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"How small? How simple?"

We advise startups to launch when they've added a quantum of utility: when there is at least some set of users who would be excited to hear about it, because they can now do something they couldn't do before.




Apple doesn't release simple things because they wanted to ship as fast as possible. In fact, I'd say Apple behaves in the opposite fashion. They take as long as necessary to release something intentionally simple. Arguably the iPhone started out as a hugely complex system that needed to be paired down to what was really essential.

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For example, they pared down Flash, and therefore YouTube. It seems like a crazy omission, but it hasn't stopped them.

I'd guess they omitted Flash because the iPhone is too low-powered for it to look good; the iPhone needs optimized native apps. Since "looking good" is a huge part of the iPhone experience, it makes (painful) sense to drop that feature. Same for Java.

It seems they couldn't justify omitting Javascript too, but I bet they would have loved to, as it's 78-90 times slower than a desktop iMac: http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2007/08/iphone-benchmarks-...

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Well, those benchmarks are over a year and a half old, and the JS engine in webkit has improved by probably a factor of 10 since then. iPhone 3.0's JavaScript will probably be a mere 10 to 20 times slower than Obj-C, which is actually pretty trivial for most iPhone apps.

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You've missed my point: those benchmarks confirm how underpowered the iPhone was/is, and provides support for the hypothesis for omitting Flash and Java. This relates to the article's suggestion of starting with the minimal feature set, and iterating. And your own point of "paring down" the feature set.

It might sound like I'm criticizing the iPhone, but I'm not: it's how Apple managed to create a cool experience for users in an incredibly compact size (they are tiny.)

The result is that when Moore's law does enable reasonable processing power in a device that small, Apple will be in the best position to exploit it, in market position, in design tradeoffs, and in engineering knowhow.

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I think this advice matches up really well to one of the things you say in your "5 Founders" essay about Paul Buchheit:

"PB made a point in a talk once that I now mention to every startup we fund: that it's better, initially, to make a small number of users really love you than a large number kind of like you."

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Excitement is a terrific metric.

It's possible to get people involved with a product if they're not excited about it. There's still growth involved. But the difference between that and a project people actively fall in love with is extraordinary.

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Yes, making it exciting is more important than making it easy to develop for.

"Excitement" is a benefit, not a feature. This distinction from advertising is obvious, but hard to drive into engineering (even when it's me).

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I was looking up information about the book Punk Marketing a few days ago, and somebody gives an anecdote about a presentation they gave where the first slide was titled "How to Market to Generation Y", and the second slide was titled "You can't.", and that was the entire presentation. And there's some truth to that. The more people advertise, the more people get bored. So excitement becomes the only thing that matters.

Until my current project I always thought that excitement was something that you simulated to get users. The guy who built and marketed Zoints, the start-up I did work for in high school, would IM me and talk about these campaigns he wanted to run on forums where Zoints employees would become forum members to talk about how much they loved the network (it was a social network for forums, essentially). And I thought, Oh, this is how you generate excitement. Then I started demoing Cirqueti to people in January, and suddenly I was getting absolutely ridiculous feedback. Things like, I'd talk to somebody about it on IM, and they would go to their college and talk to their professor or their class about it. One guy keeps bringing friends onto his IM account to ask me questions about it.

It's insane, and it's a terrific feeling, and more than that it's genuine. I love it, because it means I don't have to lie or oversell what I've got: from the initial reaction it doesn't at all look like that'll be necessary, and I can focus on just making it better. And the best part of that is it's not marketing. Like, this isn't some cynical attempt to gain users. It's much more honest, because they're doing it on their own. I've seen that with a lot of web sites, in particular Facebook, which ran no ads on competing web sites (unlike TagWorld, which people thought was a big potential competitor, and which would advertise everywhere). I love it. It shows that if you've actually made something good, then you don't have to worry about advertising and you can just be yourself and do your own thing.

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