Seeing as we’ve just launched Mia, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on what we’ve learnt over the past 12 months.
Make more, plan less
We probably spent our first 6 months writing business plans, pitch decks, and all sorts of other documents that weren’t our actual product. We were naive in thinking a slick pitch deck would earn us the funding to make our idea real. But it doesn’t work like that, or not for us anyway. After talking to a handful of investors, the message was clear: come back when you’ve built a product that people are using. So that’s what we’ve done. The first part, anyway. If we’d have had this realisation from the get-go, we may well have been a lot further down the line than we are now.
Sew the cultural seeds early
Culture and values are seen by many as something fluffy and a little meaningless. Something that big companies talk about so it looks like they’re making an effort to look after their employees. So you’d be forgiven for thinking cultural values aren’t too important when your business consists of 4 people. We found quite the opposite. We found cultural values invaluable for 2 reasons. Firstly, they act as the foundation for the culture of the team. When new people are joining the team, the cultural fit is essential. If they don’t buy into the values, they aren’t the right people to join the team, regardless of how talented they are. Secondly, the values have acted as a decision-making framework. When a few of the team are in disagreement on what to do, we come back to the values and figure out which decision would be most consistent with them. For example, when designing how our T&Cs are displayed on our chatbot, we looked to our ‘simple’ and ‘transparency’ values. This led us to a short, succinct summary, so a new user is crystal clear on T&Cs, not left in the dark.
It’s ok not to be an industry expert, but stay close to someone who is
Within the core Mia team, none of us has a background in insurance. Some people saw an issue with that, but we see it as a bonus. As we’ve been designing our first product, a little naivety means we can come up with ideas that those who are constrained by the assumptions and constraints of the insurance industry would struggle to replicate. That said, you then need an expert on hand to help you shape that idea into something that’s actually feasible. And the sooner you can find these experts, the better.
Don’t be a perfectionist
I heard a brilliant quote from Mark Zuckerberg recently: “If you’re not embarrassed by your first product, you’ve released it too late”. The details could be debated, but the fundamental message runs true for us: get something out the door, ASAP! Your start-up is your baby. You spend 12 months working on this thing in every spare minute you have, and you want to release something that you’re proud of. But sometimes you have to wrestle with your ego and prioritise speed over perfection. Whether this is your UI, technical infrastructure, or chosen partners, compromises need to be made. It really comes down to being lean. What’s the quickest way you can validate the assumptions that underlie your product? If something doesn’t move you closer towards answering this question, it should probably be sacrificed.
We hope you found that as useful as we did thinking about it. Now go try our product! 😄