Google killed Wave yesterday, and I think there are a few lessons we entrepreneurs can take away from it:
- Focus on doing one thing great (MVP) - Wave was a classic engineering-driven product, full of features and things it can do. One of the most dangerous, silent killers of many startups is developing product features just because you can, or just because it's easy for the engineers ("lets do it - it will only take 1 day to develop"). Each specific feature seems benign on its own, but when cobbled together, cancer starts to spread in a few forms:
- The product becomes less "crisp" - the biggest challenge you're going to have as an entrepreneur is in selling a crisp product story to a very clear buyer. By layering more 'just-because-we-can' features onto your product, you are going to lose the crispiness of what's that single thing that your product does better than anyone else in the world.
- Maintenance becomes a nightmare - those little harmless features you add might cost very little now, but are going to cost you dearly in the future as you scale. They cost is customer support, in code complexity, in multiplying future QA efforts, etc, etc.
So my tip would be to think about "just-because-we-can" features as if they were a cancer you should avoid developing at any cost. And if you slipped and developed one - don't hesitate to kill it and reduce your feature set. Google Wave tried to do too many things, and lost its product crsipyness in the process.
- Don't think of your product as an X-killer - When Wave was launched it was hyped to death as the email-killer. The Googlers who developed Wave kept saying how outdated email was, and how it was not designed for the current world we live in and how Wave would replace all that. Wave didn't stand a chance as an email-killer. But I think it could have been a great team collaboration tool within companies. Problem is - that probably didn't seem like an exciting, big enough goal to take on and so it was positioned as an email-killer.
Focusing on being the killer of something is almost surely going to distract you and take down the wrong product roadmap. All the "Google killer" search engines, or "Facebook killer" social networks, are much more likely to be killed themselves than even scratch those they're after.
- Avoid big bang, hyped launches - I might be wrong on this - just my personal 2c... please take with a grain of salt. I'm allergic to hyped up product launches - I think they are extremely dangerous for startups. A hyped launch usually has minimal long-term value -- it's like a Digg storm hitting your site and leaving immediately -- yet it sets unrealistic expectations for users, employees and investors alike. A hyped launch is almost guaranteed to follow with a big disappointing drop to a more realistic attention level, which can be devastating for a startup. My personal 2c:
- If you can void hype - avoid it like the plague. Just focus on, and celebrate, smaller wins - WoW or MoM growth on your core important metrics. It's a longer road, but a much healthier and more sustainable one.
- If hype hit you - get in the bunker and IGNORE it. Tell everyone involved in the company - employees, investors, etc - to enjoy the day of hype for 2 minutes, and then get back to work and ignore it. Ignore it in the reports. Ignore it in any way you can. If you start believing the hype - you are likely on route to being doomed.
- Lastly, and very importantly - You can beat Google at your game! -Google does a lot of things right but they're not beyond competition or failure. As a startup it may seem like they have all the advantages over you - money, lots of smart engineers, brand, etc, etc. But believe me - if you apply some 'Moneyball thinking' (highly recommend every entrepreneur read this book) - you'll realize that as a startup you have so much unfair advantage against the BigCo's of the world that it's not even funny. Namely - you can afford to start working on much smaller, crisper bites which are too small for a BigCo to be interested in, but be the best at them in the world.