For my first entry on this blog I was aiming to produce a piece that did not address issues around entrepreneurship or startups. Needless to say I have failed miserably. This just goes to show us that despite ones’ best intentions, our thoughts and concerns are viscerally linked to our environment and what we are exposed to on a daily basis.
The past month was rich in various events and activities aimed at entrepreneurs, there were a lot of memorable moments but the key moment to me was Elie G. Khoury’s contribution during a panel on social media week. His reflections on issues related to the development process and timing of deployment of Dermandar was of great importance and analytical precision. Elie’s words echoed a book written by Eric Ries entitled The Lean Startup.
In his book, Ries makes a significant point when he writes, “Entrepreneurship is a kind of management”. And that point sets the context for the rest of the book. Taking a management approach enables Ries to focus on the mechanics and approaches to getting new ideas out and into the market. It also allows him to incorporate Lean thinking in ways that address many of the limitations of high risk, low yield, long lead time product development processes.
Ries attempts to debunk the theory claiming that entrepreneurial success is about being at the right time at the right place. He cites a study done in the early 20th century about the entrepreneurs who ventured into the automobile industry. There were about 500 companies that got funded and had the internal combustion engine. After a couple of years, 60% folded and the clear winner was Henry Ford. According to the author, the difference between Ford and his competitors was a process that he put in place for adapting to situations as they unfolded.
Adapting your digital products should prove to be easier than adapting products during the industrial age but most often than not, it is not the case. Very early on, entrepreneurs find themselves hostages of the following consideration; When to deploy? Some entrepreneurs believe that the slower you go, the better your product will be. If that were true, you would not have Open Source Software, and do you really want to find out that the customers do not want your product after you have built the whole thing? Other entrepreneurs are afraid of their work being labeled as a bad product simply because the product was not ready and it was deployed too soon.
The solution is not so much related to timing but to the form of the deployment. If you roll your product out and create a buzz around it, amping up expectations while your product is not ready, then clearly this will not end well. However, if you launch it in BETA mode, you are effectively aligning users expectations with the current state of your product. After all, we live in the BETA era, every company is rolling out its new product or service in a BETA version first and this is not only approved of by the users, it is in a lot of cases appreciated because they feel they are part of the process in perfecting the product, it empowers them and gives them a voice and before you know it they will become your “brand advocates”.
So look for low-stakes environments to deploy your product and remember that in this day and age, to build a product, to grow your business, you need to grow a community around it from the start, you need to be lean enough to adapt and not trap yourself in your initial objectives and concerns, even if it means having to rethink your product….. or in this case your blog.