Monday, April 22, 2013

Ship Everything, Charge for It

So you started making a product. Your initial vision seemed good, you slept on it, you mulled it over here and there for weeks before diving in. You did some rudimentary competitive analysis, and then you got to work.

So, you're still building. You performed a sanity check and your market still seems to be able to support the kind of business you want to build. You don't know how you're going to promote this or find paying customers, but you think you'll find a way.... eventually. You just keep building.

But, then you get to a point that makes you reconsider it all. Maybe first-contact with customers went badly during the pre-alpha phase. Maybe you ran into a technical sticky-bit that you can't seem to get past. Maybe all progress has well-and-truly stopped. Or maybe you're discouraged because you haven't found a go-to-market strategy that will work for you.

No one will blame you for quitting here. This is the valley of the shadow of death. Many good intentions have passed this way and fallen victim to human nature's siren call to give it up. Only the most determined people will push through this valley. But, push you must if you hope to ship.

It turns out that there are many such valleys that lie beyond even this point. Shipping is only the first milestone of any significance that you will meet. There is a second, greater valley that lies beyond. Its called the valley of the shadow of "Well, I shipped, now what the heck do I do now?" Beyond that, are the valleys of the shadows of

* "So few people want to pay me, so few"
* "There are so many fun things I could be doing now"
* "I am making enough to be frustrated, but not enough to do anything about it yet"
* "My overhead is eating me alive,  I should refactor this platform to save money"
* "No one wants to invest"
* "No one wants to invest without taking a serious chunk of this play"
* "Hey, look at that other startup idea over there. Great idea, lets do that instead!"

There are more still, I'm sure. I'll tell you when I've crossed them.

But you, you can't slow down and rest in these valleys. You have to ship, and you must put a price on it.
If you put a price on it, then people can pay you. If they pay you then you can re-invest in your product and make it great. If you can make it great, you'll find more people willing to pay you. Move up market, rinse repeat.

If you started out on an idea, what does it hurt to ship it and put a price on it? Only one thing can prove it is a viable idea, and that's with paying customers.

Beware, however, of entangling yourself in too many idea/starts. That is a bad move. Choose your top idea, and go make it happen. Then, move on to the next. Observe your outcomes closely. Automate what you can. Before long you can pick your winners from the lot and double-down.

Imagine, create, dabble, build, ship, charge.

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