Our journey to a beta product
As we launched our beta website last week, it feels like the right time to talk about few of the lessons learnt building this massive product over the last few months.
We've learned a lot in the last few months and by writing this I'm hoping to share our learnings with a wider audience, assuming a few of them might be current or potential startups who are looking to build products and start businesses. As there are no physical meet-ups happening in London, doing my fair share through this :)
Before I start, a bit about me. I am the technical cofounder of tripAbrood and drive product and technology.
"We are launching a travel startup in 2020!"
We have had our fair share of ups and downs but the biggest shoutout has to go to our awesome team who are insanely hard working, passionate and incredibly fun to work with.
Few lessons reiterated from our experiences this year. Most of the below should not be big surprises.
People - Hire the right people and half the battle is won.
- As a founder, you are inclined to just do everything yourself - and you should. But that only takes you so far and you become your biggest bottleneck. Investing in the right people at the right time can sometimes be the difference between success and failure.
- If you are an early stage startup, lean on the side of attitude and analytical / creative skills than just pure experience. Rest of it is relatively straightforward.
- Don't let borders restrict you while hiring. We were a remote-first company before it became a thing. Being a remote company opens up an entire world of passionate people who want to work with you and don't need to be based where you are. In our last all-hands, we had people dialing in from London, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nice (France) , Delhi & Bangalore (India).
Ideas are 1% of the work and execution is the other 99%
Very few companies fail because of a bad idea. Most of the companies fail due to poor execution. Hire people who can execute and focus all your energy on execution.
As someone driving product, the biggest lesson for me personally has been to double down on focus. For an early stage startup, not being focussed usually has severe consequences. Apple's Jony Ive has an interesting anecdote about Steve Jobs and focus below.
We initially tried to do too much and luckily realised quite quickly to focus back on our core USP. We then ended up creating a fairly basic target user story back in May which in hindsight really helped us focus our efforts on the most important aspects of our product. Going back to basics sometimes does help!
Pick your battles
You cannot disrupt everything all at once. If you are building the next Tesla, don't aim to build better batteries and achieve level 5 autonomous driving at the same time. Very few people can. We initially started off building a true NLP ( natural language processing) driven chatbot and a next generation recommendation engine simultaneously. Eventually we decided to underplay our conversational interface's NLP capabilities as it was distracting us from disrupting the recommendations flow.
Quoting Jobs "true prioritisation starts with a very difficult question to answer... If you could only do one thing, what would it be". For us, that one thing is "being the best player in the world in recommending hotels/apartments for families".
Build your IP and buy everything else.
Most of my prior experience has been to just build everything in-house and almost all of them were for the right reasons. As a startup founder with limited time and even limited execution resources, we don't have that luxury. You should be focussing only on your IP and everything else where possible should be leveraged through partnerships and SAAS platforms. This will massively reduce your cycle time and time to market.
An example is serverless which manages deployments of our services.
There are a number of awesome SAAS platforms who are very generous in their pricing or give free credits for startups in their first year. If your requirements are not very unique, you should not be spending a lot of money ( which you may not have anyways) on these platforms. I will write about few of our favourite SAAS platforms we use hopefully in a separate post soon.
tl;dr → hire well, be laser focussed and iterate faster.