Based on a question from Quora I’ve put together this of list of tips and advice for building an MVP. These are things I find myself saying on a daily basis in some capacity or another. There’s certainly some more to be added to thist list, but for now, here’s the Top 8…
1. Read The Lean Startup by Eric Reis. If you haven’t read it recently, go back and re-read it (this time specifically thinking about how it applies to your idea).
2. Identify, study, and love the problem you are trying to solve. If you don’t know the problem you are solving, STOP! If you don’t know who else is playing in your space, STOP! If you don’t know how you are going to be 10x better than others attacking your problem, seriously pause and consider if you really want to invest effort into something where you might be marginally better than the existing solution.
From the NYC Dev Shop Blog…
This past weekend NYC Startup Weekend invaded our coworking space at Alley NYC. After hearing about all the great momentum Frank Denbow and his team had created leading up to this event, we jumped at the chance to help in any way we could.
So my partner Alec and I signed up to become mentors for the weekend and agreed to donate $1,000 worth of development hours towards an MVP for the winning team.
I’m a big fan of the concept behind the event, so it was great to experience the entire process first hand — listening to initial pitches, watching the teams form around the top ideas, interacting with the teams as they narrow down their focus, and then witnessing the hard work turn into results. It always amazes me how much can get done in one weekend when you are laser focused.
I get pitched a lot of good ideas, daily. Before an entrepreneur sits across the table from me they’ve done a ton of planning, a bunch of research and have undoubtedly spent hours dreaming about how their soon-to-be-application is going to look and feel. And without fail, every entrepreneur has an incredible list of features that they want to build and incorporate in the product from Day 1.
As a result, I often find that the core of the product I’m being asked to build is hidden many layers underneath user acquisition features, gamification features, and “features investors will like.” This is the biggest mistake we see with an entrepreneur’s idea of an MVP - they try to conquer the world right away.
It’s a super important lesson for any first time entrepreneur to keep in mind as they begin to build their product.
I don’t want to start the fall season off with such a negative post, but this has been on my mind for a while (and sorry for the gross picture, but it helps drive the point home). I promise my next post will be more positive.
The Startup Community thrives on amazing people. No matter which city you’re talking about, if there is a strong startup community, it is because there are champions who give so much back with very little if any expectation of return. This is seen through meetups and skillshare classes, outstanding VCs, angel investors and mentors, entrepreneurs helping other entrepreneurs, and so on. It’s a strange place to plug the NYC Tech Blood Drive while talking about leeches but I’m a big supporter and couldn’t resist, so sign up now :)
That being said, I have seen a few examples recently of people who aren’t so friendly and amazing. These people whom I will now refer to as leeches thrive off of the startup community that they claim to be a part of. And it makes me sick.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying that everyone should be giving everything away for free. That’s not the point at all. I understand businesses and people need to make money, but when you are doing it in a disingenuous way at the expense of others, you are a leech sucking the life blood out of the community.
These leeches are very good at what they do and have created such a good coverup story to hide their true motives that they are often able to prey on the young and naive first time entrepreneurs. Sometimes they will only take a little bit and move on to the next one, and other times they will suck them dry. Very often they are only in it for the money and don’t give a shit about the people, projects or companies that will be affected along the way.
I don’t have an answer for how to stop these leeches, but what I will say is be careful and keep your eyes open — especially if you are brand new to the community. With all the amazing people in the startup community, it is very easy to let your guard down and not recognize a leech for what they are.
My only advice to you is to ask people you trust and always go with you gut.
Every once and a while, we all need a good, solid sucker punch to the face. Maybe not literally, but definitely figuratively.
We need to experience the pain — the pain of losing something we really wanted, the pain of failure, the pain of being blindsided by terrible news. It’s this pain that forces us to keep our guard up and always be on our toes. It’s this pain that allows us to truly appreciate things on a whole new level.
Without out this random face punch, we become comfortable. We become lazy. We become complacent. And you know what happens when we become complacent? First, a little extra TV and some ice cream, then no more gym, then we start getting putting on a few extra pounds, and then BAM! Corporate America wins.
Last night was a sucker punch to the face night for me. Something I had been working on for a looong time was swept right out from under me. And I’m pissed about it. It stings. A lot. But, the anger will fade and I’ll figure out the next step to win back my coveted prize. You know why? Because I’m a lot more determined than to let one little (big) punch to the face stop me.
Take big risks. Pick a fight with a dude twice your size and be ready to fully embrace that punch to the face. It’s going to make you a better fighter and more prepared, so that the next time around you dodge out of the way in time to land the knockout punch.
“If most important thing in startup isn’t your people, you’re doing it wrong”
I feel like this is something that Fake Grimlock once said or maybe just something he would agree with. Regardless, I think it is absolutely true.
YOUR STARTUP IS YOUR TEAM…
- Without an incredible team of people, how can you expect to build an incredible product?
- If your team isn’t fully on board with your mission, culture, vision and leadership, how can you expect them to be dedicated to achieving the impossible?
- If you haven’t demonstrated that you are fully committed to your team, why should they be willing to make sacrifices for your crazy cause?
