Week in Review

The Misinterpretation of Minimal Viable Product

A few years ago the two memes of minimal viable product and lean product development were my favourites. There was this old-world, chronic problem of products getting stuck in product development until they reach “nirvana” – feature-itis, scope creep, etc. There was nothing more frustrating than sitting in a meeting where a product manager (with zero research or understanding) would state something like “we need to support groups, we absolutely can’t launch with out it or else it will be embarrassing”. So 18 months later product dev’t would complete, a few million would have been burnt and then we’d test it on the market and lo and behold nobody cared about that feature. Expensive. We can call this the “Microsoft Excel” product development methodology.

Why Lean Product Development Evolved... copyright Phil Gwinn

Now I am seeing the opposite problem. Startups are launching crap under the excuse of “testing the market”. I think as a collective group we need to come together and put down a firm set of launch requirements:

1. Crashing should not be a launch feature. Please stress your stuff.

2. Whatever your apps core purpose is, it should do it fast. i.e. you should do performance testing.

3. You should use real designers – it should be easy to use and be easy on the eye.

You should still aim for simplicity & a bare bone set of features, but your product must work and meet the expectation of a professional product. A great example of a company doing this well has been Kik. Their core messaging product worked, worked fast and looked great – was super simple but also had some well thought out viral hooks. They even survived eXtreme scaling!

An exception to MVP, I don’t think it would make a lot of sense to use MVP if you were attacking an existing industry. Sometimes you know the business model, you don’t need to test it out. And your product has to exceed the current bar of products out there. This, for instance, is why it was ridiculous for the Playbook to be missing major features (like email) at launch.

Housecleaning and what’s next for StartupNorth

We have a little house cleaning to do here. We are starting to pick up the pace with posts but we are still missing a lot of good stuff. A lot of it gets posted to our Twitter account but since we stopped the Weekly Reading posts, many of you are missing those.

  • First off it is worth mentioning that things seem to be heating up in Waterloo, Toronto and Montreal. We are seeing acquisitions picking up pace and I think that will continue for the next year at least. The overall level of activity in these cities has been staggering
  • We are tracking almost a dozen “any day now” acquisitions and look forward to posting them. Of course we are a very discreet bunch so we don’t make a peep in advance. Some people could learn from us on that front I think.
  • So while things are really taking off in those cities, I am wondering what is happening everywhere else? Where is the action in Edmonton, Vancouver, Halifax, Calgary, Ottawa and Quebec City? Let’s get more of the great stories from those cities told.
  • Congrats to Lymbix on closing a financing with Growthworks Atlantic. That is $1.35m more in for a total of almost $4million in. Growthworks continues to be a source of needed capital in Canada and they continue to play in places others don’t seem to have an appetite for. Thanks guys.

We have some very cool things in the pipe. Taking on sponsorship has helped us reinvest in StartupNorth and we owe a big thanks to KPMG and VMFarms for that. We have two very cool changes on the way and the result will be a very different StartupNorth. We think there is a lot of great content out there for Canadian startups now. The news and events that never used to get coverage are all well reported on both via blogs and twitter.

I see our role changing to focus more on:

  • Direct support. We are going to focus more on connecting great startups with the right resources. There are a lot of great folks who have reached out to us over the years who are willing to help out and we think it is time to take them up on their offer.
  • Advocacy. Startups are not on the economic or political radar in Canada. It is sad and we think there are some things we can do to change that. Our activities will piss some people off and will hopefully inspire others. Either way, are going for broke.
  • Data. To advocate for startups you need a clear picture of what is happening. We have some very cool updates coming to StartupIndex and we hope it will be a powerful tool for the entire community.
  • Events. Grassroots events off the beaten path. It’s what we are good at and we hope to do more.

That’s it for now.