Late night lessons learned

Building a startup is all about learning. “Build, measure, learn” is the lean mantra. I’m learning a ton building Tribbon with Jody, but I’m a bit surprised at how many of the lessons are “foundational.”

For example, my most trusted advisors – people like Jason Cohen, Ash Maurya, and Rob Walling – always talk about running small experiments where you can get answers pretty quickly. I knew that intellectually going in, but I hadn’t really experienced it.

After many late nights coding Tribbon to get it ready for the Business of Software conference, I think I figured it out. Now I really KNOW what they mean by running smaller, tighter experiments. I’ve experienced the pain of doing it the other way, so I don’t just know it intellectually.

A couple of months ago, it made perfect sense to go heads down and make a “minimum viable product” for the conference to see if attendees would like it. In hindsight, I let my pride and my perfectionism – both good things – keep me from running smaller experiments. Instead of coding for 6-8 weeks and launching a still-imperfect product the day before BOS, I should have started here on this blog, simply telling people what I was building. Then I could have done “traditional” 1-week agile iterations and had something to show each week.

Our “fans” – the people who are going to BOS, care about what we’re doing, and want us to succeed – would then have given us feedback all along the way. We would already have had 6-8 weeks worth of feedback instead of just starting that process now (while I’m physically exhausted to boot). People attending BOS would already have known about Tribbon and might have had a clue about what it could do for them. Instead, we’re starting the whole explanation process tomorrow as well.

Lesson learned. We need to run smaller experiments and include more people in the process along the way. I don’t think I’ll make that mistake again.

But there’s another thing I’m learning – it’s less important to be perfect than it is to be persistent. This is just the first in a long series of experiments that will lead us to building something we want to build that customers want to use and pay for.

I’m having a blast and can’t wait to see all my friends at #BOS2012. Time for sleep. Tomorrow, we launch!

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