Weekly reader question: How has your startup “failed faster”?


Yesterday I spent the day in Grand Rapids, Michigan, checking out The Michigan Lean Startup Conference. Eric Ries gave a fantastic talk about building lean startups and how to discover if people actually want what you’re building.

The key principel behind building a lean startup is “failing faster”. Before you spend months building a “perfect system” you should spend a few days on crappy code to prove your concept. The goal is to to learn fast and iterate quickly.

My question for TSF readers, is “How have you applied these principles to “fail faster”? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments or via email (tipbox@thestartupfoundry.com).

  • Oshlagger22

    I spend a weekend building a skeleton site before I actually had a product. When people would click on the “Buy Now” button, it would redirect them and say that we were out of stock, but we could email them when we got some more in. Worked really well to measure demand, and gave me a solid customer base to target when I actually launched.

    Can’t get much leaner than that 😉

    • ReWrite24

       Woah I did the exact same thing! 

  • MichaelCT

    I’ve never ventured into a market where I’d need to create the demand. You don’t need your own ‘itch’ to scratch, but don’t try build something that people don’t even know that they may need.

    Spend some money on some PPC advertising with a nice simple landing page (credible) and see what kind of conversions you get.

    Nothing ventured – nothing gained though 🙂

    • John

      How can you see what conversions you get on something that doesn’t yet exist?

      • MichaelCT

        Sorry for the very late reply, well, to answer your question. If you build a simple landing page and ‘sell’ the product as if it existed; punt features, offer the ability for interested people to sign up to receive further information, you can get a pretty good idea of whether or not people even like your idea. It may be that your new Pilates studio software is not that of a draw card after all – on the other hand, you may find that people are signing up left, right, and everywhere else to find out more.

        At least you know there is demand (or not). If all this interest comes via PPC advertising, you can do some maths, make some assumptions about further conversions, and see just how beneficial PPC advertising could be on a cost/benefit basis.

        I am working on a desktop application, got a simple landing page up now http://www.kogmail.com . While we have substance behind the landing page, it may be that once we get, or dont get, sufficient response to our idea, we can change tack, or pull the plug.

        • John

          Hi Michael, thanks very much for replying, i appreciate it, i just looked at your kogmail lamding page, i like it, the red draped over it stands out nice, its different and quite enticing.

          I was worried that the approach of putting up a landing page and using PPC might make visitors put their guard up when they realise that a product doesn’t yet exist, but what you say and what i have read elsewhere seems like it must work well in most cases, and makes sense to try things that way first.

          Thanks very much for explaining.

  • Great question! I found a way, after almost going “All In,” to test my thoughts about if people would actually buy startup promotional items such as t-shirts, etc.  

    So basically after tons of research, I found a way to use a “Daily Deal Site” software that only requires me to pay $15 dollars a month plus 5% from each sale.  Of course this has me pretty much breaking even but I am finding a lot out without having written ONE BIT OF CODE!  I recommend the lean startup approach because it really does save you a lot of time and money.  I am entrepreneur but not a tech founder.  Instead of paying several thousand dollars for a daily deal site and then perhaps flopping, we might flop but for a whole lot less.  One thing for sure I can say is that the experience, connections, and knowledge (that my MBA can not provide) is invaluable! This only scraps the surface of our lean project but using free services like MailChimp is also a great tool for us and let’s us get great testable stats.

  • I am totally flat on this page and prefer to every where in the world..!