The Early Stage Is Nothing But Experimentation
All you can do at this point is failing your way forward.
It doesn’t matter what you are building, all the assumptions you will make at this point are inevitably going to be wrong. Almost everything you build now is eventually going to be replaced by something else.
Every idea you have now will eventually exist in a completely different shape. If at all.
Experimentation is mentally extremely challenging.
It is the creation and implementation of a lot of different ideas, most of which end up in failure. In other words, all these things that you have put your heart, mind and time into, will disappear into nothingness in the end.
But it is the reality that we all have to live with.
There is about a 90% chance that this article will be forgotten forever 2 days later. Yes, that’s right. About nine out of ten of my articles still fail in that they attract hardly any readers at all.
And that is after three years of regular writing.
It is only the few articles that actually attract an audience which I will eventually expand upon and perhaps even turn into an information product.
But does this mean that nine out of ten of my ideas actually work? Hell, no!
I’ve got a policy whereby I first produce at least 30 article ideas, out of which I will then select the best one to produce. And even for that one, I have to believe that it is at least an 8/10 for me to actually go through with writing it.
That means that by the time one of my articles turns into a success, I will have already produced 300 article ideas and 15,000 words of content.
And by the time I would have put these articles together into a book of about 40,000 words, that would add up to about 8700 distinct ideas and 390,000 words.
The business of writing and information products is no different from any other type of business in that the failure rate in the early stages is insanely high.
Just think of Thomas Edison, whose invention-machine would turn out “a minor invention every ten days and a big thing every six months or so”, according to the Business Insider.
The large majority of these inventions have no significance anymore today at all. But some do.
And we remember him for those.
In the same way, I do not think of the 350,000 words out of the 390,000 words, which are not going to be used in the end, as wasted.
To use the most famous words of Thomas Edison:
“I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways how NOT to make a light bulb”
All those words of mine, which are not going to have any practical use in the end, all together form the necessary foundation for me to discover a product, which is attractive for a large number of people.
What you will need to fail your way forward
From this point onward, I am going to lay out the conditions that you will need to fulfill in order to fail your way forward.
Remember, experiments are not being done in a random fashion. They are done in carefully selected, controllable environments.
In the same you, will have to implement conditions that allow you to come up with, implement and test large quantities of ideas as quickly as possible.
1. Have feedback systems in place
A good feedback system provides you with data immediately, gives you a clear way of comparing different ideas & tactics, and gives you early warning signs if something is unlikely to work.
Essentially, you are going to have to set up a system that allows you to get immediate feedback on whatever idea it is that you are trying to implement at the current point in time.
And I’m NOT talking about A/B testing here. A/B testing in the early stages is bullshit, because you are not going to have to select between two different options that are essentially quite similar.
That might work well for established businesses, but not for early stage start-ups which have yet to figure out what product it is they actually need to build.
Remember, you are going to have to figure out which idea out of hundreds of potential options is working.
Consequently, your system is going to have to be one that is capable of comparing the data of hundreds of different ideas, tactics and implementation strategies.
2. Make your test cycles as quick as possible
Produce large quantities of ideas, and find ways of implementing and testing them as quickly as possible.
The goal here is to get you to the stage where you are capable of collecting data as quickly as possible. Again, any time that you are spending on a product which has no potential customers is wasted.
By reducing your test cycles to the shortest possible amount of time, you are avoiding to spend any valuable time on something that in the end is only going to be discarded.
So, how can you reduce the time towards the implementation of your current idea to the absolute minimum?
3. Build an infrastructure that is easily adjustable
If you have to build your infrastructure from scratch every time you are trying to implement a new idea, you have already failed.
Especially considering that you are going to have to implement a large number of ideas in a very short period of time, one of the most important factors for success is that you can adjust your infrastructure quickly.
This means that the code that you write, the marketing systems you have in place, the website that you are building, and any other parts of your corporate infrastructure, all can be changed around as quickly as possible.
One day you might discover that the product you had been working on all this time had made some significantly flawed assumptions.
You need to be ready for situations like that.
Perhaps your marketing message will have to change completely. Perhaps one of the major functions of your product will have to be replaced. Perhaps you will have to reach a completely different type of customer than you expected.
4. At this stage, focus on profitability alone
Profitability gives you the freedom to keep experimenting until you found the best possible product/market match. Profitability allows you to keep going until you have more clarity on what your start-up is all about.
Having paying customers is the best indication that your start-up has the potential to provide real market value.
Especially if it is enough for your start-up to actually produce profit, even if it is absolutely minimal.
The main reason why start-ups fail is still the fact that they run out of money to the point where the people involved simply can no longer afford to work on this project.
As long as your start-up is capable of producing profit, you will be able to keep going.
Even if your your unique position in the market is still unclear, at least you will have the capability to keep pushing forward until you build something of real value.
Some final words:
The worst thing you can do is to pick one idea and then simply go for it. There’s a good chance that you are going to spend a year or so tinkering around with something, only to figure out that nobody cares about it.
Treat the early stage of your start-up like a marketer would.
The first thing you need to do is to become clear on who your potential customers actually are and what they need.
Once you did that, you can start playing around with different MVPs that are as easy- and quick as possible to build and test. Just make sure that you have the right conditions in place to track how any of the ideas are performing.
Also, don’t forget to prepare yourself mentally for all the failure this process is inevitably going to involve.
Remember, the large majority of what you are going to produce in the early stages will turn out to be completely and utterly pointless. Don’t be one of the people that break psychologically in the process.
All experimentation involves large degrees of failure. Use that failure as the foundation which pushes you forward, and eventually you will win.
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