Of Natural Extensions And Fighting The Product Eureka Moment

[Editorial notes: How much is too much? How less is too less? Startups often tend to overdo features in the name of frameworks like MVP/Lean etc. This guest article takes a step back and revisits the “more features=better product” syndrome.]

As MyPriceIndia grows, the team is falling into the trap of wanting to do multiple things at the same time. We want to be the largest product comparison engine but all of a sudden reviewing gadgets and making unboxing videos look like a natural extension. At other times being yet another e-commerce player is tempting. While we make sure every idea is given ears and well discussed, we also have to make sure that we don’t end up turning the ship towards the glacier altogether.

The Art & Science of Scaling
The Art & Science of Scaling

We have put together some thoughts on how to fight against those eureka moments and continue doing your gig without losing focus. Here is our process on how to discuss ideas to avoid indigestion at Startups.

1. Never look at the idea during the eureka moment. In this phase even if you are able to foresee the negative points, you will just overlook them. Your subconscious mind will identify a pitfall but then the over-joyous side will overshadow it justifying that there will be a solution and that you will get enough data to prove it right. The problem is that if you already have celebrated the idea and marked it as “my idea” then the team (or most members of it) will be cautious before putting forward their candid views on it. You will be looking for data and narrowest ray of light to prove it right and not to find whether it is right or wrong. The truth is, your mind will play tricks on you.

2. Let it sink in and overcome your emotional bias. Best solution is to write it down in as much detail as you can including those minor negative points. Then forget it for sometime (at-least 3-4 days). Comeback to it when the feeling has sunk in. All this while, it would be playing at the back of your head and you will have more clarity to your thoughts. Those random pieces will come together, you might find a competitor in terms of a substitute or alternative, you will see why this is a completely new game and not a natural extension to your existing play.

3. Now try and analyze every statement in that initial details that you wrote down. Discount all emotional phrases like “we will make it big”, “we will be the first to do it”, “it will be difficult but we can do it” etc. These are good for team motivation, not for idea valuation.

4. Next, discount all the assumptions. “Android users are more tech savvy hence lesser click on ads” might be an assumption. “All iPhone users have credit card and can fluently speak English.” is an assumption (try talking to rich dad teenagers in India). “60% of Indian eCommerce orders are CashOnDelivery” may be an assumption. If you have been reading those statements out of press notes, then you are doing yourself no good. Common sense facts are fine but don’t put in unverified data.

5. The grinding time. Now put some real numbers to everything and share it with your team. Let them evaluate it. At times it helps not to say that the idea is yours. Rather say, “I met this random investor/user etc. who suggested this. See if this is worth trying”. Try using an anonymous email ID to send ideas from and see how the team reacts. Always make them write their initial reactions; verbal discussion may carry temporary ego or lack of articulation/data.

You will be surprised how they rubbish the idea if they don’t know that it is coming from the founder. That is what you really need. A devil’s advocate who will question and refine every bit of the initial idea thought. Whatever comes out of this discussion is what should be used. Everything else was a very-random-not-thought-through thought. Don’t cling to it. Stop pushing it down your team’s throat the way you push down those awful hazelnut-red-jelly-caramel-cake that your girlfriend made to amuse her. It will only cause indigestion later.

The whole point is that most things look like natural extension at first. You would want to do what your vendor is doing and own more of the value chain but it may be a completely different business with its own dynamics. A coffee manufacturer might want to make cookies as they serve the same audience and will help him acquire more of the wallet but baking cookies is not the same as grinding coffee beans. Though if you are serving the end consumer, this mix suddenly starts making sense. It’s good to know where in the value chain would both be complimentary products. Anything else should wait for later, if not rubbished.

As we said earlier (Lessons From a month old startup : Perfect product is a myth), nothing is as bad as it seems at first and nothing is as great even. The devil, as they say, lies in the details.

Share if you find helpful else leave a comment to refine this initial thought.

[Reproduced from MyPriceIndia blog.]

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