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Photo by Max Duzij on Unsplash

Something we see often at are founders with big ideas, but little validation to back them up. The common path this leads down is (1) spending a lot of money and time to build an app (2) launching (3) finding out no one wanted the product in the first place. We can’t predict the future, but there are things we can do (in the idea stage) to see whether or not something might work.

I’ll be using a real-life example (Nextdoor for Mexico City), and running a short (<7 days) cheap (<$100), no-code experiment to see if this idea has potential and get real customer feedback.

I’ve spent the better part of the past 24 months traveling.

I started in Europe, where I based in Madrid. Moved to Mexico City to learn Spanish. Traveled through South America. Explored Southeast Asia on motorcycle. Spent time in Guatemala. At the time of writing I’m in the Philippines, coming off a two month trip in China. I’ll head to Taiwan next, then to San Francisco for the foreseeable future.

This post is a retrospective on these experiences. Written with the intent of sharing observations and lessons learned walking off the beaten path.

When I first started traveling, I had just shut down my first company, which was a challenging and stressful experience. I vividly remember sitting on the roof of my hostel in Mallorca, Spain. I looked over the city and for the first time in two years felt completely free of anxiety. Like when people describe near-death experiences. Floating above their bodies in the hospital room — looking down at the stress, worry, and suffering of the world while feeling completely detached. Maybe this is a dramatic analogy, but it’s really how I felt. …

“In natural selection, those variations in the genotype that increase an organism’s chances of survival and procreation are preserved and multiplied from generation to generation at the expense of less advantageous ones.”

This sounds a lot like the iterative process commonly used when building products.

We create changes — which are measured by their success against the environment — keep the strong and kill the weak. The end result is a product that’s best equipped to survive and grow.

Using nature as a teacher, here are some useful parallels I’ve been thinking about…


Faster Iteration = Better Chance of Survival

The success of an organism is often tied to its ability to adapt. In software, we call this iteration. A product team that can rapidly ship new versions to test different variants will learn exponentially faster than a slow-shipping team. As a result, they’ll have a better chance at building something meaningful. More iterations means more learnings and more chances for a winning variant. …


Jeff Warren Orr

Helping founders build great products at

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