Remember, ideas are worth nothing. And these days, even your code is worth very little.
Alright, so creativity and idea-making worth nothing. Technical expertise to make it? nothing.
Honestly, what's left? The business side of things?
Maybe this article just bothered me because I was getting similar vibes to "you can just have an idea and hire some programming monkey to create it for you."
Or as he said it: You and I could get together and clone almost any popular web application in a month. Or for that matter, we could simply buy a clone script. Twitter, Facebook, eBay, Groupon, Digg, and about 50 others are available for around $100 each.
http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1791278 (How Mint beat Wesabe from Mint's point of view)
> We spent a ton of time holding online chats, went to events (like twiistup la, finnovate) and connected with the entire personal finance community. Oh yea, this was 9 months before we even launched the product.
Think about this. By the time Mint launched we had more traffic than all the other personal finance sites (buxfer, geezeo, wesabe) combined.
There's no good reason to believe that Zuckerberg is lucky at all. Saying he was in the right place at the right time has this tacit assumption that if he were somewhere else at the wrong time he would have tried the same thing and fell flat on his face.
It seems because Facebook is an outlier, people feel safe talking about the luck factor, but that's meaningless because we all exist with individual circumstances, and by that measure everything every one of us does is based on luck. Instead, I prefer to ascribe luck to things that the individual actually had no control over, such as winning the lottery.
Being the right place and right time is a huge part of it. He was the right age, in the right environment, when the right technology reached the right tipping point and critical mass.
I'm not disparaging Zuckerberg's ability or hard work. However many with greater ability and who have worked harder have failed because of circumstances beyond their control.
Building a million dollars company is hard work (I mean 10 million at least ), but still billion dollars company are mostly about being lucky and exploiting it. I doubt that billionnaire entrepreneurs seriously worked much more, or much smarter than millionnaires. Billionaire companies landed there because they exploited ideas inherently more monopolistic, more able to spread.
If you take the sivers multiplier http://sivers.org/multiply, ideas still have some potential : a x20 multiplier is a huge boost.
Yes, there is, in the literally uncountable possible paths that the decisions of every other person on the planet (not to mention the state of the planet itself) create, there probably does exist a path to success, if not all, at least most people. Some of those paths involve crime, deceit, coercion and such but that is irrelevant.
"Luck" is you making the right choices (naturally based on your genes, psychology and the decisions that have led you to your current self), others making choices that facilitate it and the planet not blowing up in this process.
Secondly, I didn't say technical expertise is worth "nothing." Of course it's worth something. But as developers, we need to realize that, except in rare exceptions, our code is worth a lot less than we think it is.
If you are super amazing and you can get your first product to market, this obviously doesn't apply. But most people aren't. And most of those who do, they're just lucky.
Reason #4: Duke Nukem Forever will be out any day now. If you take too long to get it to market, your product will be a joke and people will lose interest.
Just failing isn't nearly enough to get people to remember you. You have to be truly epic to be remembered for that. (How many enterprise deployments go years late for every Slashdot joke about Duke Nukem again?)
A similar claim is that people won't give a bad product a second chance, even after many years. But the point is, unless you launch like Cuil, you won't have many users in the beginning. So if some percentage of those few hundred people lose faith, it could be a small price to pay for the knowledge you will gain.
As for Duke Nukem Forever, if it came out today there would be plenty of interest. It might be considered a joke but that is only really a threat someones ego. Of course, it is a financial threat as well but that is because of the massive development costs, not marketing that back-fired.
Microsoft. I ignore anything they say until they have something I can actually buy. They've made too many announcements that were just never spoken of again.
Microsoft's usual strategy, that no one has explicitly stated yet, is to try and discourage its customers from buying a product by promising the moon 'just around the corner' for a couple years. Microsoft is seen as a better long term bet, and this depresses sales even though it doesn't actually have a product yet, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of the failure of its competitors.
So when people are angrily referring to Microsoft vaporware, that's what they're talking about.
Greatest hype machine ever, and never doubt the Duke..
Mog.com started out with minimal hype despite a lot of effort by its CEO, and had an very (almost disastrously) slow startup phase. When we ran into implementation difficulties we compounded this slow-start problem even more. Mog managed to pull through this because of prudent financials and perseverance, but it was a near thing.
Powerset had the opposite problem, we had so much hype we didn't know what to do with it. What Powerset delivered was pretty impressive, but much less than what people expected. Cries of "Deeply Disappointed!" rained down on us like drops of acid, and we were powerless to do anything but deliver on what we could and say the rest was either too expensive or too difficult for the moment. But we did have a lot of users and interest, so we had a huge launch.
Now I'm at BankSimple, which is somewhere in between these other plans. BankSimple is aggressively talking to people and getting their message out, so there is some pent-up demand. We're also very diligent about responding to people as people, we do a bit of research before replying to (almost every) email. This means that we get some impatient tweets and messages (“Who cares what you look like? Where is your service?!”) asking for unreasonably fast development time, but it also means we get a lot of insightful feedback and commentary.
Our biggest obstacle seems to be controlling the hype. It's very easy for people to build up what we promised into veiled hints some kind of complete reform of the US financial system, which is probably an unreasonable launch goal. ;)
One thing that the article didn't go into was getting people familiar with you. Even if someone doesn't sign up (or if you don't have a way for them to give you their email address for some reason), if someone stumbles across your site/product a few times before it launches, they're likely to start to remember it and be more interested when it launches.
