As an enterprise focussed technology consultant, you generally wait until you have something close to the “perfect” product with all the bells and whistles a v1.0 ┬áis expected to have prior to launching the product into a production environment. Truth be told there are some big differences between an enterprise product and the soft launch of a new Internet based product or service, not the least of which includes concerns around security and performance. The truth is, given that you are launching a product into an environment that has a concrete business need for it, there could be some significant negative business impact if the product fails to behave as expected. In the Internet startup space however, other than some market validation and A/B testing that you might have done, you don’t even know if anyone cares about your product. Chances are on day 1 other than your core team and a few early supporters nobody does. Hence its critical for you to get the product out as quickly as possible, and begin getting some real world engagement and quality feedback. This step is countless times more important at this stage of the venture, than building out the new cute widget that you think your product needs.

On July 16th we launched our product and invited a handful of users to begin using the product. Boy, are we glad that we made that decision. Waiting a few more weeks, and building out a few more features might have helped a bit, but would probably have hurt us more. Lets provide some concrete insight into what I mean by this. Our product, Neulantis, currently is being built with the objective of enabling designers, developers and domain experts to incubate their ideas on the platform, and to help them find a team to kick start their vision. All version 1.0 of the product had to enable this was:

  • the ability to create a profile
  • the ability to initiate a project and add required skills
  • the ability to provide project updates
  • the ability to follow or join a project

Some of the key features that were not included in version 1.0 included:

  • the ability to communicate with other users either through a messaging system or through a discussion forum on the platform
  • the ability for updates to be broadcast to project followers and team members

Now, while some might consider this to be a broken product, particularly with the inability to initiate conversations with others on the platform or go back and forth with project initiators, we believe that the core functionality required to convey the idea to people and begin true market validation was already there. Up to this point we had no concrete way of knowing if people even cared to post their ideas on the platform, however following the release when people began posting their project ideas we knew that this could work. This was the ultimate purpose of R1.0, to test our most basic assumptions – that people would be willing to post their project ideas, and other were willing to join or follow these projects.

On the same token, some will argue that we could theoretically have tested this assumption with surveys, basic mockups and splash pages, but the truth is at that point people are still not using the product, and from our perspective the sweet spot to truly test your most basic product assumptions lies somewhere between a splash page, and a fully functioning robust product. You need people using the product in some concrete way before your assumptions can be really validated. Further without an actual product, it very difficult for people to provide any quality feedback, and at this stage of the venture engaging your early user base, and providing them a sense of ownership is as critical as having them take the first step of registering on the platform. Since we launched our product, almost our entire development process has been guided by early user feedback, and hypothesis validation vs. master planning, and the product is better off because of this.

Advertisements