When Reid Hoffman talks about building a startup, he says it’s like jumping off a cliff, and assembling a plane on the way down. It’s a reference to the fact that when you start building a startup, you set a clock ticking.
If you can find product-market fit and a viable business before the clock runs out, your startup has a chance of success. If you can’t, then you’re in for a hard crash landing.
That’s why for startup product teams it’s critical to move as fast as you can. The most valuable resource you have is time, so you need to be extremely wise with every hour you and your team spends.
The key to moving fast is not to work harder, but work smarter. It’s not about working weekends, skipping lunch or pulling all-nighters. It’s about making smart choices about how to get things done.
Here are a few ways to think about moving fast.
Stand on the shoulders of giants
Isaac Newton famously said: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
When building a product, don’t be afraid to borrow from solutions that already work. Steal what you can with pride. Look for existing patterns and use them. Don’t waste time re-inventing the wheel, especially not in areas that aren’t key to your differentiation.
As Picasso said: “Good artists copy, great artists steal”.
Rethink the constraints
Every project has constraints. For an artist that might be the size of the canvas. For a technology product it might be the business model or the underlying technology.
But not all constraints are equal. Some are very hard, and others are flexible.
Look at the constraints you have and ask: which ones are flexible? Which are not even constraints at all?
Can you simplify the task by challenging one of the constraints?
Do the simplest thing first
Alfred Einstein said (approximately): “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
Complexity is the silent killer of products. Complexity is a poison that spreads lethargy and chaos in your startup. The more complex your product, the harder it becomes to maintain. Avoid complexity at all costs.
Always start by doing the simplest thing first. Ask this key question: What is the smallest, simplest thing we can do that will validate our hypothesis and deliver value to our customers?
Ask for help early
I’ve seen people (and whole teams) bang their head against a hard problem for days, or weeks, without asking for help. Sometimes it’s a mix of stoic determination and pride; sometimes it’s that feeling of being ever-so-close to cracking the problem… for days and days on end.
Productive people know how to ask for help early. Whatever the issue is that you’re facing, the chances are there are people out there who can help you. Sometimes a point in the right direction is all you need to unblock yourself and save hours or days of wasteful wheel spinning.
First and foremost, use your colleagues. Don’t be afraid to ask more experienced team members for help early on. It’s not your job to know all the answers; it’s your job to find the answers. There is no shame in asking for help! It’s how great people learn.
Second, build your network outside of your team. This could be in your company, or outside it. Find the networks, groups or meetups in your area of expertise, and use them.
If you have any questions or would like some more detailed tips, get in touch!