Among the dreams that dance in the heads of start-up founders, the big buzz launch probably ranks pretty high.
Sure, when you're in a mercenary mood you might daydream about cashing that giant check after a successful exit, but hopefully you're in entrepreneurship to build something and seeing your baby go out into the world and make an impact is what it's all about.
It's natural to want your product to make a splash and to see everyone get as excited about what you have to offer as you are. The usual result is to plan for a grand launch, complete with enthusiastic coverage in the media, a huge social media push and a message to every soul on your email list.
But that's a bad move, writes Origami.com founder Vibhu Norby on his blog recently. How does he know? He made the mistake himself.
A big push to drum up excitement (and signups) for his company's new messaging app resulted in disappointing numbers and slumping morale, crushing his dreams of an imminent phone call from a checkbook-wielding Mark Zuckerberg. And this sort of launch trouble isn't an isolated problem. The whole idea of the launch is rotten, he writes:
The fact is that when you create the big launch event, you will always see the subsequent big drop-off. Your market is not TechCrunch readers and Mark Zuckerberg does not want to eat vegetable tempura rolls with you. If you plan for massive scale out of the gate, you will face disappointment and a morale drain that can kill your company….
Having been through multiple launches, seen companies launch at big conferences, and talked with many startups that have experienced the same effect, what I recommend – and what we’re doing at Origami - is not launching at all. Take the word launch out of your vocabulary – it’s a sign that you are gambling on your app and not building a long-term, sustainable company. Instead, put your sign-up page up or your app out because you need more feedback on your idea. Find an audience of passionate users, even if small, and reach out to their community through appropriate means. Try SEM and Facebook ads to find a target market. Experiment with business models and onboarding flows. Let the press come to you because they love what you’ve made.
Check out the post for the specifics of Norby's story and details on the four ways he feels launching can negatively impact a start-up. But Norby isn't the only veteran of the start-up scene warning about the corrosive effects of focusing on a big, splashy launch. VC Mark Suster wrote a similar post just last week, warning entrepreneurs not to try to "catch lightning in a bottle."
A longing for instant impact infects tons of founders, he claims. "They want the perfect feature set, the PR company lined up to do the perfect press release, they want maximum coverage, rave reviews, viral adoption and they want to sit back and then wait for the signups to come roaring in," he writes, but warns, "life doesn’t work like that. And gearing yourself up for a lighting-in-a-bottle moment leads to bad company decisions."
Are your dreams of an epic launch getting in the way of building a sustainable business?