We all have got that great idea from time to time. We talk about it when we go for a beer with friends or when we get bored on vacation. Taking our ideas to the next level and really starting a business is something that takes a lot of courage and I applaud everyone who is brave enough to do that. You are not only trying to contribute to the rest of society and take care of yourself – you are willing to risk your financial security and social status that you might have. And you are also risking your ego that might hurt a lot of your ideas are not met with the same enthusiasm as you have by the potential customers and business partners.
As developers and tech partners, we have worked with many start-ups and small companies that were fighting for their spot on the market. I’ve seen projects take off and become successful but even a greater number of those that failed.
It’s ok to fail. There can be so many reasons why some projects fail that there is no shame in that at all. You learn your lesson and life goes on. What is a shame is that if you spend on this lesson more that is necessary. That is why you need to deliver and test early. The build-measure-learn cycle as defined in Lean Start-up should be on your mind all the time when working on a new product. Or just remember to fail fast!
The problem is that we do not want to fail. Sometimes we do not want to fail so much that we do not want to know the results. And if we feel like the failure is actually very likely we might tend to avoid getting those results as long as possible. When I received an envelope with results of the entering exams to law school I remember opening the letter the second I got my hands on it. Because I was cocky and sure I am going to get in. I’ve had a few letters since then that sat on my desk for quite some time.
I have seen the same thing applied to a business idea or a project and it is madness. Instead of moving forward and getting as much feedback as possible I’ve seen projects kept in secrecy for months, even years. Designing, developing, brainstorming, changing.. with nothing to show to the world in the end. Both young and experienced entrepreneurs do that. The chances that after this process you’re going to get it right are very slim. And when the first users claim your app to be nonsense it’s to become bitter and resentful.
I was frustrated because I didn’t understand the motivation and I believed that this is fueled by a desire for the best product possible or maybe just a lack of experience with digital product development. But that is not very often the main problem. If you work hard on something and put your hopes and dreams into the project you might feel like the failure is not an option. But it always is.
The IT world – apps, websites – is even more tempting for those who like to dream big and want to become rich or famous fast. We’ve seen the industry grow year after a year and some lucky ones making their fortune on few lines of code – or something nearly simple like that. This kind of a “app gold rush” is tempting for those who want to “make it” fast without that much effort.
But the IT industry nowadays is a complete opposite. Sure there still are great success stories but behind most of them are knowledgeable teams and perfect execution. I’ve seen some projects led by people who believed that the app world is a game you can win without the hard work. It’s – mostly – not. It reminded me of being in a casino. You know you can lose and that you probably will but you want to take a shot. Because if you get lucky… So you keep spinning and losing money and you don’t want to look at the facts. That doesn’t make sense.
You need to confront your ideas with reality as soon and as often as possible. Your team should help you with that so you need to empower everyone around you to tell you when you’re too stuck or in denial. Because it’s very probable that the day will come. Creating a new reality is a great thing if you make sure it is not just in your head. Don’t get all drunk on the ideas of you being the future Facebook when you have no real data or feedback. Keep yourself and the people around you motivated and happy but make sure you are not paying just for this little “feel good adventure”. You can fly high only if you obey the laws of physics.
It’s very difficult to go and ‘shoot it behind the barn’ as Mr Wonderful says. But that is exactly what you need to do sometimes. Testing your ideas is nothing to be afraid of. The constant cycle of trials and failures must keep going on if you want to grow. Never get stuck on one idea so hard it would start to drag you down. If it’s a digital product, go with the MVP, test it and move forward.
You need to embrace the idea that the users of your products should be your biggest source of inspiration – and your friends. Don’t let them become your enemies. Don’t be afraid to do something wrong. Just do it fast.