Building Products ala Snowball: launch early, learn & iterate
Building products is what we do at Snowball. One of the lessons I have learnt is that you can (almost) not 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 idéa, a concept, for a new product. We typically team up with our friends in Assetto Capital for a round of crystallizing the value prop and business model. At this point it is usually also a round to 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 focussed on the users of the product and try to simplify the minimum viable product as much as possible. At the point where the use cases are distilled down to the bare minimum.
I believe that one of the biggest mistakes being done in product development is to have a too large scope. If you paint a too big picture for your first launch you end up complicating and slowing down the process. Specially with startups it seems that the eagerness to get as much as possible into the product is the main goal.
When working with larger companies I find that the main obstacle is legacy (and politics). It seems like a product requirement is often designed by committee. They have a laundry list of product features are assembled together with historical constraints and business rules. This is really the recipe for failure for a product launch in my opinion. And it does not work well with an lean and agile methodology.
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 are looking for at Snowball.
Design and release process
Once we have our main user stories for our product we have a lean design where we aim to define the complete user journey and 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 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 and it is time to collect feedback and learn.
Launch & iterate
Since our model is to launch early and iterate it is important to understand the product development is a long term process. It is not just a about getting the first product out there, but it is the journey of iterations that follow. This is an important point when budgeting product development, the initial launch is when it starts.
For the iterations we use a value based product development process where perceived user value is guiding our product development.