Ideas and Validation March 29, 2020

I don't follow my own advice

Oscar Nevarez @fu_wire

I've helped a lot of teams across many sectors to build and lunch successful products, I have a good eye for planning and execution. Everything is played by the book, except when the product is mine.

Let me explain. I work as a consultant, I have a strong background as a product owner and software engineer.

Whenever I have an idea for a side project I jump into it immediately, either designing the wireframes or prototype, creating a software requirement spec or with a proof of concept of the idea ( coding ).

The problem comes a few weeks later without delay, I think, well ... this is crap, it's repetitive, not novel at all, I won't show this to anyone, who's going to use it anyway?, what was I thinking?

I have so many questions, maybe I'm not the only one on this.

  • It's a lot easier to push an idea when you're not the one executing it, why?
  • If I'm the one building the idea I get easily distracted, how do you keep focus?
  • Where do you find the courage to release an MVP that's so far away from your original idea?
  • What's the best approach for building a product with an army of one?

Thank you.

  1. 4

    A hack might be to buy an existing product.

  2. 2

    Hi Oscar,
    I totally relate to your problem.
    I myself am a veteran CTO/VP R&D, do counseling and give great advice... which I sometimes don't follow myself :)
    I find that in the hard journey of entrepreneurship, you need to feel good about yourself, so you get sucked into menial jobs that you rock in order to get internal validation. e.g. I wrote an amazing script that does XYZ and I'm a rockstar coder! Is it the most important thing for my project right now? Maybe...
    What I counsel my clients (and myself) is that you should start with what you're not good at - are you a marketer? work on the product (research and ideation). Are you a coder? Don't write a single line of code!
    I myself am a builder and after trying several failed attempts of "if you build it, they will come" I've given myself a few ground rules:

    • No Coding! (period!)
    • Landing pages/ questionnaires/Interviews before building anything (validation)
    • No Coding until $$$ come in (e.g. no-code solutions, manual services)
    • Find a buddy/mentor/counselor to keep you accountable. (i.e. the shoemaker's children go barefoot)

    Only after I'll find something that generates revenue and interest without writing code (and I'm not talking about a 10 line script which connects 2 no-code services) then will I start building.

    Cheers,
    Jonathan
    PS I love the other offer here written by @volkandkaya of buying a working SAAS and marketing it. Be careful of the trap of "just tweaking it a little" - buy something that the code is air-tight and just work on revenue.
    PPS If you'd like to chat about it, I'm doing free 30-min consults now, feel free to book one. https://calendly.com/jonathanoron

  3. 1

    Great to read a post like yours, the same thing happens to me as a marketer. For my own projects I am a fiasco, I always throw them away and lose interest. Today, I will give myself the last option to start something of my own, it encourages me to read a post as real and sincere as yours. (sorry for my english gramma from google translate hehehe)

  4. 1

    @fu_wire Have you ever considered the possibility that maybe you're burnt out on the industry or line of work? If you find it challenging to do what you know is right, doesn't that sound like there's a problem somewhere? The difficulty of changing careers makes this a very hard issue to attack head on.

    I think your bullet points indicate one of the following:

    1. You're not productive as the owner, you need a boss to get shit done.
      or
    2. You dislike the type of work so much that you will only do it if working under the direct threat of being fired or homeless.
      or
    3. You're using perfectionism to avoid the realization that it's probably #1 or #2.

    Not to over simplify but aren't these the only possibilities?

  5. 1

    I'm in too. I'm trying to policy myself to do not start something without high validation, because time is money. A lot of ideas started with no focuses.

  6. 1

    Hi Oscar,

    You've just described me. I have pretty much the same experience as you and the same problems.

    I have a different perspective though. When building a side project (assuming that all my projects are), I always treat them as experiments. I try to learn new things and in the end of the journey if I don't go live, at least I've learnt something.

