by Mike Baer
Adapted from material developed for a Third Path Initiative training module.
A very common story among highly excited entrepreneurs goes something like this: get a great idea, build the product, go whole hog to market, wait and lose a lot of money. It’s equivalent to the leadership anti-mantra “ready, fire, aim.” I call this the “emotional/entrepreneur syndrome” where any action is preferred to analysis and patience.
Contrast that with a less common but much wiser approach. Get an idea, test the idea, check out the landscape, build a sufficient product to try out, go lightly to market, listen, and adjust. Boring? Not at all…unless you just get off on failure.
This approach has been called many things over the years. It’s not new. Soft opening. Soft launch. Lean startup. Trial and error. Jesus put it this way:
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him… – Luke 14:28-29, ESV
Out of context, I admit but true nonetheless. Take your time and do it right.
Here are the steps I’d use if I was doing another startup. After my initial ideation, testing the market, and market research, I’d:
Develop a Minimal Viable Product
This is a concept not created but made popular by Eric Ries in The Lean Startup. A “minimal viable product” or MVP is defined as:
…that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” – Wikipedia
… a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product’s initial users. – Techopedia
In other words, don’t try to create the perfect website, application, food, widget. Instead, build just enough, barely enough, the minimum to actually go to market. You will improve and update and complete your product later but for now I just want my car on the track. Read more