Eff yo product! Learn, don’t launch.

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My co-founder, Mike, and I started MusicBox without writing a single line of code. Truth be told, it took less than 5 days to cobble together a landing page, logo and brand messaging, an email distribution system, and to make sure we had enough approved inventory of up-and-coming music to get us through a month or two. We were far from geniuses about this, but we ended up well focused on our Minimum Viable Learning Environment vs. our Minimum Viable Product.

Kyle Tibbitts defines rate-of-learning for startups as the velocity at which you are aggregating new insights and deploying them in ways that build value. Here’s where I’m seeing too many new startups derailing from the get-go. Lean startup is all about learning, not “launching”. This past week I was down in Raleigh-Durham meeting with other startup founders, practicing our pitch, and attempting to sell investors on our vision. We were lucky enough to get nearly 30 minutes with Troy Henikoff, the managing director of Techstars, and he dropped some knowledge on us.

Aside from messing with our numbers a bit, he hit us with some advice on the best way to express what the last five months of public beta were all about. Looking back on our pitch, we were highlighting our 10,000+ subscribers and 1,000+ artist/label partners as a milestone, an achievement of sorts, when all along we should have focused on what we’ve learned and how that is driving the next phase of MusicBox.

Startups, especially in the Steve Blank definition of the term, are constantly in a state of evaluation and evolution; measuring, analyzing, tweaking, optimizing, repeating. Over and over again. The more you evaluate, the more you evolve (assuming, of course, you’re doing it correctly). That’s why your product means much less than whatever measures of learning and progress you institute from Day One.


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