The daunting 1st prototype

The last week or so I have been busy building the first simple prototype of our upcoming app – a pre-MVP – for the MedTech startup, we’re working on getting off the ground. We will be getting it out there to get early feedback just after Christmas.

It is a daunting process.

Not only is it daunting to try to find the different pieces that when stitched together could form a somewhat crude but credible first go at what we will initially be trying to bring to market to create value for patients.

No, the most daunting part is that youre airing your idea(s) and inviting feedback from real potential users. And doing so full knowing that they can throw whatever they want in the form of feedback and criticism against you.

The prospects of getting feedback from people – or worse yet; hearing nothing at all because no-one will try it out – is so excruciating it can be a real challenge to push that ‘Publish’ button and get it out there.

But there is just no way around it;

If you never launch anything – not even a very crude, embarrasing prototype – you will by definition have failed completely.

So, reversely, by just getting something out there for people to provide feedback on is infinitely better and an infinitely greater step towards any kind of potential future success.

So just do it.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Grand ideas do matter

There seems to be a general misconception around the notion of ideas;

Since everybody can have them, what becomes important is whether you do something about them and – more importantly – how you do something about them.

Let me try to explain while I think this is inaccurate in a startup context:

Even if everybody can have an idea, and the important part is putting some work into making it happen, all ideas are not equal.

Ideas suffer from the same fatal flaw as the idea about agile work methods;

As long as you work in increments, it doesn’t matter what you work on, because you can always toss it quickly if it goes nowhere.

While that particular argument makes logic sense, in reality it becomes a license to not think too much about what you do and why, and I think that is a totally flawed approach.

The same goes for ideas; if the idea doesn’t matter, because you can always get a new one, you don’t make an effort into getting the original idea and the result risk becoming…meeh.

What you should do instead is work on the idea itself. Challenge your idea, make it sharper and ask some tough questions of it.

Make every effort you can to ensure that when you decide to put some real work into figuring out whether it’s desirable, feasible and viable, it is actually something really worth doing.

For this you have all the tools available for testing your assumptions and hypothesis. And instead of falling into the trap of thinking that those are the important tools and the original idea matter less, use it to spur your great idea on and tell yourself that no idea, you can come up with, is so grand and/or complex that there aren’t immediate ways to test it properly.

Be ambitious, for God’s sake, rather than lazy. That’s all I am saying.

And now go and look at those ideas of your again, challenge them and go as big as you can when you start testing them.

That’s how stars are born!

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

R.I.P. Quibi

A mere 6 months after launch and after burning through a good portion of the 1,75B USD it had raised from investors, the short form streaming platform Quibi is closing it’s doors.

Why? Because even if they were almost too big to fail they still managed to hit the one big pole, other entrepreneurs work their butts of to avoid ever getting into an infight with:

No market need.

Well done.

Quibi founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman even kind of admit so in their open farewell letter on Medium:

Quibi was a big idea and there was no one who wanted to make a success of it more than we did.

An open letter from Quibi. to the employees…

Exactly, you were pretty alone in thinking this would be a spectacular hit.

Ouch.

Quibi was an exercise in hybris. It was an exercise in the power of the idea alone; that if you build it, they will come.

Again from the open letter:

Although the circumstances were not right for Quibi to succeed as a standalone company, our team achieved much of what we set out to accomplish, and we are tremendously proud of the award-winning and innovative work that we have produced, both in terms of original content and the underlying technology platform. 

An open letter from Quibi. to the employees…

Customers never really came. And those that did ran away as soon as they were asked to pay for it.

It is easy to poke fun of a grand idea flawfully executed. But you could also feel enraged;

That while aspiring entrepreneurs with truly great ideas looking to solve real problems, investors throw money at something that is…well, you get it.

This is what happens when people who don’t “get it” think they can become successful entrepreneurs if they just throw enough money at it.

This is what happens when the smartest people in the room decide to show the world just how smart they really are.

As such Quibi should be a lesson to all with no respect for the grind of trying to build on an idea and achieve product-market fit while at the same time be conscious about ressources spend.

It won’t be. It will happen again. And again.

Because Quibi will be forgotten soon.

That’s how ‘big’ an idea it was.

(Photo: Screenshot)

Go challenge success

Often when we think about which new projects to pursue, we have a tendency to stay away from the ones, where there are already some really dominant players. Because we have a feeling that we will ultimately come up short.

But is that always the case?

What happens when someone you know from a successful company tells you that pursuing your idea or project within his space of operation is a futile endeavour? Should you just roll over and die without even trying?

