I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with entrepreneurs who fit into the Founder A or Founder B boxes at this point, but it’s probably in the dozens. It seems that more people I’ve talked to in the past couple years are like Founder A, but maybe that’s because I’m being more selective with who I talk to.
Anyway, since I published this in 2015, my thoughts remain the same, and if you need more motivation, check out this post about creating a tech startup without a developer.
Yesterday I had meetings with two aspiring young entrepreneurs. Both are at the ideation/pre-revenue stage; both are pursuing their first startup; both are young; both have solid ideas that probably have a way to make money; both have a first version of their product ready; both have relationships with potential paying customers.
The big difference between the two was their answer to the question, “When will you be ready to launch?”
Answer from Founder A: We already did.
Founder A started his company with the help of a couple friends, and before they even had a “real” product, they hit the ground running. They figured out how to manually deliver their service and now they’re testing pricing and the quality of their service with the hopes of turning it into a product someday. They could definitely have a sexy app with some awesome technology someday, but they don’t have a technical cofounder or the money to hire someone, so they’re figuring out product-market fit without a product.
Answer from Founder B: Our product needs to be “cleaned up” first.
Founder B was waiting to launch his app until he felt really good about the product. Much like Founder A, Founder B is non-technical, and he’s working with a cofounder who is slightly technical, but not an experience app developer. They did pay a couple developers to put together an app to test their idea, and it appeared to be working - at least on a small scale. Their fear is that they would launch the mostly-finished, mostly-working product and the experience would be so poor or insecure that people would hate it and never come back.
So which approach is “right?”
There is no right answer here, but I’ll make a bit of commentary on each based on what I’ve seen in the past several years working at startups.
Founder B suffers from the first-time founder paralysis that is dangerously common. The truth is that nobody’s first iteration of a product hits it on the head. This is as true of funded startups with highly technical teams as it is of single founders with nothing more than an idea. He is legitimately concerned with attaching his name to a sub-par product, but I think that he’s also a little afraid of failure in general - a bad trait for startup founders to have.
Founder A has spent a little more time interning and working with early stage companies, so he understands that product-market fit is a journey, not a destination. He’s initially concerned with finding a market and price point; not building a perfect product. I liked both founders, and I think they both have as good a shot as any at making their projects work, but if I were to place a bet based on one meeting, I’d go with Founder A.
How about you? Do you see yourself in these archetypical founders? When do you know that a product is ready to launch? Let me hear your thoughts on Twitter.