Six things to keep in mind before you launch
Many of you know I’m working on my new startup Inside.com.
I’m pre-launch and loving it!
It’s going amazingly, and it feels like everything I’ve built in my entire life – from Silicon Alley Reporter to Engadget to TechCrunch50/LAUNCH to This Week in Startups – have all lead up to this.
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Over the last two weeks I showed the early designs to five of the most important, intelligent and savvy people in our industry. They were all blown away, with all but one asking to invest on the spot. Awesome.
Feels like I’ve got a winner on my hands – which is a great feeling. You know when you have the stone cold nuts in poker and you just can’t wait to flip your cards and show the rest of the world? Yep, that’s where I’m at right now. If you don’t play poker, just imagine that you’ve fought really hard to win and there is a big pile of chips in front of you and they’re all yours – you simply need to show your cards.
Stone. Cold. Nuts. Baby!
This is one of my favorite moments of a startup, and there are six rules I have for when you are pre-launch that I thought I would share:
Sell the promise: There are two ideal times to raise money for a startup: before your launch and when you start your hockey stick growth curve. Before you launch you’re selling the promise of your vision–which is unquantified. This is a great thing for the founder because the investor doesn’t have any metrics to put on the product. After you launch? Oh no, they might study the stats and think “this is not trending well.” That being said, I’m not raising money.
Tell people you’re not raising money: When you ask for money you get advice, so go out and ask for advice and you’ll get money. I’ve been holding the line that I’m not raising money, but let’s be honest: we’re all raising money if it’s the right person who adds massive value.
Get tons of advice and write it down: I’ve been taking a ton of notes during and after meetings with smart folks. I ask them very short questions and record the answers: ‘what do you think?,’ ‘what your favorite part?,’ ‘what’s your least favorite part?,’ ‘would you use it? how?,’ and ‘who do you think would have awesome feedback on this?’ That last part is great, because then you can get a warm intro to that person. “Oh, you think Michael Moritz would dig this? Perhaps you can intro me?’ Boom! This advice is going to come in handy down the road.
Double blind your design: The world is design driven right now. The best products are the ones that look the best AND that solve a big problem. So, if you’re going to launch I suggest doing a double-blind design. Give two freelance designers your product spec and have them show you two different worldviews based on it. I’ve done the first and I’m actually studying dribbble.com and behance.net looking for a second set of mocks. This will cost $2k to $10k but is well worth it.
Take your time: We’re giving ourselves a ton of time to test and get the product right. We’re not doing the public lean startup MVP thing. Nope, we know we have a killer product and we’re doing all kinds of hidden, private MVP things (like buying Facebook traffic in a Midwest city and sending 1,000 folks to a hidden page). We want it to be perfect. It won’t be, but we want it to be so we’re going to give ourselves a lot of extra time.
Plan for a big launch: You get one launch so you want to take your time and you want to launch right. Right now I’m collecting a ton of emails and Twitter followers and NOT talking to any press. As we get closer to launch, I’ll start giving little clues and then asking you to join an exclusive beta. For best practices on this process, study what MailBox App did with their reservation system ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mailbox_(app) ) or check out LaunchRock.
Anyway, that’s all I got on pre-launch.
Oh wait, one more thing … I need a favor!!!
In order to get it done, I need to add three people to our team. I hope you’ll help me by forwarding this around:
Lead developer / VP of Engineering: Someone who can lead a team of six awesome developers and designers. You’ve built a large, scalable project before and you lead by example. You code yourself and you keep yourself up to date on all the latest technologies. You’re indefatigable and you want to win. We are a python/django shop.
Front-end developer: You wants to break new ground in UX and have a product that’s used everyday by everyone (which is what we’re building!). You’re someone who appreciates what Qz.com, Flipboard, Circa and Medium.com are doing with their interfaces. You’re lightning fast and you have an opinion about what makes a great product.
Versatile developer: You can get frontend and backend work done, and you’re an unstoppable machine when it comes to ripping through the roadmap. You like to be judged by your work.
Acqui-hiring: I’d also consider acqui-hiring a team of developers in Los Angeles if you know one.
If you’re any of these folks, ping me… I want you on the team. firstname.lastname@example.org
If I wind up hiring someone you forward to me, I’ll give you a “pass for life” to my LAUNCH Festival, sushi in a major city or a Knicks game (and I get good seats typically, since I got the hook up!).
all the best, @jason