I recently met Shane, the CEO of Joyride.com. Six weeks ago, he found my blog about our SOMAcentral office and inquired about space there. That inquiry kicked off a camaraderie that led me to ask him today if he'd let me follow his progress as he worked to launch his business. He agreed, so here's the setup:
I am surrounded by San Francisco based startups every day. And one of the things I forget about is how different SF's "lean startup" mantra is from other parts of the country. New York may be like this as well, but I'm not sure other urban centers are (if you disagree, I'd like to hear about it in the comments). Among the big proponents of the lean startup philosophy are Dave McClure (check out his Startup Metrics for Pirates deck / video and presentation at FounderConference 2010-- 3rd video from top) and Paul Graham via his essays, among others.
Shane has been working hard to launch Joyride. When he came to SF to visit, we had a very animated discussion about how he could pare his concept down to the "MVP" to launch sooner, and then iterate quickly on his core feature set. What functionality did he really need to launch? How could he launch with less? What was the absolute core product? You can imagine what side I was on -- point #2 of the Socialize Core Values Manifesto guarantees that we launch early and then iterate quickly.
There's a strong argument to the contrary, though. In April of last year I wrote a post titled "Could the 80/20 principle be wrong?" where I speculated on the importance of focusing on a few things but doing them very well. But exactly where does the line between "MVP" and "very well" lie? How do you know when you've reached your MVP? It's a hard question to answer, but in my experience everyone always overshoots it by a mile. A great example of a business that didn't overshoot it is CloudApp. It has a very limited feature set but executes on it super well. I just checked, and I've used CloudApp 48 times today. Just unbelievable that I use it so much -- and I don't know how I survived before I had it (I had to email the screenshot as an attachment? gasp!). And everyone in our office uses CloudApp all the time as well. Just one sorely needed feature -- the ability to communicate a picture I see to someone else (via a screenshot), executed flawlessly.
So when Shane emailed me today, I was thrilled. He wrote:
From: ShaneSubject: JOYRIDE Shifting Into HiGear and Doing It "Lean"Daniel,I want you to know that you've been part of the inspiration for a rework ofJOYRIDE. Leaner. Smaller product. But launching in 90 days. And our officeshave been reworked since my first trip to San Fran. Our landlord knockeddown two offices to make a large co-working space (pic attached). Priorto this we were split into 5 offices.Thanks bro. Keep in touch.Shane
PS Shane -- I think it's especially cool that you knocked the walls down. I'd love to hear how you feel about that decision after a few weeks -- was it the best thing to happen to your office, the worst thing, or no big change? Of course I'm hoping it leads to more collaboration, but let me know if that's not the case. I've found that Ikea sells some great, inexpensive partitions, which you can find here, if you need to restore some semblance of privacy, especially for people who need to be on the phone a lot.
$500 prize from the Socialize team for the first app published!
I'll be following Shane's progress on Joyride as he launches, encouraging him to guest post on my blog if he wants to, and I'll be posting my own updates. I'd also love to hear about your experiences paring your product down so you can launch sooner, and if you're happy you took that approach. I'd especially like to know if you feel that you launched too early, before your product was ready.
This is all fresh in my mind as well, as we just launched the Socialize SDK for iOS and Android (see TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb coverage) and we've been iterating like crazy to get the SDK to a point where developers are excited to integrate it (the good news -- just got our first live app, an Android app, running Socialize!)
Want to see a bit more eye candy? Check out the JOYRIDE offices and many of their sweet rides they use for marketing and shooting drives around the world: Click here for a full photo gallery.