I don’t know where this quote originated from, but in nearly every podcast interview Lisen repeats, “When releasing your MVP, if you’re not a little bit embarrassed by it, you released it too late.”
I started editing it out after episode two, but it rings true for every founder we have spoken with. Whether the founder is in music, technology, fashion, or content they struggle with the release of their initial product. Even we faced this with our Float or Founder podcast. The truth is, no matter how much work, how many team members, or how many hours go into your project or company, or even how much support you have, your initial launch is never going to be 100% of what you originally envisioned. Your first product likely won’t reflect your later products but this shouldn’t stop you from releasing it.
The Hemming and Hawing Over Releasing Your MVP
Your MVP, or Minimal Viable Product, is your product that has the necessary features for your users, but will likely not have all the functionality, glitz, and glamour of a final product (though, really, is a product ever “final”?). The issue with releasing something you feel is “unfinished” is that you have been dreaming, goal-making, and creating your ideal product in your head. You have an idea of how it will be once released and how it will be received. This stops many founders from wanting to release may not be perfect in your eyes. A wonderful colleague pointed me in the direction of Seth Godin’s blog and his posts on the fear of shipping. While you may feel alone in this fear, it is something every entrepreneur encounters, and certainly something every founder we have had on the podcast agrees happens. You need to decide to ignore your inner negative voice, take the plunge, and launch.
The Benefits of Biting the Bullet and Releasing Your MVP
As we released our first couple episodes, I was nervous. I was saying “yeah” too often in the recordings. My editing skills weren’t as good as I’d like them to be. I didn’t know if people would enjoy the questions we asked. I put off the release for a few weeks after my original intended date. But then I sucked it up and released our first episode… and it went off with an amazing response! I obsessively refreshed out analytics page all day, watching our viewer numbers grow and our website gain traction, not quite believing how much organic interest we were getting so quickly.
Aside from the good, we also receive a lot of valuable feedback and tips that I know we couldn’t have received if it weren’t for the release. Colleagues, friends, and family came forward with information we needed to improve our editing process over time. I learned there is such a thing as a “de-esser” for removing sharp “S” sounds. I learned how to handle choppy edits with cross-fading. I learned about options for the best and least expensive software to remove or soften accidental microphone taps.
By releasing, we also got the opportunity to learn more about our target audience. While podcast audience is typically millennials, we had a range of listeners for our first episode. We learned that our audience, regardless of what they were hoping to get out of the podcast, really enjoyed the fast question round at the end (thanks to Fatima Zaidi for that idea!). We learned our audience loved learning about other, more personal, aspects of the founder, like that they travel, or scuba dive, or have a motorcycle license. As much as their founder journey and the actionable advice is a great learning opportunity for those interested in entrepreneurship or running their own companies, every listener from any career background or goals loves learning about who the founder is.
It’s easy to put off your release and talk in circles about what you’re going to launch. Sometimes, you do need a few extra days or weeks to make certain elements functional on your product, but overall you’re better off releasing a something that doesn’t feel “perfect” to you versus releasing nothing at all. The main benefit of releasing your Minimal Viable Product, aside from learning that your version of the perfect product is very different than everyone else’s idea of your perfect product, is the feedback you get. You cannot beat receiving countless varied and diverse opinions and new information on how to improve (or even, which direction your target audience prefers you go in). Your MVP is a learning opportunity. You can’t take this opportunity without putting something out there.
PS - Lisen said the quote comes from Y Combinator. I can’t find the exact place, but they are huge proponents of shipping early and often.