Friday, November 6, 2009

Startup Version 1.0

Great post by Mark Geller What Goes in V1.0?  He talks about something that I end up discussing a lot with startups.  What do you put in that first version?  Or more appropriately, the first few versions?  Mark does a good job capturing the essence of the issue:

These days, the role of V1.0 is harder to define. It is certainly not the first version of your product you will put in the hands of non-team-members. This we have done already with a super-early version and will do again at least one more round before launching V1.0. For us, then, V1.0 is really the first version we will send to the media for initial reviews and then also make available as part of a private beta distribution with a limited number of invites, maybe 500 total.

Then, as quickly as possible, hopefully within 4-6 weeks after launch, based on the feedback from the private beta, we will address any major usability issues, fix some bugs and add at least one major new feature to go to V1.1 and so on.

Then he provides his high-level requirements for v1.0:

  • Must be super easy to install and start using
  • Must convey the core user experience in a way that is simple and fun, preferably with a single “cool” feature
  • Must give the user a sense of what else is possible with future versions
  • Must be self-updating–for the next version!
  • Must not cause users any undue headaches
  • Must be the absolute minimum feature set to accomplish the above

This is a great list.  I want to add one really, really important thing to this list. 

It needs to include what's required to hit the early proof points for the company.  I talked about this in Startup Metrics:

Often, what we are trying to do initially is show exactly how these numbers play out. You only build what you need to prove that model. If these numbers work out, then often scaling is more a question of capital. In fact, this often becomes the mantra that we live by.

Quite often the first version is defined as much by what is required to prove some aspect, derive some metric, show viral nature, conversion rate, renewal rate, etc.  In many cases, this is defined by the business model and the investors.

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