What we learned from building our first version
On August 2nd we are finally launching the second version of Polsie. I say finally because we have been working on it for almost a year. It is incredible that we have made it this far. With everyone around saying how startups don’t survive, we have at least gotten through a year. When we launched a year ago, the hype was all over. We were finalists at SXSW with a great outcome, but we still hadn’t finished our first version. Yes, we were at SX with a demo. Anyways, 1 year and 1 month later, here we are, eager to share with you what we’ve created.
I don’t remember anyone telling me what is to launch your first version as a startup. There tons of books, Quora posts, conferences, some that I could relate to and others that I didn’t. So far, this is what we learned from the first version of Polsie.
Build to scale
We had to release Polsie before the SXSW hype faded. We had been featured on tech websites, newspapers, and it just had to go out soon. When creating the first version of Polsie, it was basically a mash-up of code. There was no “beta” version, we just released it and there it was. Coming back from a contest as big as SXSW, the pressure was huge to get a working version out there. Investors, friends and family, and anyone visiting polsie.com and not getting anything yet. The thing is, with the rush of having to release NOW, a lot of things in Polsie were hard-coded, meaning, it worked, but it couldn’t be messed with. For Donald, our CTO, to fix a bug meant writing the code over again. This lead to lots of quick solutions and patched code, which at the end had to be all thrown away in order to really build the scalable version.
Lesson learned, build to scale from the start, it will be much easier to improve along the way. If it takes you one month or two more to build something that is sustainable for the future, do it. Do not waste time in coding a version that you will discard later. If the point of your first version release is to test the market, find the most economic way to do it .
Listen to your users
I think this is one of the most crucial things to do in your first version, really listen. Replying emails or tracking your hashtags and comments on social media is not the listening that I am talking about, what I mean is go out there and get to know what they have to say. For the first months of Polsie, we did no paid advertising or anything of the matter. I literally spent my days on Instagram looking for creators, calling and emailing them, and later visiting them in their stores and even homes so they could try Polsie. I got to meet at least all of our first 100 users face to face. I knew their names, their pains, and what they needed from us to make their lives easier. I saw them use Polsie IRL, and our regular meetings helped us better understand if we were or not on the right track.
Do not take your first users for granted. Thank them, I really mean it, for being kind enough to use your half-made version. Ask them what they need, how you and your startup can make their days better. Do not just hear, but listen.
Take your time to create something great
Maybe waiting a whole year to re-launch is a lot of time, but I can say, it was totally worth it. The days when we were not developing, it we were testing, talking to users, going to pitch every chance we got, scouting new members for the team, and looking for investment. A new version couldn’t have been made without us knowing where to go next. The new version would be dead if we did not remind ourselves and the world in each pitch why what we are doing matters. The new version would still not be complete if we did not integrate someone else to the team. Most of all, the new version wouldn’t exist and we wouldn’t be here a year after without the help of those who believed in us enough to invest in Polsie. While this things might not be as “visible” as your platform, they really are an essential part of your company.
A lot of startups rush to release a crappy version 1, version 2, and so on. If your first version is a working one and it resolves your users’ needs, let it be. Investors will pressure you and many will complain that you should be growing, scaling, instead of making it better. I say ignore all and focus the time you need to get inspired and create something awesome while you can, because once you really hit the target, there is no going back.
A great company is not the one who gets there first, but the one that lasts.
The new Polsie is launching Tuesday August 2nd, you can check it out here. I’d love to get your feedback, please do not doubt and tweet me at @marcelaben.