Great compilation Dharmesh.
One thing that Jason has been advocating lately is the concept of making by-products, the often missed opportunities of leveraging your main work and selling it twice (or even more times).
By the way, I´m anxious to see their new book...
For iPhone developers, the app-store in-app-purchase model offers a great way to implement the "charge early, charge often" point that Dharmesh makes above (point 5).
I'm in the process of implementing that for one of my apps and will blog about it later this month
I completely agree with point #2. I call it "eating your own dog food"
. It tells potential customers so much if your company actually uses the product or service that you offer.
My favorite 37Signals advice is that planning is actually just guessing. Start-up companies rely on their agility and by spending too much time planning, you're really just limiting your options in the future.
That's not to say you shouldn't be prepared for different scenarios, but it's normally a mistake to assume that you can predict how things will play out in the future.
Agreed -- don't copy, steal.
You want to make it your own: understand the good ideas and incorporate them into your work.
Stand on the shoulders of giants, you'll see farther.
I am a big fan of 37signals and did read the book. I like their whole lean approach to building apps and the "just start."
Not all of what they do I agree with. The whole build without a specification approach works to a certain point but for hardware (mostly what I do), it doesn't work all that well.
#2 is key.If you don't believe in your products and services, who will.
Passionate people give the best, the sad thing is they normally get eaten alive by the system.
As a customer of 37s, I can tell you one thing you shouldnt do that 37s does so well: ignoring your customer demands.
Go look at their forums at the feature requested and the demand for a product roadmap.
Very nice list. I agree all startups should be doing all these things.
def read "getting real" must read for stratup entreps. I don't remember the exact phrasing but essential lesson is "start small, launch early and often" I think many people sit on the sidelines with a good idea becuase they feel like everything has to be perfect, "market, team, funding etc., etc". which of course is rarely the case. Throwing up a less then perfect product teaches you so much about the actaul oppertunity and what needs to get done to make it sucessful.
I am a huge fan of 37Signals. Read the book and can hardly wait for the next one in March.
Building for yourself and solving your own problems is a real eye-opener. I had often thought about it, but never implemented anything. Once I built an app for myself, within the first week I knew what it needed and didn't need. Using it yourself will give you incredible insight.
Copy the idea, but use your own implementation.
In their book 'Getting Real' they have mentioned 'Less is More', but less doesnot mean less in form of all the features. That is to say if you were planning to build 10 features in your product, instead make 4 or 5 but build them well and launch early.In other words the most important feature or the feature that you think will make the product to sell, should be done in the best possible way, and other features can be thought of later
Is it just me, or is "Minimizing unused inventory" one of the hardest cards to play?
As an entrepreneur, your partners and investors constantly want to see what's down the road...and they expect your product to do the same.
What's the best way to get around that (other than simply ignoring them)?
My small company operates on a new but a highly competitive market. You would not believe what all the companies on this market do to get customers. Only be having a free version and offering outstanding support for free have we been been able to get a significant share. It is a huge gap between using something for free and having to find your credit card. Will see if we can ever monetize it.
I think its true, lots of people try to copy what they think they see happening, however, without a true understanding, they waste time and energy.
Dr. Letitia Wright
The Wright Place TV Show
Great post Dharmesh.
I see these as "patterns" that can help you define and grow your proposition - but as you point out you first need to be very clear about what your product is about, what problems it solves and focus on delivering the core features that resolve those needs.
I read the 37signals book after seeing it referenced here. It's a good book and has nuggets of valuable information.
A good number of points mentioned in the book are pretty natural for a startup. You don't really have to read a book to watch out for it. If there is no funding, you are clearly constrained in time, features and functionality. I disagree with some of the points mentioned in the book from my experience so far. But, who cares? People want to hear from other people who are already successful. That's how humans are trained!
You don't get to hear from a pile of startups which more or less followed the similar approach as in book, but still failed.
At the end of the day, no matter how great the product is, you need to have lot of luck and a really good sales team. A good sales team can pretty much sell anything.
The best products/services if copied correctly but also adding new value can create an even greater value proposition!
For example, Twitter made a "lite" facebook status update application and it has taken off.
Building a community around your product is the best marketing tool as it travels virally and you don't even need a sales team!
While I really enjoy much of this article, I have some issues with "#2 Be your own customer. Try (if you can) to eat your own cooking."
I think it is the default IS to build something you know, for whom you are the customer.
However, I also believe this can get in the way of good business.
When the owners/employees believe they are the target market, it is so easy to not do the work to listen to the actual target market or to agree with what the target market says when it disagrees with what you feel/want.
So while 'eating what you cook' allows you to make some intuitive and quick decisions that you otherwise might not be able to make, it also skews you towards believing how great the food tastes because you made it and how everyone else will love it because you love it.
Being your own customer also tends to keep your emotions involved at what can be an unhealthy level. For example, one rule of business is that sunk costs are irrelevant. If a cost is truly sunk then it has no impact on current decisions and should not be taken into account. But when the sunk cost is a feature that you want that is halfway implemented but testing poorly with the target market, it is hard to get out of your own way and you will tend to argue that the sunk cost part of the feature is a good reason to sink more costs into completing it.
So, sure, be your own customer, but make sure that you rigorously seek the target market's input and let them, not you, rule the product.
You've articulated what I've been telling our company for the last few years, but you did it much better then I've been able to do. Thanks for summing that up for me. Great job!