Startup Lesson 5: Build it NOW!

Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, was quoted by a tech mag recently. He said, “If the first version of your product doesn’t suck, you took to long to launch it.”  For a more visual example of this approach, remember Google’s very first home page, circa 1998.

Google’s original home search page.

Specifically for software and SaaS startups, Hoffman’s statement should be the gospel. It is so inexpensive these days to create software that nobody has any excuse for taking 3+ years and $600+ million to build a crappy web site. But I digress…who would do that anyway?!?

Sorry, healthcare.gov is a very, very easy target. And you, as the tech startup entrepreneur, should do everything in your power to do exactly the opposite. Get it out there, working, as fast as possible, as inexpensively as possible, and begin working on version 2 immediately.

In the lean startup world, we call this the MVP: Minimum Viable Product.  Eric Ries probably gives the “official” definition, but my explanation of the MVP is the absolute minimum service that your customer is willing to pay for or a user is willing to use repeatedly.

Once you’ve boiled down your idea so anyone you speak to “gets it”, the MVP is your next goal. Get the product out there while you continue to talk to as many potential users / customers / buyers as possible.  You will learn more from talking to one potential customer than you ever could by scribbling on the white board in your basement, and you’ll learn more from launching and feeling the pain of supporting an MVP than you will in talking to 100 potential customers. But you must do all of the above, simultaneously, while paying your mortgage and eating and working your day job and staying married.

And you have to do it now. What are you waiting for?

What do you think?