Another idea from Guy Kawasaki’s book The Art of the Start that really informed me was the concept that your business should be working on a product as top priority.
I know that sounds simple, yet another “duh”. However, with all of the new things to learn when starting a company for the first time, the making of our actual product got put by the wayside. When Mary and I joined the incubator, we fell into the deep end learning about the business end of things to such a degree that we lost sight of creating the product for awhile. Also, after talking to our potential customers for feedback on our idea early on, we got the feeling that the original product concept needed tweaking. So, we worked on our concept on paper longer than we needed to instead of jumping into product creation mode. As a first time entrepreneur, I wanted to build the best possible product right out of the gate and hit a home run. But really, it would have been better to have Product 1.0 rather than Product 0.0 sooner than later.
With my engineering experience way back, I should have known there was no way around the fact that the process is iterative. In any effort in which one builds something for the first time, it is highly likely that Product 1.0 will really suck in comparison to Product 2.0. A good harpist friend of mine, Martha Gallagher, said that if you truly want to be good at songwriting, you have to be OK with writing some really stinky songs first. I believe this is true in the case of products as well.
Reading Kawasaki’s book and advice from mentors was helpful to realign our priorities.
In the end, we got pretty far in the concept and wire framing stage. I was happy that we created some beautiful wireframes in a great App prototyper software by JustInMind. It was wonderful to get out concept into a visual form. We got so much excited and encouraging feedback by just being able to show potential customers something. I found it also quite energizing, it gave an extra jolt of energy (and motivation!) to work on getting other parts of the business up and running.
I got a glimpse that if we’d built a product, we would have learned so many more things that would have helped set up our business in almost every aspect: such as how much it would truly cost (not just an estimate), who our future business partners might have been (we would have had to find them), and if any potential patents were pending (as the code would have been written).
I think by the time I was out of steam on the company, we were actually in a good direction product wise.
But there was one more big stumbling block in front of us regarding “just making something” that I did not overcome by the time I called it quits: Legal flummox-ment!
Read on in the next post!