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Product development is paramount, but many young entrepreneurs struggle to determine the best time to release their creation.
In late spring of 2012, I began developing Travefy, an online tool that simplifies group travel. Our original vision included a broad array of functionalities that would solve several problems including everything from group scheduling tools, to a detailed itinerary organizer and an expense-sharing platform. This was a lot to undertake and would have led us to a six to 12 month development cycle.
As adherents of a lean startup mentality, we consequently made significant product development and launch decisions and learned that speed is key and the best time to launch a product is now. Here are three important lessons to keep in mind during the product-development phase.
1. Do one thing, and knock it out of the park. Although our original Travefy vision solved many problems, we ultimately focused on a specific issue in the group-travel lifecycle. This way, we were able to articulate a clear value proposition to users and address all aspects of the problem within a reasonable development timeline. We also built user credibility for a larger product in the future. In other words, we can someday implement much of our original vision.
2. Fake it ‘til you make it. This doesn’t mean you should lie about the services you’re providing. Rather, you should look to simple alternate ways to test features before investing in the development of those features. For Travefy, we launched our beta without a fully functioning pricing tool since it would be costly to develop. But we still wanted to test the utility of such a feature. So, we manually provided this information to select users during testing. This was obviously time consuming, but once we knew this information was valued, we set a course to develop the service.
Related: How to Never Miss a Chance to Hype Your Startup
3. Just rip off the Band-Aid. Anyone who has developed a product knows it is impossible to ever feel like it’s complete and time to pull out of the development cycle. Nonetheless, at some point you have to take the leap and put your product in front of customers to gain valuable insights from their experiences. The moment we had our minimal-viable product we pushed it out to a group of beta users. The feedback these initial users provided helped us reassess our value proposition and make important product adjustments we otherwise would not have recognized.
What are your top product launch tips? Share them here in the comments section.
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David Donner Chait is a second-year student at Columbia Business School and the co-founder of Travefy, a free online tool that helps groups simplify their travel. He previously served as senior policy advisor at the U.S. Small Business Administration and worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Company. He holds a B.A. in economics-political science from Columbia College.