It’s a new year and it’s time for a new plan. In December, I created four MVPs in order to practice thinking lean.
A number of people have since asked me, was it worth it? What did you learn? Wouldn’t it have been better to just focus on one startup? What mistakes did you make?
Well…yes…lots…no…never schedule something as crazy as this during the holidays and definitely don’t schedule a week of scuba diving during that.
Here’s my analysis of the first two startups. I’ll make separate posts for the others as there is a lot to go into:
This was admittedly a cheap shot. Putting up another wordpress blog and migrating all my startupSQUARE posts over seemed like an easy “product” to create.
The idea was just to continue blogging which seems to help put my thoughts in order, as well as establish some general reputation for the ability to think coherently and convey information. In so far as that goes, you can be the judge. But for my purposes, it hit the mark well enough.
I spent a little over two days largely doing graphic design and custom modifications on a free theme. But because it was something I’d done before, I didn’t learn all that much aside from a little more Illustrator practice as I’ve only used it a couple times.
I also got a little bit more experience with PHP and customizing wordpress, which was interesting, but not so valuable. If anything, I should deduct points for that.
Why? Because I went well beyond the “minimum.” A blog doesn’t really require all this styling and cute grasshopper logos, that was purely an aesthetic/ego trip. However, as the effort was under a couple days, I’ll let it slide. The risk in terms of resources spent was still minimal.
The only big lessons learned here is to avoid the rabbit hole at all costs. I spent a large amount of time creating these multicolored grasshoppers to replace these ridiculous butterflies in the template before I realized they still looked stupid and deleted the lot of them.
Thinking lean means shutting down that aesthetic part of you that wants it look pretty or perfect. Perfect is the enemy.
- Execution: A- (Damn snazzy if I do say so myself)
- Thinking lean: B (Two days, minimal risk, but could have been simpler.)
- Viability: C (Feh…I’ll keep it going and it has benefits for me, but I don’t see this as making me money.)
- Learning: D (Not much learning here.)
The purpose of SVstartup.com was just to give people moving to SV a starting point to find information on where to live, cultural tips, and perhaps some visa advice. It took about 30 minutes to set up and quickly gained a lot of traffic via YC Hacker News thanks to Jonathan Nelson‘s post and prodding.
In terms of lean, it certainly fits and has successfully demonstrated demand with a minimal amount of effort. It’s valuable enough that I’ve seen at least two people recommend it on the lean startup circle google group and there’s a steady trickle of people going in and contributing some content.
In terms of a business, not much there. I could take donations (and probably will), but it’s not really worth it as there’s very little overhead.
In terms of viability and the future, I’ll definitely keep it going and try to spend a bit more time bootstrapping the content and soliciting people to write specific pages to help provide a valuable resource.
I’ve been talking with a few people like Adrian Fritsch, Jonathan Nelson, Aaron Frank and to help support the effort. We’ve also started talking about whether it makes sense to combine it with another couple local startup wikis to create a national one.
In terms of learning, it was valuable seeing what made people contribute and respond to my solicitations. It’s clear that to have a successful user generated site, most of your effort needs to be in bootstrapping some initial content and direct marketing to get others to contribute. You need to quickly find the 10% of your future audience that will actually contribute and not just lurk.
So I got some good know-how on User Generated Content (UGC) that I can recycle for future projects.
- Execution: A+ (for Jonathan who really did the promotion. I did little… C+)
- Thinking lean: A+ (Can’t get any leaner.)
- Viability: B (It’ll continue, but not as a money maker.)
- Learning: B (Some good tidbits that I can use for the future.)
Two down two to go
So far, it’s been worth it, but the first two were definitely the simplest of the two. My second two startups of the month (TooManyNinjas.com and StartupGoblin.com) were considerably more complex and prone to pitfalls. More on that next time.