Ship Product

Guy Kawasaki wrote a great book a few years ago- The Art of the Start. One line really stuck with me- “Don’t worry, be crappy”. He also stressed the importance of shipping product. I couldn’t agree more. Don’t worry about getting your product or service perfect- just get it out the door. Europeans are famous for tinkering things to death and analysis paralysis. Just get something out the door. I’ve been putting together a cycling business- 700x23c. Is it commercially ready? Nowhere near. Is there a blog to start generating relevant traffic to my domain and give me keywords to start analyzing? Absolutely. Is the design perfect? No. Do I care? Nope. I’ll fix it later. Will it be perfect ahead of a commercial launch? No, it’s a hacked together Amazon Associate business right now. Did l I launch with an ugly website- Yes, I did. I’ve already changed it several times. (And luckily, everything relating to bicycles, except for Rapha’s website, tends to be dead ugly.)  Will all of this change over the next few months? You better believe it.

Shipping product is your 2nd most important milestone (after fundraising)- again, straight out of Guy’s mouth. And I agree wholeheartedly. And the next Big Milestone you’ll reach is Profitability.

Let’s think about *the* recent success story- Facebook; Facebook was a complete skunkworks project designed for Harvard students. Nothing was big or glamourous originally- but it existed. The founders got a product built and out the door. They started to worry about features and what to do with it once it was in the wild. They also changed the concept significantly after launch, which I cover in the next post- Innovate and Iterate.

But before you worry about that, you’ve gotta launch your product. And if you can launch long before you go anywhere near a VC or Angel, the better.

Get shipping.


In case you’re wondering why 700x23c is just a blog vs a commerce site, that’s because after I set it up, launched it  and ran it for about 6 months, I recognized that it didn’t offer anything unique to customers, so I killed the project (I had a set amount of funding for it), and reverted it down to a blog based on cycling. I’ll do something cycling related with the URL in the future, but for now, it’s just a blog. Key learnings from the experiment were: Magenta is a good ecommerce platform, payments integration is *tough* for the little guy and in ecommerce, you’d better have a very good value prop. Rapha, as highlighted above, offers a unique product that you can only get from them. I’m still toying with the idea of custom tires- but getting radials manufactured is a little more complex than getting jerseys sewn together…. it’s still something I’m keeping in the back of my mind.


  1. ok, but there are counter arguments

    1. if you get it right first time, word of mouth is far more effective – eg spotify.
    2. related to that is that if you get negative WOM, it’s very difficult to turn that around.
    3. once it gets into users hands you have to make compromises with architecture and design as often the feedback will be ‘we really need this or that feature’ and you’ll throw it in there without taking a more long-term view

    so my conclusion is yes, ship as early as you can as long as the product is AT LEAST good enough to get the ‘that’s cool’ reaction. Until that point, keep it to yourself.


  2. Giles

    All fair points… private betas go a long way towards getting things right and creating buzz around a product or service. But maybe there are just early adopter nerds using your product. (I will say that Spotify was great as a beta- it definitely blew my socks off- but the founders spent a *serious* chunk of change building it out…not everyone has that luxury.)

    And Steve Jobs would argue you should never ship *anything* to anyone until it’s perfect. Uncle Steve (as I like to call him) has said customers have no idea what they want.

    Loic Le Muir gave a great talk at the Microsoft Bizpark conference a few weeks back saying that seesmic has a 100% public roadmap – warts, complaints and all… I thought that was a pretty cool approach.

    There’s no one size fits all, but I’m a believer in getting customer feedback as early in the cycle as you possibly can.

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