Lessons Learned: Just Launch.
I think like all entrepreneurs I am half skeptic, half optimist. I recently made a mistake I have made before; hopefully this will be the last time. When you are ready to launch your product, put on your optimist hat. In 2008 I was working on my first for-profit venture, Boundaryless Brands. I had just finished building our first website, which was built around the physical inventory of Hayward Distributing, my friend's company, and loaded it with around 200 products that his company would drop ship when we got orders. (This model eventually grew to an enterprise level e-commerce play and was sold in 2011.)
So I was all set and had put in real work, but then something happened I didn't launch the site. For some reason I simply didn't take what should be the next logical step: to drive relevant traffic to the site. I reached out to fellow entrepreneur and friend Brad Howard to ask for advice. It took all of five seconds for him to say, "Well put some money into Google Adwords, idiot; you just spent a month building this site."
He was right, and I already knew what to do. But one thing had stopped me: that moment when I realized, "Shit - what if I was wrong about this whole idea?" It's a scary moment when you finally get to the point where you have to see if your crazy idea will work. Even if you are following the lean start-up methodology and are thinking of it as your MVP, and everything is an experiment, and let's see what customers say, it's still scary. Sometimes you need to be kicked over the edge. Thanks, Brad.
It happened to me again recently, and this time - even though I knew better - it happened again. PaeDae launched our MVP around two weeks ago. It took us around five weeks to build, around three weeks of highly reusable technology and two weeks of a frontend system that we intend to toss or revamp at some point in the future. Either way I had that same feeling: "Oh shit, what if this doesn't work?"
Lean is ingrained in me after 10 years of entrepreneurship. PaeDae is the sixth company I have started. Of the first five, four were successful, and one failed. My first five companies were totally bootstrapped (as you can see by this silly article), but for PaeDae, mostly based on reputation, we have raised significant cash pre-product. This made the "Oh shit" moment even more potent. What if I just lost not just my own money and time, but other people's money? That's something I never want to do.
The good news is, once the product is built you really do only have one thing to do: Just let 'er rip. It's still very early for our first product, and the initial data we got back was minimal and all over the place, as it tends to be early on. We have already had some major early learnings about our product and customers, and have made some real changes to our strategy based on that data. But the important thing is that it's based on the data.
So to take a lesson I learned early in my career from Tom Suddes, a friend and mentor at ForImpact: Just do it - launch!