Or should you – on the contrary – feel validated in your perception that you could really be on to something?

Because at the end of the day why does your friend with insights want you to stop?

Yes, it could be because the idea is really stupid, and of course you should always do your own due diligence on it.

But it could also be because he’s nervous that you could be onto something that is going to potentially upset the status quo and come back to haunt him and his company.

After all – as Mike Shapulski puts it here – the best project is the one that threatens success.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Idea or execution?

Rocket Internet, the famous German copycats of popular digital services, is delisting from the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

This has prompted some to claim that their time is up, and that their model of copying others successful ideas was never a viable one to begin with.

But that’s totally not true. Zalando alone is amble proof.

Instead what we could use this opportunity to discuss is what’s more valuable: Idea or execution? And by extension: What is the hardest one to get right?

If we look at it from that perspective there is very little doubt in my mind that Rocket Internet is a powerhouse when it comes to execution. What they may lack in brilliant, novel ideas, they more than make up for in razor sharp relentless execution.

And what makes the difference at the end of the day is execution; what actually gets out there and it’s ability to generate value for all parties concerned.

This doesn’t mean that you should only focus on being stellar at execution. Because what at the end of the day move us forward as society is brilliant novel ideas executed really well.

So it’s really not a question about idea or execution. It’s a question about idea AND execution. And realizing that it takes just as much (often actually more) to execute really, really well than it takes to come up with that spark of brilliance to begin with.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The tough bet on ‘less’

It is not uncommon to see new products launch with a lot of features. Too many features, perhaps.

The rationale is fully understandable; there is an urge to get a ‘finished’ product out, and you quickly form your own opinions about what that means in terms of feature set.

The underlying rationale behind it is more important though:

When you launch with a lot of features, essentially what you’re hoping is that there will be something in there that will get customers to love and adapt your product and not just turn the other cheek – or not notice it at all.

I think it’s fair to say it’s ‘fear of failure’. Pure and simple.

And I also think it is fair to recognize it as such. Because when you’re developing new products and trying to do something that perhaps no-one else has done before you, your biggest fear is that nobody is going to like it.

Or worse: Even care.

In fact I will argue that it’s the key reason why so many still fail to test their ideas and assumptions before they go and build their first product; the basic fear of getting the idea rejected by the market, before it all even begins.

But then again, I don’t think there is a way around it. I think the only way forward is to ‘bet on less’ – even if it’s super tough – and do whatever you can to nail the things you do rather than risk being ‘all over the place’.

Thankfully, we do have tools such as the ability to identify our assumptions, form our hypothesis and run smaller scale, appropriate experiments towards them to get more insight and data on whether we’re on track to something.

So use them.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Always create value

One of the hardest things when building new products and services is to deliver real value to your customers.

I know, it sounds stupid. But it’s true. And there are two reasons for it:

First of all, you’re not the judge of what brings value to your customers.

They are.

That’s a frightening prospect, because in essence customers may choose to vote that what you’re doing – your whole idea – isn’t valuable at all to them.

If that happens, you have no value. Period.

Second, it is super hard to deliver value to customers and NOT necessarily pursue your original idea.

Why?

Because every time you put your idea out there with users and potential customers, their feedback is going to be somewhat different to what you had hoped and/or expected. And while it’s super important – and immensely valuable in itself – to get that feedback before you build, it is still SUPER hard do divert or abstract from your idea to wherever customers may seem suggest there is real value to be found.

The challenge is no less for founders who are most often driven by an original idea and feel very passionate about following through on it.

Having them – or being able to yourself, if you’re the founder – understand that your idea matters far less than the value your customers are looking to get, may be the single biggest factor deciding whether you will be successful or not.

(Photo: Pexels.com)

Nothing is that far-fetched

The other day I was revisiting our list of potential ideas to explore further. It is a list we keep in our Studio team to jot down ideas and problems for potential future exploration, and – who knows – a new, exciting startup.

As I went through the list I was reminded of some of the thoughts that went through my mind, when I made the original list and how some of them at the time seemed very far-fetched. A very good example of this is this one:

Virtual vacation.

When I wrote it down in autumn 2019 it seemed pretty sci-fi. Now, nobody can travel, and tourist destinations are equipping locals with strap-on cameras to assist people in remote exploration of now in-accessible places. And it is being louded as breakthrough innovation.

This just goes to show that what may seem far-fetched today may be totally relevant and a real opportunity tomorrow. Therefore, don’t ever hold yourself back from having those borderline crazy ideas. You may in fact be on to the next big thing.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)