What is The Ego Driven ‘Product Trap’ Founders Get Lost In?
The more feedback we receive, the more we realize that we aren’t perfect. GuessBox isn’t perfect. After all it was built by humans and humans aren’t perfect, not to mention that perfection in itself isn’t based on the absolute, nor the objective, it is a subjective expression of one’s viewpoint at a specific point in time.
Yet everybody knows somebody who is a perfectionist. Hell, maybe you are, I know I am — at least, selectively. The reason I’m saying all of this isn’t too increase word count in what would have otherwise been a short post, nor is it to create suspense before introducing new GuessBox features.
The reason is that I find more and more founders (especially first time founders) in the startup scene becoming obsessed with their product, to the point where they overlook other potentially lucrative opportunities because they keep telling themselves that their product “just isn’t ready yet”.
Truthfully, I’ve been a victim of this myself, especially at the beginning of GuessBox I spent so much time trying to ensure the product worked that I completely neglected the money making side of the business, which as you could imagine cost the company money, unnecessarily.
Perhaps, founders/co-founders fall into this ‘product trap’ because after investing so much… financially, physically and emotionally into their company one’s identity starts to blend with that of the company. Thereby creating greater personal problems if something doesn’t work out.
In this fashion, just like one would like to make themselves look presentable before attending an upmarket dinner, perhaps a startup founder also feels as though they are expected to dress up their product in front of a dinner that consists of millions of people. Alas, the marketplace.
The only difference being the founder in this case has already attended the dinner but on every occasion, particularly earlier on — has been overshadowed by the styles and designs of others at this clearly, flamboyant fictitious dinner party.
With that comes a bruise to an already extremely fragile ego, and so goes back the startup founder to work on his product, slaving away day after day, ensuring that every piece is impeccably designed and improved repeatedly until it’s perfect…
Meanwhile, the entire time there was another founder working on the same product but instead of focusing on making it ‘perfect’ they took it one day at a time, and worked on developing all areas of the company simultaneously (or at least in a relatively sequential manner). Sure, they made mistakes on the way. People didn’t like their beta version. Investors thought their marketing campaigns were inappropriate. But… they carried on and by the time the founder in the previous story was satisfied enough with his product to proceed he still had a lot of challenges ahead of him related to the things he neglected spending time on in the beginning. Recruitment, marketing, overall management just to name a few.
On the other hand, because the contemporary founder hadn’t been stuck trying to perfect one part of his product, he learned a lot more about different parts of his business and became more intuitive overall. His competition, his pricing models, his marketing strategies. And because of all of this when it was time for him to improve his product, he didn’t do it based on his own view of perfection but he did it based on the feedback he received, based on the lessons learned while trying to run advertising campaigns, based on conversations he had with strangers etc. And thus in the face of competition he knew what bases he had to cover, whereas his competitors didn’t know where the bases were even located.
Or perhaps, it inevitably comes down to the fear of actually ‘launching’ the business. In my opinion, the longer one spends on the ‘pre-launch’ stage of their business the harder it becomes for them psychologically, to actually launch. After all, they have become accustomed to not yet being a live company for years and as people we find a lot more comfort in the known, than the unknown.
In this case the known being the ‘pre-launch’ stage. An alternate example of this would be jail house inmates expressing the fact that they prefer prison to the real world because after being incarcerated for such a long time, the idea of the real world is significantly more unnerving, confusing, ambiguous — uncertain. Everybody is afraid of the unknown to a certain degree, so it wouldn’t be crazy to think that as a founder who has always dabbled in different businesses but never fully committed to a single one that perhaps fear is what was actually stopping you.
I can definitely say as a younger founder, it’s taken me close to 8 years to finally invest 100% of my time into one thing and don’t get me wrong it hasn’t been easy. There are so many things around us demanding our attention that it’s easy to sometimes find yourself lost in a self-reinforcing feedback loop.
For some it’s fear, for some it stems from an insecurity, or an ego-driven identity crisis but what is for sure is that if you want to be a well rounded, well versed founder, or CEO or even just a grounded individual (work aside) then you must know when it’s time for you to change course, or double down or even to quit. Otherwise, you may fall into a similar ‘product trap’ and before you know it you’re on your 1500th iteration, saying “it just isn’t ready yet…”
Originally published at blog.guessbox.io on May 19, 2016.