to test various components of our product without putting the Holler brand name at risk. While there’s still a risk that your product won’t meet expectations on the day that it launches, you’ve mitigated some of the risk by completing a lot of tests and adjusting. No, we haven’t done everything the right way, but our newly adopted approach is something I feel a lot more comfortable with. Do you think this safer, more methodical approach, is an effective way to launch?