- If your team doesn’t have complete trust in you, you’re in trouble
We’ve all heard the analogy that building a startup is like going to war. I would never go that far as I think they are worlds apart and disrespectful to our soldiers, but there is one part of statement I think is appropriate here. You need your troops to trust you. You need them to know that you have their back above all else. You need them to know that no matter what else happens, you’re right there with them every step of the way.
As simple as this sounds and no matter how many times we hear it, people still get this wrong — terribly wrong. I’ve seen a few examples recently of startups doing some great things that have totally dropped the ball in this department, AND IT MAKES ME SICK TO MY FUCKING STOMACH! I can’t even begin to tell you how much this upsets me.
Take care of your people, otherwise everything else is going to come crumbling down around you.
Today is a new day, and we’re excited to announce the official relaunch of NYC on Rails. Not that the company ever actually went away, we just went into a bit of hibernation for the beginning of the summer.
As we took a more integrated role in the development of DigitalOcean when they began the TechStars Boulder program, we stopped taking on new clients. This wasn’t an easy decision for us as we really love the challenge of taking on new and exciting projects, but it had to be done as our roles at DigitalOcean were more than a full time gig.
Now that the TechStars program is coming to an end, we are excited to begin taking on new projects — working with startups and entrepreneurs to turn brilliant ideas into tangible products.
For the full article on the relaunch visit our blog at NYC on Rails Blog.
If you have any questions, want to chat or if we can help out in any way, just sent me an email at email@example.com
About a month ago, Howard Lindzon was talking to the TechStars Boulder class and said,
Just like a surfer, you have to position yourself to ride the one big wave that will change your life
Speaking to him after, Howard went on to say that there are many parallels between surfing and startups. I never really gave it much thought after that until I got to go surfing this Saturday for the first time all summer.
Here’s what I think Howard was talking about…
Just because you call yourself a surfer, that does not make you a surfer. Anyone can go out and buy a surfboard or tell JWoww and Snooki that he is a surfer, but you actually have to put your board in the ocean to go surfing
- Anyone can say that he is working on a startup or that he is an entrepreneur or even worse “doing a startup.” But if you haven’t quit your job, burned the boats, and are living and breathing your startup every minute of the day, you’ve never even set foot in the water yet
You have to find where the waves are breaking, otherwise you are just floating around on a board in the water. You can’t go to a spot where there was a great break 3 days ago or even where the surf report said the waves were breaking this morning. You have find out what time the tides are and where the best waves are breaking right now.
- If your working on a new dating site with a twist or trying to build a better version of Instagram, you’re surfing where this one person caught this magnificent wave this one time except now that wave is long gone and you’re fighting with 30 other people for any tiny wave that will come your way. Find your own waves. Enough said.
You have to paddle out past where the waves are breaking if you want to be able to catch anything worth riding. Depending on the size of the waves, this could be quite a challenge as wave after wave comes crashing down on you trying to send you and your board back to shore. If you’re not constantly moving forward, you’re getting sent right back to beach.
- Before you can even think about any sort of success, you have to put in the hard work — long hours, no sleep, weekends, sacrifices — and you have to keep moving forward. Sometimes, the best way to move forward is to go sideways just like sometimes the best way to get past the breakers is to paddle around them. But one thing is for sure, nobody has ever caught a wave sitting on beach and no one has ever achieved success without execution.
You must put yourself in the right position and be patient and alert so that you don’t miss that monster wave that makes this all worth it. This is exactly what Howard was talking about. Assuming you made it past the break, you must be ready for that one life changing wave. You can’t be looking at the little fishies or working on your tan or checking out the girls in bikinis walking down the beach. Focus.
- You have no idea when you are going to find explosive fab.com-like growth just like you have no idea when that life changing wave is going to come, but you have to make sure you are absolutely ready for the ride of your life when it comes along.
Timing is everything if you actually want to catch that beautiful wave you’ve been waiting for. Start paddling too early, you’ll get crushed by the break. Start paddling too late, you’ll miss it. Stand up too early, you’ll be standing up on the wrong side of the wave. Stand up too late, you’ll miss the entire ride.
- If you wait until the right time to start building your idea or until you have a perfect app written with no bugs and every feature you’ve ever dreamed of, five people will have already beat you to the punch. And if you release something too early, you may never get a second shot.
You will wipeout and it will suck. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. If you are not wiping out, you are not pushing yourself hard enough. Time to find some bigger waves. Sure wipeouts suck — you get the wind knocked out of you, you get dragged under water for way longer than you are comfortable with, you smash your face, you get bruises, cuts, scrapes — but it’s all part of the process. Wiping out isn’t quitting or failing. It’s just part of surfing. It’s a painful reminder to be a little better next time. And the worse part is that you have to paddle out past the damn breakers all over again without the satisfaction of even having gotten a great ride out of it.
