Learning from our launch

My lessons from public launch of the Rankpanel MVP.

A few weeks ago, we’ve finally launched Rankpanel to the public. The launch took place without a huge boom but we’re able to continually add active users.

We have launched with an absolute MVP: The MVP was just as minimal as it could be including bugs in front and backend, no clear idea about who our target customers are, and an incomplete team. In this post I will elaborate on what I have learned from the launch.

Just launch your MVP already

Reading the Lean Startup and all the blog post about launching an MVP and really convincing yourself and the team to launch a product that is not complete and does not look completely polished is quite another story.

However, I really have to say that when it comes to online services, launching early just makes sense! The thing is that if you’re solving a real problem, customers will use it and forgive all the things that are missing. Even better: They will tell you what you need to do next. Crazy, I know!

I’m convinced, though, that launching with just a landing page is not enough. Given the ubiquity of the Launchrock pages that all look and feel alike it’s hard to keep track of yet another “Launching Soon” thing.

I strongly believe that you have to offer something in return for a sign-up. It can be anything of value to the user. Ideally, you’ll launch with a basic product. That’ll allow you to collect initial usage numbers and higher fidelity feedback. If you really must launch a teaser page, please design and build it yourself. This way you can also test your design a bit and have to think about your look and feel.

Market the hell out of your private beta

Although I should have known better after having worked at a “private” shopping club but opening up your product to everyone comes with a big disadvantage: Decreased hype potential! People, including users and journalists, are drawn to what they cannot have. If you’re in private beta you can give journalists who cover you “exclusive” and limited (of course) invitation codes for them to give away to their readers.

On the other hand, influencers can brag that they’ve been “chosen” to try out your cool new service. You can also reward active users or users who provide feedback with invitation codes for their friends. Moreover, betali.st only covers startups in private beta.

Laser focus

The most important thing is focus. You have to keep everybody focused on trying to do this one thing really well that you aim for.

And frankly, it’s quite hard to do so. Clear leadership is required to restrain from implementing more features or from burning the big influencers with an unpolished product.

Keeping focus is hard and can be very demotivating at times: When clients, friends, and team members come up with all those great ideas, it’s important that the CEO can say “no” while motivating everyone to iterate and improve on what is already there.

In order to have focus a great team with great leadership is required. Team members should be given space to focus, measure and learn about what works and get the feedback they need from users. So while speed is important, I believe it should not be traded against focus as it will decrease total cost.

Photo attribution: Steven Depolo


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