Stop Trying to Catch Lightning in a Bottle
BY Mark Suster
The golden rule of management is to set low expectations and beat them, says Mark Suster.
I'm sure you've all heard the saying derived from Voltaire, "Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good," which in a way is encapsulated in the lean start-up movement and the ideology of shipping a "minimum viable product" (MVP), and then learning from your customer base.
"The 20-minute walk I take is better than the three-mile run I never start. Having people over for take-out is better than never having people to an elegant dinner party."
I think about this topic of perfection being the enemy of the good often. Because I live in start-up land where everybody is a perfectionist. I think this is particularly true because every start-up entrepreneur is trying to catch lightning in a bottle.
I hear about it in every first product release. You can see it in the founders' eyes. 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.
Life doesn't work like that. And gearing yourself up for a lighting-in-a-bottle moment leads to bad company decisions.
Even in the age of MVP worship I see founders who want to bundle too many features into a release because they're worried that customers will be unhappy if they don't.
I see teams holding back on product releases even when the product is complete because they're nervous it's not yet good enough to get positive journalist reviews.
They hold back on announcing their funding because they want to be sure they have three other important announcements to bundle--I often counsel against this.
Stop trying to catch lighting in a bottle.
Your announcement will lead to more traffic than you've had in the past. But it's highly unlikely to have that aha moment that Apple gets when it announces new products.
The much more likely result is that you get some positive feedback from the community, you get some strong users who like your product, you get some people telling you your product isn't as good as the competitors or isn't as good as your marketing hype.
MARK SUSTER is a two-time entrepreneur who has gone to "the dark side" of venture capital. He joined GRP Partners in 2007 as a general partner after selling his company to Salesforce.com. He focuses on early-stage technology companies. You can find him on Twitter @msuster.