- If you’re not getting rejected constantly, you’re doing it wrong. If people don’t call you crazy, laugh at your idea, tell you it will never work, tell you to get a “real” job, say that you’ll never find investors, and poke holes at every single thing they can, then you’re doing it wrong. You need that wipeout. You need that rejection. It keeps you sharp and on your toes and even more motivated to get back out there and catch the next wave.
You have to go above and beyond what everyone else is willing to do if you want to surf the best waves. Every surfer in NJ knows that the best waves are in the winter. The only problem is that the air is 30 degrees, the water is 42 degrees, and there’s snow on the ground.
- If you’re going to let a few minor inconveniences like the weather and temperature stop you from riding the best waves, maybe you’re not really a surfer. Me, I’m no surfer and would never claim to be one. I go when it’s warm and convenient. My brother goes all year round and will get up at 4am so he can get 2 hours of surfing in before he goes to work all day. That’s the kind of dedication your startup needs from you.
If life required me to follow the simple and easy path that was laid out in front of me, I would still be working for an international bank. And, I’d be miserable.
But I made a choice back then to leave a comfortable and very upward trending position to do what really made me happy. I have had an incredibly interesting journey since then, and now my time with DigitalOcean has come to an end.
This was an incredibly difficult decision for me especially as I look back on this post and this post and most certainly this post. But we decided that it was in the best interest of both the team and me personally that we part ways.
So where does this leave me now? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure, but I’m certainly not worried.
I’ve recently made this crazy analogy in my head comparing my career path to hiking — one of the side effects of spending time at TechStars Boulder. I really enjoy the rush that comes with the physical challenge of hiking up a mountain, but the view from the top is what keeps me looking for bigger mountains to climb.
Sadly, I’ve found that if you stick to the trails, you never really get the best views. You get to see what everyone else sees. Sure, it’s not easy to hike one of these trails, but there’s certainty there. You know that people hike that trail every day. You get to the “summit” and see 8 year old kids posing for pictures.
Did you really challenge yourself to give everything you had and go above and beyond or did you follow the path that was laid out in front of you?
So, I decided to start hiking where trails didn’t exist. I might have broke a few laws (sorry) but it was completely necessary. I needed to know that I could look at the biggest mountain I could find (like this)…
…and that I would do whatever it takes to put myself at the top of that highest peak. And that’s just what I did. And it was incredible. Pictures can’t describe what it feels like to get to the top of that peak and look straight down the face of the Boulder Flatirons and say to the mountain, “You just got owned” (although some of my Occipital shots came out great: here, here, and here if your into that kind of thing)
And so it goes in my professional life. It’s time to find the biggest mountain I can ever possibly imagine and make my own path to the top.
I’m all about trying out new apps (especially ones that exhibited at NY Tech Day), so here’s my first impression of Songza — a web radio that let’s you “Listen to music curated by Music Experts.” To be fair, we had been using the Songza desktop version around the Tech Day office quite a bit before this, but who said anything about being fair…
The Songza Music Concierge is the best fucking thing I have seen from any music app out there. There, I said it.
The Concierge recognizes the time of day and asks you to pick from a few environments to determine the mood. You then pick the category of music you want to jam out to and are presented with a bunch of playlists. One of my favorite combinations is the “Work or Study — No Lyrics” —> “Film Scores” —> “Epic Film Scores”. Let’s just say epic is the perfect description.
So Concierge aside, I was totally blown away by the app as well and here’s why:
- It doesn’t lose any of the look and feel of the UI from the website
- Did I mention that the Concierge is pure awesome
- No commercials = sweetness
- It’s fully integrated with the iPhone with skip buttons, pause / play etc.
- Here’s the mind blowing part and maybe this was just pure luck — I rode the E Train from Port Authority (42nd St.) all the way down to Spring Street and was able to listen to 3 songs with no interruptions. I think I might be able to pick up 3G for a few seconds here and there and maybe it was just timed perfectly, but shit. This was a modern day miracle in my mind. Streaming music on the subway. Win!
Here’s the part that’s lame and I understand it is part of their marketing, so I guess I maybe forgive them… maybe. I had to signup using Facebook or email, so I chose FB even though it was against my better judgement (really should be a Twitter option). I knew they were going to try to post the music I was listening to onto my FB wall, so I tried to turn it off from the app with no success. It either isn’t an option or it’s well hidden.
Sure enough, I check on my FB wall and see that I’ve been listing to “Club Bangers” or something ridiculous like that. Not cool. I think I was able to ban them from posting more stuff via FB, but only time will tell. Like I said, I understand why they do it, I just don’t like it.
- Is there a skip limit?
- What happens when I down vote a song? Does it never play that song again for that playlist? for all playlists?
- Are the songs in a playlist arranged in order (i.e. Song A is 1st, B is 2nd, etc.) or is it totally random?
- What happens when I revisit a playlist for a second time? Does it pick up where it left off? randomize? remember what songs I’ve listened to already?
All that being said, I really dig it. It has replaced Pandora for now and probably forever as long as I don’t find any other surprises. There’s still a lot more to check out as I’ve only started playing with it yesterday. For now, I have to say — very nicely done Songza team.
#6WordSummary: Songza Concierge rocks bye bye pandora