“A lot of consumer people didn’t just get lucky. They made sure they had the runway to get lucky.”
I constantly hear this from successful founders in consumer tech.
I don’t hear it from starting founders that much.
By the time they figure it out it’s often too late.
“We thought we would need to do ten to 15 titles until we got the right one…” — Niklas Hed, co-creator of Angry Birds
This fundamentally changes how consumer tech companies are built.
The next big social network or consumer brand won’t be founded as a product. It will be founded as a lab.
Building a lab
In a startup founded like a lab, you start by analyzing behaviors and scenarios.
Buying your first home, planning concert visits, nurturing a professional relationship, gaining popularity in high school, etc.
Talk to people about their stress. A lot. Until it gets annoying.
The more you talk to users early on, the easier it is to assemble a team or find investors that are passionate about answering their real questions.
It allows them to jump on board for a direction, not for a product that might be shelved a month after it launches.
Fewer people mean less cost, more efficiency, and more runway. Keep the team as small as you can.
Don’t buy ads. Don’t present at events. Don’t start hiring again. Don’t get a bigger office. Don’t talk to the press.
Worry about shipping only. No app survives contact with the user, so ship as much as you can while learning as much as you can.
This will feel very uncertain because most things you ship will fail. Just make sure you learn more about your potential user, and you’re fine.
Keep iterating, whether that’s tweaking the features that your audience likes best or launching completely new apps for that audience.
Slowly but surely, you’ll be zooming in on an underserved need. Your user’s hair is on fire and you’ve got a bucket of water.
All of a sudden, your lab will start to turn into a product again, and that’s fine. You’ve found true love! It’s why you’re doing this!
Hug your perfect user tight and don’t let go.
Now the real work starts: Growing it. But that’s another post.