Inc. Magazine’s Howard Greenstein asks Art Chang and Tipping Point insider Adam Seifer, “In a world of beta tests, how do you know when your product is ready to ship?”
Adam Seifer, co-founder and former CEO of Fotolog.com, one of the oldest and most popular photo sharing sites on the net, said: “I frequently find myself trying to convince partners, advisees, etc., that one of the biggest risks a start-up has is to not launch anything at all—to get so caught up in talking about what you’re going to launch and so fixated on details that it feels like you’re making progress when instead what you’re really doing is moving asymptotically closer to something that doesn’t ultimately matter as much as you think it does.”
Some companies have truly embraced the world of continuous testing, also called “using your customers as test subjects.” Google’s Gmail was listed as a “beta” or test version for about five years. Apple’s “Siri” voice service is still considered a “beta” (and given that it works for me about half the time I’d say that is an accurate label.) But are these kind of tests for everyone?
“Not so fast,” said Art Chang, CEO and Founder of Tipping Point Partners, a New York City-based “institutional entrepreneur” that serves as a seed investor and founder of software start-ups. “Siri is a ‘feature’ on the iPhone, but the iPhone works. Gmail is an extension of the Google brand, and though it started a little shaky, by the time it came out of beta, it was solid. If you’re an established brand you can experiment, but for a traditional start-up, that first product represents a brand promise. So, it may be better to reduce features and functions to have a product that works really well, and does what it is supposed to do. Twitter and Evernote both started as very simple products, and expanded after they got the core right.”