Building Products ala Snowball: launch early, learn & iterate
Building products is what we do at Snowball. One of the lessons I learned is that you can just about never launch your product too early. Basically, we aim to launch early, learn, and iterate.
Getting your product off the ground
It all starts with an idea, or a concept, for a new product. First we team up with our friends at Assetto Capital for a round of ‘crystallizing’ the value prop and business model. At this point, we also have a round of brainstorming for how we will fund the company for a new product launch.
Once the business goals and targets are clear, we ask ourselves: how can we bring this to market as quickly as possible? We are extremely focused on the users of the product, and try to simplify the minimum viable product as much as possible to the point where the use-cases are distilled down to a bare minimum.
I believe that one of the biggest mistakes being done in product development is to have a scope that’s too large. If you paint a too big picture for your first launch, you end up complicating and slowing down the process. Especially with startups, the eagerness to get as much as possible into a single product should not be the main goal.
When working with larger companies I find that the main obstacle is legality and politics. It often seems as though a product requirement is designed by a committee, with a laundry list of product features that are assembled together with historical constraints and business rules. This is also a recipe for a failed product launch, in my opinion. And it does not work well with a lean and agile methodology either.
So, simplify and reduce scope wherever possible. But, the product still needs to have the magic that makes it addictive. This is the magical balance we often look for at Snowball.
Design and release process
Once we have our product’s main user stories, we follow up with a lean design that aims to define the complete user-journey as well as visualize it. Depending on the product type, this may vary. If we are building an iOS App, a cloud software platform, or a bicycle, the approach will be different. But the goal is still to visualize and design the user journey.
Based on the simplification, we would like to make the build as quickly as possible. Our goal now is the initial launch of the product. And this is where it really starts: we have real customers using the product allowing us to collect feedback and learn.
Launch & iterate
Since our model is to launch early and iterate, it is important to understand that product development is a long term process. It is not just about getting the first product out there, but about the journey of iterations that follow. This is an important point when budgeting product development, as the initial launch is when it starts.
In general, for the iterations, we use a value-based product development process where perceived user value is guiding our product development.