What can we do to reduce the “build and they will come mindset”?

Well, 1 month ago and earlier this week, I shared 2 tweets that got great engagement, way more than I expected to receive. The title from this last one?

I spent 10 months building before selling

“abcd is now following you!” “Wxyz is now following you!” “Xyz liked your tweet” “abc liked your tweet”

Should I celebrate? I wrote something important! I was happy at first with new followers coming. At the same time, It worries me that my own problems might be problems of so many others.

Do people still have the “build and they will come” mindset?

I’ve also seen dozens or even hundreds of cases here. People build and expect users. Then, they don’t come and the project is abandoned. Initial excitement is over.

I’ve received quite a few messages asking if I could suggest how to launch, how to promote, how to attract users. But most of them had either already built a product or had the solution in mind, but without talking to anyone.

As this friendly community, the best I’ve been part of, how could we help and amplify the awareness of building-first, to reduce this frustration from those people?

  1. 15

    Personally I don't think it's "building first" that's the problem. I think the problem is more and more people are expecting overnight success.

    Indiehackers started as a community of bootstrapped engineers building software products. I realise the community has diversified since then, but at the core there are still many engineers here and our natural tendency is to build. So you can't fault people for engaging in the one activity where they feel they will see the greatest ROI.

    Where there is an opportunity to educate people is on topics like:

    • drawing the line and launching the MVP (this is the problem you had, OP)
    • getting user feedback as early as possible
    • getting your first X sales
    • when to pivot, when to stay on course
    • how your first 10 sales will differ from your first 100 sales

    and so on.

    Framing the problem around "building first" leads people to believe that the determining factors of success of your product are front-loaded. This is a symptom of people believing that success is something that happens when you "launch a product" so you need to launch in the "right way" (by validating first, or building first, or whatever other approach is the flavour of the month).

    In my opinion, this is all nonsense. Whether you spend the first 2 months building your MVP or the first 2 months talking to users, I ultimately don't think it matters on a long enough time horizon. Your product is going to take years to develop into a business so how you spend the first few months doesn't really matter to me.

    You can have the most robustly-validated product idea ever and still fail, by launching a crappy product, or launching with crappy timing, or launching and never getting anyone else except your initial user group to care, or launching and not growing fast enough then giving up, or launching and then someone launches something better and you give up, or launching and then the market moves from under you (e.g. travel businesses and corona).

    The deck is stacked against you whichever way you approach your first few months.

    Success in the indiehacker world has got way less to do with these magical step-by-step formulas governing what you do in the beginning and way more to do with how committed you are to the journey and how long you're willing to grind it out. Those are the lessons I think we should be teaching each other and spreading more of and less of this dogmatic "build first vs. validate first" stuff that gets clicks but ultimately doesn't matter.

    1. 3

      You nailed it. Before launch I was convinced that if we built the "perfect product", we would be an overnight success. We launched, it didn't happen, and I realized that all these quick-success stories were just not representative.
      Got disappointed at first, now I feel good, and enjoying the journey :)

    2. 1

      Man, I needed to hear this.

    3. 1

      Hi Jon, been following your journey, 12 startups challenge, struggles selling to indie hackers, pivots and successes. Congratulations!

      100% agreed saying whatever route you choose, it's a long-term game. Overnight success takes a long time. Not only in the indie hackers world, but also brick and mortar, sports, entertainment, non-internet businesses as well...I also believe that is one of the things we need to help each other about.

      I've also seen dozens or even hundreds of cases here. People build and expect users
      Might be because people are expecting overnight success? We don't know, maybe. But the action of heads down months into code before launching, without communicating with potential users is too risky in my opinion. Energy is spent and then, users don't come. So many cases here where people launch and don’t know what to do next, who they should talk to, what problems they are really solving

      My objective with this post is to reduce frustration and abandonment after launching and users not turning up.

      I’m a firm believer that you need to connect to your target audience before building. You’ll know who you’re talking to, problems they have, how to better communicate and right questions to answer.

      Also agreed there is no right or wrong way to launch, just different methods.

  2. 3

    This is a tough one to make the shift and I think one has to learn it the hard way sometimes. I certainly did. So many times I created projects in the past without community or an initial customer base. I didn't have anyone to get feedback from or validate my idea with.

    This is why I now start building community from Day 1.

    It doesn't matter if you are creating a SaaS product or creating online courses, building a community from the very start will allow you to gather feedback and start iterating and refining your product or service almost immediately.

    Learning by doing and sharing your insights along the way is certainly the best strategy when building community starting out. Keep doing this consistently each week and the compounding effects over time pay off.

    I think by sharing your journey from the very start, you can attract initial users who resonate with your product or service and this helps to shift you away from the "Build it and they will come" mindset.

    1. 2

      If I was building a new product, would be my go-to strategy as well. It takes time to build a community and gain trust from people, for sure. But at the end, I think it pays off.

      Companies and products exist because there is a demand, a need for it. We need to understand where the need is. Nothing better than talking/asking to people out there.

      1. 1

        Well said @Leo. I totally agree!

  3. 3

    I assume this is down to the fact that almost nobody has business-oriented education. Society (school) doesn't teach us to be entrepreneurs, they teach us to be workers.
    Also, the excitement of a new product/service is usually enough to make the person wave away all concerns by saying "this will work"...
    What can we do? Educate. How? IDK.

    1. 1

      Reading/listening more lessons learned? Maybe....I see it as a beginning. We also need to raise awareness of that, as @yongfook wisely said, overnight success takes time, no matter what route you choose.

  4. 3

    Hey Leo. Building without selling is a very engineer like thinking, we like to build and solve a problem, in the hopes that someone will buy if we solve a good enough problem. Only we fail to validate that with people. Only communities like IH and experiences derived from posts like yours can start to chip away at that mindset.

    1. 1

      Yes, we need more people sharing how they started and how long it took to reach success

  5. 1

    I think it's a common problem for people to have (myself included.)

    For me, the best way to learn that the world doesn't work a certain way is to experience it myself.

    As a community, I think we should give each other accurate feedback and encouragement. That and letting people know this isn't a get rich quick kind of thing.

    1. 1

      As a community, I think we should give each other accurate feedback and encouragement. That and letting people know this isn't a get rich quick kind of thing.

      Yes, sharing successful and failed stories help a lot. We learn from the others. Think we need more of this here. There is the interview section, but most of them are successes. Something like:

      • "How did you start?"
      • "How did you get first clients?"

      @yongfook also has good stories of his challenge on Twitter

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    This comment was deleted 7 months ago.

    1. 1

      :) nice solution. Haven't read the full book, but summaries out there. Looks a great path to follow

  7. 3

    This comment was deleted a year ago.

    1. 1

      But it would also scare creativity to flow as high costs would be a constraint. I believe this would put people away of trying to launch new products

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