Kevin Chandra is the co-founder of Typedream, a no-code website builder. Connect with him about no-code and startups on LinkedIn.
Many aspiring startup founders think that launching a product is the end of months or years of hard work. They expect an Apple-esque spotlight every year at the launch of the new iPhone. However, launching a perfect product is a common misconception that needs to be corrected.
Early stage founders need to understand that the first version of the product they launch is a minimally viable product. A minimum viable product is the simplest version of your product that uses the fewest resources and has the fewest number of features; therefore, novice founders should feel comfortable launching as soon as possible rather than waiting to perfect their product.
1. Build an audience.
Spoiler alert: Your first product will probably be bad, and sometimes it’s not even a product. Early stage founders may want to consider creating a waitlist page before even starting to develop their product. The purpose of a waitlist page is to measure demand for your product and collect user information that you can then use to notify potential buyers once your product launches. I’ve seen several great examples of early stage startups that have adopted this strategy and many people have joined their waiting lists before ever launching.
To build an effective waiting list page, there are several things that novice entrepreneurs should keep in mind, such as clearly communicating your idea through images or videos and gaming the waiting list. To communicate your idea clearly, consider creating interactive mockups and making them the main content on your waiting list page. Second, create an exclusive waiting list that only your power users can join; in addition, users should be able to get on the waiting list if they invite a friend. With all of the above, you can build an audience with $0 before you even have a product.
2. Build a ‘lemon stand’ MVP.
All the great products we know and love today, such as Tiktok, Gmail, Airbnb, Netflix, and Amazon, have launched their first version at some point that most people probably don’t even remember. Hardly anyone could remember what these products looked like or what features they had on the day they were first launched. The lesson we learned here is that no one remembers the first lemonade stand you set up.
The first version of your product should not take up too much time or resources. You may not invest tens of thousands of dollars or more in developing the product. Your minimum viable product should be something you can build yourself. Today, there are many tools that can be used for almost any product that founders want to build. From my perspective, there is no reason why you need custom software to build your product. Moreover, early stage founders should focus on just one great feature that their target users will immediately love.
3. Do things that don’t scale.
Paul Graham once said that startup founders should “doing things that don’t scale“and it couldn’t be more true. Many aspiring startup founders believe that building a product and putting it on the internet is enough to attract users to use their product, and if no one comes, it means the market “It doesn’t exist. On the contrary, a product only gains users if the founders do everything they can to attract users. The process of founders doing things that don’t scale to move the company forward is usually referred to as going from zero to one.”
The most important part of doing things that aren’t scalable is that founders recruit their users individually. Recruitment doesn’t stop after publishing your waitlist page. The work continues as founders have to distribute the waiting list to relevant people and every relevant page, forum and group on the web. In addition, they need to interview as many people from the waiting list as possible to understand what excites these early adopters. This helps founders shape the requirements for their product and delight their users as soon as they access the product. Early stage founders need to keep repeating the process of manually talking to users and automating it as their business grows.
Building a startup is not about appearing in major media publications or getting an investment from large venture capital firms. It’s about doing the painful little things every day. No startup founder knows how to succeed. So they have to fail fast, fail cheap and fail until they have learned enough to guide themselves to product-market fit.