(KirinDave- Keep up the good work! I'm excited to hear back from you guys and start using whatever you guys give us.)
Ideas (and in most cases even the code itself) is worth little. It’s marketing that makes the startup.
(Mind you, ideas are worth little, but the rest... yeah)
I agree though, saying "X is >> important than Y" tends to not be a great plan.
But it does have some truth to it.
You can write great code and still not get customers without _some_ good marketing. And on the opposite many mediocre products can thrive with great marketing.
- You may pick the wrong people to market to and they convince you to abandon your project
While this may save you some time, the people may just have convinced you to stop work on a valuable product.
Even though I've done a couple projects that haven't gone anywhere, the fact that I have completed them in a working and useful state has greatly helped me get interviews and led to higher paying work.
Can someone please smack this idiot?
If people really need your product then they will excuse it being a bit crap (Exhibit A: most enterprise software). However, if your product is a work of technical genius but doesn't do anything useful for anyone then it is surely doomed.
Few web applications are technological breakthroughs. You can find exceptions in things like Google maps and such, but for the rest of the startup scene, it is all about the execution and the marketing.
The burden to avoid or justify hyperbole is on the author.
There is much more to the startup scene and tech in general than the dime-a-dozen CRUD apps the author is implicitly talking about.
If your landing page could be construed as an "offer for sale", and goes up more than one year in advance of your patent application, you've lost your ability to patent protect the idea in the US as well.
Of course most startups these days (the ones reading HN at least) are working on web apps and patents are not as commmonly employed. If you ARE working on a patentable idea though, you should do some research and consult with an IP lawyer before you go and put up any public marketing material before you have applications in to the jurisdictions where you want protection.
If you don't have a good product marketing can't help you. Marketing can give you an edge over other equally good products but cannot guarantee success.
Dropbox / Tweetie (before it stagnated) / Minecraft etc succeeded because the product was good. Not because of marketing
If your market does not know your product exists, it won't matter how good it is anyway. I'm reminded of Hugh MacLeod's brilliant cartoon "Welcome to Nobody Cares": http://www.gapingvoid.com/11444661477.jpg
edit: I stand corrected. "technical execution is mostly trivial"? No thank you. I did not become an engineer to write wedding planner software.
As with many other articles like it, the advice given is too vague. We know that we need to market our product but how? Make a landing page, and get 600 subscribers out of the blue? Just blog it all up in the twittersphere and get 1000 likes, no problem?
Anyone who has tried that without a thorough understanding of marketing, and no real budget for it, will know it doesn't work like that.
When I read these marketing articles, it feels like they are explaining how to model my abstraction layers, when I haven't even written Hello world yet.
Yes, and it's the hardest part of the process. Saying "start early" doesn't help much if you punt on "start what?" Glossing over that 650 strong list is skipping the meat of the subject. How much did they cost, where did they come from, and how long did they take to get? Those are the questions worth answering. You need to answer (or guess at) those questions before you decide when to start your marketing.
So offering the how and why in a blog post is a bit more than you should expect.
And there is value in saying "start early." Most devs I know don't do this and it costs them when they launch. If you've heard it and already know this that's fine, but many others have not.
With that said, here are quick answers to your questions:
>>How much did they cost
>>Where did they come from
It depends on your niche, but typically from being involved in that niche's community, publishing blog posts that get mentioned on Twitter, being interviewed on podcasts, and generally getting in front of the audience who will buy your application.
At a 50% conversion rate you only need 1300 uniques for a 650 person list.
>>How long did they take to get?
Most often 4-6 months. Most first-time startup founders can drive 1300 targeted uniques to a landing page in 4-6 months.
For more on this topic keep your eyes on the blog; I'll be posting more about this kind of stuff over the next few months.
YMMV, but this is how I react.
Show it to the people you want to sell it to as you build it, and start building a mailing list before launch.
I think it's true to an extent - a successful startup doesn't need an entirely new, innovative idea but at the same time a new, innovative idea doesn't necessarily result in a successful startup.
I think what's more important is not the idea itself, but the angle you take to market your idea. And that is why the blog post has some sound advice.
For example, facebook wasn't the first social network but the way it marketed itself (ie exclusively to college students ) etc was quite effective. Google wasn't the first search engine but its 'clean, simple' branding was quite unique.
Your marketing strategy/approach shapes the design and the features of your product.
I think the really big differentiator is not how well you execute (in code or in marketing), but whether you do it at all.
If you're prepared to stumble-and-ratchet (ie. explore; try-fail-try-again; "pivot"; experiment), ahead of everyone else, you win.
The only exception is if someone is massively more skilled/knowledgeable/resourced/intelligent/determined than you. But a funny thing is... that for a new market-product fit, you are the expert, and the most skilled, because the only way to get the knowledge and skill is to stumble-and-ratchet. You are also most well-known in the market. It's really hard for someone to catch up.
2. There is a lot of "code above all" because we are programmers. The sad reality: All aspects of a business are valuable; the ideas, code (IP), marketing, user interface design, customer service, strategy & processes! If you want to be successful, all aspects of your business need to be properly nurtured, provided for & grown.
Based on Sivers Multiplier idea:
"Sell before you build" is my new mantra.