Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Seattle 2.0, and imported to GeekWire as part of our acquisition of Seattle 2.0 and its archival content. For more background, see this post.
By David Aronchick
Hark has been an amazing ride so far, and the best is still yet to come. It is more often than not extremely taxing (mentally, physically, emotionally, financially) but I strongly believe that people who are wired this way simply must do it – birds gotta fly, bees gotta sting, honey’s got to be beared, entrepreneurs gotta entrepreneur. To encourage other to join into my shared hysteria, I have also recently publicly committed to helping more startups out – especially in Seattle. And, as the recent startup weekends and broad financial activity show, there’s lots to be excited about up here. However, time and again, I run into the same critical flaw that dooms vision after vision from becoming real. So what is this fatal flaw that is infecting the community? Simple – caring about what you release.
The entrepreneur faces many obstacles in her march to glory. Constantly shifting markets, new competition, running out of money, finding great employees and thousands of more issues will crop up that will stop her from changing the world. But nothing is a larger or more ever present as a blocker than her own self-doubt.
Ira Glass had a great quote about creative types which is extremely applicable here. I tried to abbreviate this, but it’s too good in its whole, so I’ll just steal reprint the whole thing:
“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
This is so true – and so relevant for the entrepreneur. It may be taste, or commitment to quality, or desire to change the world, but there will be a huge doubt in your mind when you look at what you are about to release and you will hate your final product. I promise you it will be crap, and, without fail, it will make you want to give up before you have even gotten it out the door. But, the real failure is not releasing a piece of garbage – that is part of the process. The REAL failure is NOT RELEASING ANYTHING AT ALL.
Here’s how this works – you come up with a great idea, you come up with fifteen more facets to the great idea, you meet with twenty-five people who all think it is a great idea, and then … nothing. More often than not I will see developers pivot a hundred times, adding more and more to the MVP until it is so bogged down with all the new things you want and/or it has such a high bar for initial quality that it will NEVER make it out the door. When I meet with entrepreneurs who have a solid idea and are well on their way, almost always the first thing I say is “why are you meeting with me, you should be developing!” Every second until that first product is out the door is precious – use them wisely!
Let us do a simple break down on the pros and cons of waiting to release. Start with the cons:
- A new competitor could enter the marketplace with a product
- A new/existing competitor could get more money (that should have been going to you)
- A new/existing competitor could implement your killer feature
- A marketing partnership could be missed due to timing issues (namely you don’t have a product to partner with)
- The world could move on and implement something half assed that is enough to take the wind out of your sails.
Ok, onto the pros of waiting:
- Nothing. There are no pros. Period.
Some may say “well, you only get one chance to make a first impression.” Despite Head and Shoulder’s marketing campaign, this is ridiculous. First impressions only matter if you never plan on updating your product ever again, or feel like completely ignoring your audience – remember, hating your product means at least they care about the product to have an emotional connection. This is a good thing!
Let’s be clear – it is PERFECTLY valid to not go out and do a startup. And it’s perfectly valid to have an idea that would be cool, but not feel like pursuing it. But do not pretend that you are gung ho on changing the world, or waste even 20 seconds thinking about what it would be like if you built the next greatest thing if you are not 100% focused on getting things out the door. Real artists ship – get to it.