I worked on my startup for the best part of 6 months, since the start of 2011. During this time I refined my idea, and had been battling through the ever-changing codebase that is nodeJS. However, I still didn't shipped my first MVP.
Quite simply I got too caught up in the tech, and hadn’t focused enough on keeping everything lean. I went from building in PHP, to Ruby on Rails, to nodeJS, and changed from MySQL to MongoDB. While I’ve enjoyed the learning process and relished the chance to play with new platforms I’d forgotten the main aim of this work; to build a ramen-profitable web startup.
Don’t Lose Your Objectivity
Working on your own means you have to think about all aspects of the business, from development to marketing. However, in order to keep making progress you need to retain your objectivity and avoid getting bogged down in the little details, especially in the early stages of your startup.
In retrospect, I’ve realised the following would have helped me to stay focused and perhaps released my MVP sooner:
Talk to others - Having to explain what you are doing and why to other people forces you to think about your work from an outside perspective, and retain a customer-focused frame of mind. This also gives you accountability for your work, forcing you to keep focused.
Understand your work - Having a todo is perhaps the most important thing to have in a project. It’s hard to understand what you need to work on without a list, but you need to have sufficient detail for it to be effective. It doesn’t matter if a task is only half an hour of work, the process of being able to tick things off as you go is a positive boost, and a personal metric that you are making progress, keeping you motivated.
Drop the emotions - When trying to bootstrap a startup whilst also keeping a fulltime job, your time and energy is very limited. Therefore making decisions based on emotions can be detrimental to progress. Make yourself think about why each piece of work would be important to a customer, because in reality they won’t care whether you built it with the latest framework or used bleeding-edge tools to make it work.
Don’t be a perfectionist - The whole point of an MVP is to get early feedback from potential customers. Therefore the MVP doesn’t need to look the prettiest, or have all the bells and whistles your competitors, it just needs to demonstrate the bare minimum and nothing more.
Develop a fear of not shipping - Instead of worrying about what users will think if you release your buggy half-finished code early, worry about what they will do if you don’t ship. You could end up losing customers to your competitors, or someone else may release a product just like yours.
Hopefully I can keep these in mind when working on my next project.
Photo Credit: Michael Dales