As a Founding Board Member of PayPal and the co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman knows about software-based products that change people’s lives.
When he first coined this aphorism over a decade ago, many daring entrepreneurs used it to justify putting half-baked products on the market. More conservative business owners gasped in horror, explaining that the first customer impression was so important, it absolutely required them to spend more time and capital building a product that would be right.
In a subsequent post published in 2017, Hoffman, who’s now a partner at elite VC firm Greylock, provided some background for his thought on that matter.
In a world where buying anything – even software! Remember the long queues to get Windows 98 CD-ROMS at the store? – meant you had to go to a place and physically get it, it made sense to hone your first market version to keep customers happy.
Besides, as Hoffman aptly points out, shipping software was a costly endeavor, so even the editor was incentivized to get it right.
To reduce the risk of launching a product that nobody wanted, most firms would, therefore, conduct market studies, focus groups, and customer surveys.
It all made sense.
Does this approach remain valid in a world where you can not only get a piece of software (often, after having tried it for free first) at the touch of a button but also fix it with an online patch? Or even release a totally new version with added features.
“If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
What Hoffman means is that you can test the market’s appetite for your product, correct your assumptions about customer sentiment, and test & learn new features in a way that was not available to us before.
Provided you launch a good enough first version. Not a bad one.
🗣Have you launched a version that has embarrassed you? What have you learned?
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🔗 Read Reid Hoffman’s 2017 LinkedIn post on that topic here
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