    Otherwise, here are some advise :

    • Find a partner. Solo projects lacks always motivation and focus at a certain point
    • Validate your idea. We'd be more that happy to help
    • MVP should not be perfect, start with something, collect feedback and adjust
  7. 1

    At our day jobs we make things to accomplish specific goals. We are more inclined to scope things more critically when we have more external limitations on time and resources. It is easier to work through the frustrating or boring parts of project because we are obligated to do so given the nature of employment.

    In our free time we err towards making things as creative outlets. We want to design UI because it's satisfying. We want to code because it is fun. It is different mindset from creating products which is less experimental and immediately gratifying.

    I am not successful enough to be an authority on the subject, but I think it is important to recognize what itch you're trying to scratch. If you are starved for creative expression (which you seem to be) then just do that! Make a bunch of small scoped projects and release them without the expectation of success. It'll be good practice and whatever learnings you pick up tend to transfer over to product development.

    Plus, who knows. One of those small projects might get traction.

  8. 1

    man, I so resonate with this. I get ideas all the time and take it to a point where I look at it and get caught in a comparison trap with others. Worst sometimes I just look at it and think it's crap.

    I think we do this is because we focus on the product first and not the users! As a seasoned Product Owner (PO) you know that it's always a fault to create something without data. I would focus next time on creating a community around your idea and then go for the product from all that user data you can collect.

    I'm currently doing that with our little product. trying to interact with people and discover how they go about increasing their self-awareness and growth. It's not easy at first but as the community grows I know it will become easier.

    here are my thoughts to your questions (a great way to build community by the way!!)

    It's a lot easier to push an idea when you're not the one executing it, why?
    there is no emotional tie-in to the product. your investment when it's your idea is more personal because your product is a reflection of you. pushing someones else's product forward is easy because the emotional investment is minimalized.

    If I'm the one building the idea I get easily distracted, how do you keep focus?
    This might be because of your temperament. I'd love to chat with you more about your actual struggles and see if we can work to come up with some things to help minimize this. Otherwise, the broadest advice I can give is to be intentional every day and make it a part of your daily routine. this way you miss it when you're not doing it.

    Where do you find the courage to release an MVP that's so far away from your original idea?
    MVP - Minimal Viable Product - launch it a soon as you have something you want feedback on. This is where having a community can be so valuable because then they don't mind seeing the duct tape, chicken wire and other pieces of your creation in the process.

    What's the best approach for building a product with an army of one?
    Make sure you're building something you have a community that wants it. if you build for a community and thereby serving others then you aren't just trying to serve yourself!

    I hope this helps and best of luck to you!!!

  9. 1

    You are not alone on this. A hack that seem to work for me is to focus and enjoy the journey rather than thinking about the end state (e.g. scaling big, acquiring a lot of users). I am trying to achieve that by defining intermediate goads/milestones and celebrate the progress as I reach each milestone. Also I have realised that it gets easier when I pick a problem space that genuinely interest me more than the business prospects.

  10. 1

    The problem comes a few weeks later without delay, I think, well ... this is crap, it's repetitive, not novel at all, I won't show this to anyone, who's going to use it anyway?, what was I thinking?

    Sounds like you're being pretty harsh on yourself. I do it too. I wish I had an answer but it's something I'm still working on myself. Maybe we'll both figure it out someday.

    I only really have answers for the last two questions:

    • Even if the MVP strayed from where the original idea was, and it's absolute crap (to you) it's still worth launching. What's worse a 100% chance of failure by not launching, or a 90% chance of failure by launching and it flops for some other reason? No one will ever come up to you in 3 months after it flopped and say "man you launched X? That thing sucked!" Hell no one will even remember it was a thing. And even in the rare chance it does take off you can always iterate and improve the product as it goes.

    • Focus on saving time. During development try and outsource portions of the code by using battle tested libraries. No one cares if you did everything yourself. And If something costs a little bit of $$$, but it could save you time figure out your theoretical hourly wage and see if you'll "save" money by just buying it. I once put a couple days of work into trying to set up an email server before caving and figuring it was better just to pay the $3 per month and outsource it. It would have taken years for setting my own email server up to "pay" off the time I invested into it. Pinching pennies can cost you more in the long run.

    Best of luck, Ed.