Startup CEO: We Had The Perfect Product Launch Planned, And Then It All Went Splat

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Last April, entrepreneur Vibhu Norby had a massive product launch planned his iPhone-only social network for groups, Everyme.  

Norby and his team had already gone through Silicon Valley's top accelerator Y Combinator, had raised a $1.5 million seed round, had collected 25,000 email addresses from people wanting to be notified of the launch, and had prepared coverage of the launch on tech blogs like TechCrunch and AllThingsD. 

So Norby never could have imagined what would happen next, he writes on his blog

Just hours into the launch, Norby and his team realized that things were not going according to plan. People were signing up for the product, but not at the rate Norby imagined. Throughout the week, each day saw fewer and fewer sign-ups.

"To top it off, all of our team members had access to the stats dashboards," Norby writes. "You could see the psychological effects of dropping numbers impacting productivity and morale significantly. It felt like we had bet it all on red and the ball stopped on black."

The lesson learned is that if you launch and plan to grow massively right out of the gate, you will be disappointed and your team's morale will be at an all-time low. In fact, Norby says, it might be better not to launch at all because it suggests you're making a bet on your product, and not focusing on a long-term strategy.

Here's why focusing on a big launch is the wrong strategy, in Norby's words:

  • “Launching” screws with your metrics – and you need clean metrics to evaluate and iterate on your business. If you see 6000 sign-ups on day one and 2000 on day two, you can be mislead about the strength of your vision. It clouds your ability to single out the passionate users and understand their usage patterns.
  • You’re probably not going to find product/market fit right out of the gate. So whatever press or marketing you have planned will fall on uninterested eyes. Again, this will mislead you. You’ll spend less money and waste less time by locating your interested market first and then pursuing marketing channels to reach them when ready. It sounds obvious, but it isn’t. When you have a consumer app, at first, everyone seems like part of your target audience even though they aren’t. Likewise with enterprise, not all businesses are candidates for your software.
  • As mentioned earlier, the bigger your launch, the quicker you will enter the famous “trough of sorrow.” No human can easily withstand the emotional rollercoaster of startup metrics. Such baggage can lose you co-founders, employees, and your capital. And you will lose faith in yourself in the process.
  • You’ll be penalized when raising your next round. Neither the bell-curve nor the downward slope is an attractive graph to show investors. You can demonstrate growth by finding one passionate user, and then ten, and then 100 instead of taking in 6000 sign-ups to find 111 passionate ones. Some savvy investors will ignore your charts and focus on you – fine – but you have to be a champion. You can’t afford to think negative thoughts about your business when talking to an investor.


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