in Dead Startups, Startups

Startup’s Razor

Here’s is a lesson I (almost) learnt the hard way.

Back in 2006, I met a talented developer who had built a novelty web telephony product. We caught up for a tea and discussed applications for the technology. One ambitious idea was to create something akin to Yahoo Pipes with the Asterisk open source PBX. Pretty awesome, right?

With one developer and one designer we got started with a simple proof of concept. Then he broke (and almost lost) his leg snowboarding – out of commission for months, the project got dropped. Had he not wrapped his leg around a tree, in retrospect I am fairly certain the project might still have been left in the dust… read on.

There is a principle known as Occam’s Razor, which has been tabled by many great minds. It goes something like this:

Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora. – William of Ockham

Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler. – Albert Einstein

Keep it simple stupid. – Kelly Johnson

Fast forward to 2009, along came Twilio, an IP telephony platform exposed as a service via a simple API (it rocks, check it out). Fact: an API is far less complex than building a drag and drop pipes type solution.

The simplest solution, all else being equal, wins.

Why? The simplest solution is fastest to implement (aka Minimum Viable Product). The simplest solution addresses the broadest possible set of customer use cases. The simplest solution leaves the most capital to direct into the drivers of growth other than product development.

Can your product be too simple? Can you cut too much? Sure. That said, I’d bet you need to keep shaving (we did).


  1. Do I score any points for finding the (nearly) hidden link in this story to

  2. Definitely! 10 points at least for finding the easter egg. Jrap was the dev. Interesting side note, Conan O’Brien recently referred to the site on air.

Comments are closed.

  • Related Content by Tag