Perfect “First Launches” are Typically Bullshit.
Stop Believing What You Think You Are Seeing.
At the 50th celebration of Technori in December, the co-founder of Kickstarter, Charles Adler, gave one of the best opening keynote speeches in the event’s history, where he talked about their very humble, quiet, and rather “underwhelming” launch story.
Not underwhelming because it wasn’t a good story, but underwhelming because it was so typical of 1,000 other startups that launched that year. Charles wanted to make sure everyone in the audience knew that it had taken them many many months (a few even years if you count from the date of the the original idea) to finally launch a public version of Kickstarter. So many iterations and user tests. So many opinions taken to heart and then nights tearing it apart again based on feedback. They had already in essence “launched” a dozen times based on their own private tests before the public ever got a taste of the real thing.
This story is the norm, not the outlier. It is so easy to believe that when you see a product “launch” for the first time that you are witnessing its first release into the wild. Its first attempt at traction or validation. The true 1.0 or 0.1 depending on how you like to format your versioning. In reality, you are seeing 1.47, but they try desperately in their blog posts, tech news coverages, tweets, etc… to force you to believe this is the very first launch of the product in its roughest, take it or leave it, form.
And I believe this is hazardous to the mental health of founders everywhere.
Stop believing when someone “launches for the first time” that it’s the truth. That was not their real first launch. By the time you see them “launching” on Product Hunt, their launch press release picked up by TechCrunch, or on stage at Technori, you are already dozens or hundreds deep in line from the first people who viewed, tested, and utilized the product/service. This rule is almost universal, no matter how vehemently the founder claims otherwise.
I believe it’s hazardous to the mental health of founders because it further exacerbates the fear of launching so many entrepreneurs have. As Charles says in his keynote address it adds to overwhelming pressure… This is your livelihood.. This is your magnum opus! EVERYONE IS GOING TO SEE YOUR LAUNCH, right? It has to be perfect!
In reality, for 99.99% of all startups that launch each year, no one notices you launched… And that is 100% ok and normal. As a brand new startup, you are the tiniest blip on the radar. The tiniest little row boat in the middle of the lake, paddling your fastest to try to create momentum.
We are all victims of other startup’s highlight reels. Especially their launch highlight reels where they brag about incredible growth numbers and amazing initial reaction to their concept (as if they they didn’t know anything at all about their user’s feedback already).
Whether we notice it or not, these bullshit highlight reels are always there in the back of our minds. Maybe it’s that founder you ran into the other day who seems to be soaring along effortlessly since launch (even though her Twitter feed seems oddly filled with retweets about founder depression). It could be the article on TechCrunch about that competitor that is experiencing “incredible early growth” and lot’s of “investors reaching out to us” (because no startup in history has ever lied to the press…).
We soak it all in. Gorge on it up like the first time you ever had candy. Look at how well they are doing! Look at how perfect their launch was! They got it right on the first try… They got onto the top of Product Hunt’s front page? How? How??!?
Other startup’s highlight reels make you feel like an imposter before you have even launched. They make you chase perfection, to the detriment of everything that is going to make you potentially successful.
They are typically bullshit and it’s time to stop believing what you think you are seeing. It’s time to just launch already.