Building in Public

When it comes to building a startup, a founder has to make dozens of decisions each day. Lots of times those decisions are based on just hunches and experience. But the best decisions are those made by a third party, or a least validated by a third party.

This might seem pretty obvious but I’m surprised how much this trips up founders, including ourselves. One particular example was on deciding the pricing plans for our software product. We had lots of discussions back and forth on the right metrics to segment the different pricing plans. We even used actual user data to segment the power users and average users.

But at the end of the day it didn’t matter. We could’ve been theorizing and arguing for hours. It doesn’t compare to having it out in public and getting real world feedback. Once we released the pricing changes, we quickly realized that it was overly complicated and actually lowering our revenues. We then quickly reversed to the previous, simpler pricing model.

Luckily in this case we didn’t expend much time and energy. But I’ve seen other founders secretly building their product for months with zero real world input. And after releasing it they are surprised to see that no one outside the walls of their office thought it was that cool.

Our latest game plan at Lift Up Studios has been to push an idea out to the public as early as possible. When we have a very good hunch, on the level of scratching our own itch, then we invest in creating a simple landing page and push it out to a potential audience. In this scenario we can come up with good headlines and potential features since we’re in the market.

For other ideas where we have no deep hunch, just a vague direction for the idea, then we invest heavily in customer development. This is before even having a website. He simple go out and ask people in the market what issues they have in the general problem space we’re exploring. And if it resonates with them, then we move on to building a landing page by reusing their own words to describe the pain points. This was much the format we followed when developing Better Cater.

Each day we’re learning more and more. But this process of tapping into the human conscience instead of just relying on our own two brains seems to be leading to much faster validation (and invalidation) of ideas.