Just about every post I write comes from a conversation with an entrepreneur or fellow investor. Same with almost every chapter in every one of The Next Step series of books I’ve published. When the same topic keeps coming up, I write it down so I don’t have to explain for the third time to the next entrepreneur who asks.
When is the best time to launch your company? Have you talked to a few potential customers and are happy with their feedback? Have you run through a quick back-of-the-envelope financial plan to show that it’s viable? have you researched the competition, to understand the market landscape? Do you know more or less how you’ll get from idea to first revenues? Then, the right time to launch is now. N-O-W. Now. What are you waiting for, now!
This came up for the hundred-teenth time last week while seeking out applicants for Fledge. I talk to hundreds of entrepreneurs who are in the midst of business planning, talking to potential customers, but not yet selling anything. Entrepreneurs stuck in the paralysis of analysis, worrying about getting everything right before launching. Entrepreneurs in July planning on a first launch in January, rather than August.
There are a few good ideas in Eric Reis’ Lean Startup, plus one great idea. The best of Eric’s ideas is that no amount of market research will answer the question of whether customers will buy what you are selling. The only way to answer that question is to try and sell them something. That something being your MVP, or an iteration thereafter.
And furthermore, the related great idea that your product need not be complete before you begin selling. Your product just needs to be good enough to prove that the customer will in fact pay you something now. A sales that proves the problem being solved is important enough to merit a solution, and most importantly, a solution that someone will pay for.
This “launch now” philosophy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t first take a few hours, days, or weeks to do a quick business plan, as there are plenty of other reasons why a company could fail beyond lack of customers. But once you are convinced a business plan is worth pursuing, as quickly as possible get something sellable in front of a customer to prove to yourself and others that your beliefs are true.
Once you have paying customers, the crazy complex process of starting a company gets quite a bit easier.