The Art of the ‘Embarrassing’ Launch: Why Perfection is the Enemy of Good Enough
“If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
This quote by Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, is often cited as gospel in the startup world, yet it is also widely misunderstood. It serves as both inspiration and a stark warning to aspiring entrepreneurs. But what does it mean in practice, and how should one apply it when starting up?
The Attraction of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
The concept of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – I prefer to use the term Minimum Loveable Product (MLP) – has been spoken about far and wide. The idea is simple: get a working, ‘good enough’ version of your product or service into the market as quickly as possible. The aim isn’t perfection, but speed and adaptability. Focusing on launching a Minimum Loveable Product adds another layer to the MVP concept, emphasising that products should not “just be viable” but also have an appealing aspect to customers from the get-go. If you’re a chef, you’d never just serve a ‘viable’ dish!
Launching an MLP allows you to start collecting real-world data and feedback, invaluable for refining your product offering. In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, this agility can mean the difference between success and failure. But what about industries or services where the stakes are high and rushing something could cause more harm than good?
When ‘Just Launch It’ Isn’t Enough
Imagine you’re in the business of building something complex, like a boating ecommerce or online gaming product. Or think about healthcare tech, aviation tech, or fintech. In such domains, releasing an ’embarrassing’ first version can have significant consequences, including damaging your brand’s reputation, legal repercussions, or even jeopardising safety.
The commonality among these sectors is regulation. Thorough testing and quality assurance is critical. In these cases, the Reid Hoffman quote might be a bit too aggressive and risky, however one shouldn’t use this as an excuse to slow down!
Striking a Balance
This brings us to a philosophical point: balance. Striving for a perfect launch can lead to analysis paralysis. On the other hand, rushing to market without adequate preparation can result in avoidable mistakes that may haunt your brand for years. The trick is to find a middle ground.
An approach that I’ve found to be useful (I think this is the second plug of one of my previous articles!!) is the “Go Slow with Effort to Go Faster Effortlessly“ methodology. This strategy encourages taking the necessary time to lay a solid foundation but also recognises the value of a calculated, albeit not flawless, initial launch.
Practical Steps to Implement
- Market Research: Before anything, know your market and your competitors. Can you offer something new or better? Definitely, doesn’t have to be disruptive.
- Legal & Regulatory Checklist: If you’re in a regulated industry, make sure all your Ts are crossed and Is are dotted.
- Test, Test, Test: Whether it’s a beta launch or a friends-and-family round, testing is crucial. Collect data, adjust, and test again.
- Feedback Loop: Once you launch the MLP, ensure you have tools in place for gathering and analysing customer feedback efficiently.
- Iterate: You’ve launched. Congrats! Now get back to work. Use the data and insights you’ve gathered to test, learn, refine and improve. Rinse, repeat!
Reid Hoffman’s quote is a compelling call to action for many entrepreneurs, including myself, but take it with a pinch of salt. It’s a brilliant rule of thumb for most, but just that – a rule of thumb. Tailor your approach to the needs of your industry, the expectations of your customers, and the regulatory landscape you operate in.
After all, the first step is just that – a step. It’s what you do afterwards, how you adapt and evolve, that truly defines your journey.
PS. thanks to Voltaire’s wisdom for his quote “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien,” aka “Perfection is the Enemy of Good”.