by • October 29, 2011 • ProductComments (3)156

Launch an experiment, plant a flag

Half a year into the development of our grand product vision, we hit a wall. Demo day was imminent and we could finally see just how deep the technological rabbit hole was.

This is ridiculous: it’s basically just moving pictures with music.

Let’s build that.

4 hours later, we had a prototype. The demo was live later that week. The tech press picked it up and the articles began rolling in.

We were so embarrassed.

We tried to explain that this little widget wasn’t our product. Our product vision was big. Sophisticated. Ambitious! It was a platform.

Then Sony called and we stopped arguing.

By the end of the week, we’d talked to MTV, Disney, Warner, and half a dozen more. Turns out we’d stumbled into something of a hot issue for the media world.

The company ultimately failed, but our accidental launch had been a clear success.

One of the big benefits of launching is that you begin a dialogue with your customers, partners, and users. Certain products require a high level of polish before anyone will take them seriously, which makes quick launches difficult. In those cases, launching semi-related toys, experiments, prototypes, and demos may be a viable workaround.

Our little widget wasn’t a scaled down version of our grand vision — it was a completely different product playing within the same space.

Regardless, it taught us something important: that brands cared and consumers didn’t.

Plant a flag, find the people

That first company exhausted my supply of childhood & university friends who happened to be great cofounders.

Finding cofounders is a nightmare. You either already know people or you face an unrelenting uphill slog punctuated by assorted mishaps.

The top 3 concerns are probably:

  1. Can this person deliver?
  2. Do we get along?
  3. Is he/she in it for the long haul?

You can’t really answer any of those based on a CV or interview. You have to work together. But committing weeks or months of collaboration for each evaluation is an impossible time sink.

All three concerns magically resolve themselves if you are each independently shipping products in a space you both care about. How it fixes numbers 1 & 3 is obvious. For #2, the idea is that it’s easy to collaborate on the next project or otherwise intertwine your current work, since you were doing it anyway for your own benefit.

As an added bonus, you’re able to find each other because you’ll be paying attention to what’s happening in your space.

Programming isn’t a pre-requisite for shipping. Max has gotten pretty far by doing a survey and putting out a unique white paper. Others have done it by gathering insightful interviews or blogging or talking at conferences.

Send up a beacon

Launching is like firing up a flare gun. You’re saying:

Look at me. I exist and am doing this thing. I’m going ahead with or without you.

Talk to me if you care too.

You won’t get far shipping garbage. But crude ideas, quick experiments, and early thoughts are certainly enough to make contact with the other people who care, whether they be cofounders, investors or customers.

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3 Responses to Launch an experiment, plant a flag

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