Launching is an Accountability Hack

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When you’re building something new, it’s tempting to succumb to that feeling of “just a little bit more work.. then we’ll launch it.” Launch is always right around the corner, just as soon as you iron out a few more kinks.

The dangerous problem with this mindset is that there will always be kinks to iron out, but you don’t know which ones are important until real customers are in the loop. Paradoxically, delaying a launch in pursuit of perfectionism is the very thing preventing you from achieving it.

I felt that “let’s wait a few more weeks” feeling a lot at the beginning of Cloudstitch. We began a small private beta in December 2014, and for half a year we remained in that state. When we got into YCombinator, we decided launch had to be now or never, and the coding that happened in the three weeks that followed was revelatory. We started running daily QA sessions to weed out bugs, and it became immediately clear that half our features had to be deleted. They were either too buggy or too confusing. We removed a lot of fancy reactive syncing, shrunk the UX down to a minimum, and took away almost all configuration options. The only new feature we added was a way to pay us.

Now we’re back to adding new interesting features, but they aren’t the ones we were working on before. Now we wake up to emails from customers that guide our product planning. And that doesn’t mean we’re doing everything right, but it does, I think, mean we’re doing things for a better set of reasons. That’s a much better spot to be in.

So if you’ve got launch anxiety, don’t think about your launch as a debutante ball where you’ve got to impress the whole industry. Forget your perfectionist nerves. Launch is an accountability hack. It’s a bottlenecking process that forces you to strip your idea down to the essentials, make it work well enough to find real users, and then build it back up with their feedback.

That feeling of “we’re ready” will never come if you keep delaying a launch. You’ve got to slowly grow into it by iterating with your users. And here’s the best part: you can probably start doing that immediately.