It was two weeks after we launched the beta for FamilyTales in mid-April that we realized very clearly that we had to make a customer hypothesis pivot. We were filling in Mike Kirkup, the director of Velocity. That’s when he said, ‘No startup product survices the first customer contact.’ That’s why it’s so important to get your product out in front of customers ASAP.
The problem is that a lot of startup teams are afraid. What if our customers think our product is shitty? To cope with this fear, developers start building more features, while business co-founders hustle until they have X number of likes on Facebook their page and Y followers on Twitter. So, they push off the launch until the product is perfect.
I’m going to tell you a little secret. Your first iteration of your product (i.e. your minimum viable product) should be shit. If it’s not, then there’s a big chance that you’ve built too much or you’ve potentially built something that no one wants.
I remember very clearly about 4 weeks ago when Kirkup challenged Ali, my co-founder, and I to release our beta for FamilyTales before he would even consider letting us in to Velocity Garage. We were working all weekend at Starbucks. I had less than 8 hours of sleep that weekend, wired up on the aroma of bold coffee.
Then late that night, I found a bug. I couldn’t figure it out. I looked at Ali and asked him how comfortable he was if we launched FamilyTales with this bug. We both agreed that we don’t even know if it’s worth fixing it. So we pushed on.
It ended up that the feature was not something that our customers wanted. If we didn’t launch it, I would have wasted valuable time fixing something that no one wanted.
Showing FamilyTales to customers before we’ve officially launched has helped in a lot of other ways. It’s helped us focus on what features we should be implementing next. It’s helped us understand what doesn’t makes sense in terms of UX and UI design. It’s also help us hone in on who our early adopters are. It’s helped us build relationships with our early adopters. Just in the last 4 weeks alone, we learned so much things that we didn’t know that we didn’t know.
Don’t wait until your product is perfect to show your product to your customer. The first iteration of your product might be shitty. But let me tell you another secret: early adopters will forgive you for your shitty product. If you seem genuine about really wanting to solve their problems, they will forgive you. As the mantra of the Lean Startup Machine workshop goes, get out of building and talk to your customer!
If you’re curious, here’s some changes we made to FamilyTales because we talked to our customers:
- The landing page changed from being vague to more descriptive
- Adding a new story to a FamilyTales storybook used to be like HootSuite. I thought it looked cool. People were confused. It looked like a search bar. We opted for a more of a Pinterest like + Add a new story button that triggers a popup.
- We also now use coach marks to guide new users with our interface.
- The biggest pivot we made after talking to customers is our early adopter hypothesis. We were targetting Jewish baby boomers who had parents live through the Holocaust. They had a lot of files, videos and audio about their parents. And they wanted to keep that memory alive. ‘ After talking to about 20 to 30 different customer types, we’ve opted for mothers. First, it’s more viral. Mothers love to talk about their babies. Second, they already use social networks like FaceBook, Instagram and even Gmail. And then we saw the Google video below. We got really excited! We want to create an easy, beautiful and very private space mothers can share the growth of their babies FamilyTales