You have your product working, now what?

With a lot of elbow-grease and late nights, your product is finally finished working! You are starting to roll it into a beta program and your first customers are touching it. Will it scale? Will you be able to satisfy demand if things really get going? This is a crucial time for your start-up. This is where you need to point you attention.

Scaling Technology

Scaling technology isn’t simply achieved by adding more technical resources. It starts with architecture, technology choices and a lot of forethought. Having done (too) many technology turnarounds, I’ve found that doing this wrongly can cost you dearly. Even though there is an old saying that still holds true for software: “There is never enough money to build it right, but there is always enough money to build it twice!”, falling into this trap is avoidable. And the last thing you want is to break the early momentum your product can bring. Nothing kills buzz as much as your early customers saying: “I love what it should be doing, but it just doesn’t work.” Especially in today’s hyper connected world of app reviews, twitter blasts and blog slams: bad reviews and product experiences travel much faster than good ones. But how are you to know if your tech and your team is up to the test?

Are you ready?

This is actually not as hard as it sounds. There are a couple of questions you can ask yourself and your team to get a handle of the situation:

  • Ask your tech team what it would take to handle 100 times the anticipated customer load. If the response is you’d have to hire a lot more engineers, you are in trouble!
  • Ask if any of your engineers has ever had the experience to maintain a product across 2 or 3 generations. And we’re not talking about moving from a 0.9 to a 1.0 or from a 1.0 to a 2.0 release. If they have ever helped move a product from a 3.0 to a 4.0 while lots of users were using the product they will have learned some of the crucial issues you will face! If not, you are in trouble!
  • Don’t kid yourself. Your 1.0 product is not a product, yet. You will have a product once you have lots of users who will stay on through upgrades and evolutions. Until they tell you what they think the product is, it is not ready.

Invest into your tech team

Invest (very) early into good technology leadership. Bring someone in who can help your team get through this hurdle. Depending on your team, this might be an advisor, a consultant or a VP of engineering-type. Do not wait too long – the product is the unit of value creation in your start-up. This is what you should invest in!

A start-up has just about everything in the universe conspiring against it. If you think you can get by with ‘junior’ people on your tech team you are in trouble. There are many companies and organization that can throw mediocre or ‘pretty-good’ resources at the problem you’re trying to solve. You need to aim as high as you can. The best team might just be good enough to help you succeed!

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