When an entrepreneur comes up with a brilliant idea for a business, the first step is usually to spend months on intensive research. They will develop a prototype, market test it repeatedly, and hone the design until all possible bugs have been removed.
But is this the right approach? As many entrepreneurs have learned the hard way, there’s a downside to preparing for months for a business launch. In fact, there are some good reasons to forego delaying a launch in favor of opening for business as soon as possible.
The competitive edge.
If you have an innovative idea, chances are someone else has thought of it, as well. It’s even possible that another entrepreneur is preparing to launch a similar product or service in the near future. By delaying your launch, you’re giving the competition a chance to come forward with the same idea, rendering all of your hard work obsolete. This is especially true if you’re delaying in order to beta test your product. Even if you acquire signed confidentiality agreements from each participant, the longer you spend in development, the greater the chance that word will spread about the work you’re doing. You can file for a provisional patent, but this could alert patent trolls to your business’s existence, halting your idea before you can launch it to the public.
Perfection is impossible.
The beta phase of product development can be endless. No amount of tweaking will make a product 100 percent perfect, but a startup can easily become stuck in the cycle of testing, refining and re-testing a product, ad nauseam. When a startup gives itself permission to release a product and revisit it regularly based on customer feedback, that business escapes that cycle and begins gradually building a customer base.
ZenDesk started with intensive planning around a table, but CEO Mikkel Svane learned that at some point a company must simply set a date. “We could have continued working with that product forever,” Svane says. “At some point we said, ‘Okay, we’re just time boxing this. On that date, we’re going to ship. Let’s make sure we have a coherent experience when we launch.”
Go big or go home.
Julia Hartz, co-founder and president of Eventbrite, believes in pushing a product out once it is minimally viable and fully committing to implementing feedback from users. Eventbrite has found its users are extremely intelligent and thus able to come up with many creative ideas that would never have occurred to the Eventbrite team. Once a product is in the wild, customers contribute their own thoughts to the product, creating an experience that is better tailored to the end-user, rather than the team developing it.
Rotten Tomatoes’ Patrick Lee concurs. While he finds researching important, he believes that once you get the idea out there, you begin getting solid feedback. In its idea stage, he has found that it’s impossible to get realistic feedback from consumers. Once in practice, that idea either takes off or doesn’t, giving a startup the information it needs to tweak and refine it to meet public demand.
If your business has spent an extended period of time preparing for launch, consider the vast experience of successful entrepreneurs everywhere. A soft launch of your product will help you learn more about your own development than you ever could have learned by keeping it in-house. With the world of startups becoming more competitive than ever, it’s important that a business leader be as proactive as possible in getting his great idea out there to avoid the competition sweeping in and capturing his intended customer base.