Launch dates are arbitrary

By January 10, 2012

Building a startup comes with its far share of unforeseen issues and challenges.  Even when planned properly, the timeline for a feature or service is arbitrary to our best guess.  This is one way that startups differ from corporate America.  In corporate America nearly every task, from cleaning the bathroom to board meetings are given a defined time it takes to complete each task and then monitored for efficiency.  However, as you know (or will soon figure out) a startup does not function this way.  Over the last 6 months, I have had to split my focus between running an existing business and developing the next generation of that business.  As a seasoned entrepreneur, you might think my planning and organization for these kinds of tasks would be pretty sound…turns out not so much.

If you have been keeping up with my series about entrepreneurship, you may have noticed that I rather hate the fail early/often philosophy.  Too many founders are in a rush to get funding and not methodical enough to build a company.  Why is there such a rush to get other people’s money into a company?  Why are smart people in such a rush to have others define their direction and goals? How come entrepreneurs don’t work on projects any more, rather why is every project now called a business?  I have asked myself these question several times over the last few months and have still not figured out any good answers.  Don’t misunderstand me, I would love to be a part of 500Startups or TechStars.  What they provide is invaluable and it has almost nothing to do with money.

There is one universal truth with investors and incubators, everyone single one wants to see your idea in action.  So this is where you have to think about timelines.  In the very beginning of your startup journey, you should have create benchmarks in a module format or stages.  Stage one: The idea.  Stage two: Research your idea.  Stage 3: Talk to people you don’t know and get their feedback.  Your friends and family will always tell you one of two things; you are so smart and creative or stop working on this and get a real job.  You need to talk to people who have nothing to lose by saying the idea is good or bad.  Stage 4: Build it beautiful.  Stage 5: Launch it.  Stage 6: Seek funding.  Sage 7: Stop calling your idea a project and start running your company.

So, why as a startup are launch dates arbitrary?  Simply, the only person waiting for you to finish, is you.  It doesn’t matter what other companies are doing.  You don’t have investors waiting and unless the wife is cracking the whip or your mom is kicking you out of the den, you don’t have anyone to answer to.  Always keep in mind, that you are in control of the direction what you are building is headed.  Build it to your standards and the best of your abilities.  I have pushed back the launch date for my new company multiple times, because it simply is not ready to take the place of the existing one.  Be patient!  Few things in world will change the want and need of a great product, 30 days is not one of them.  Have a firm foundation to pitch from, establish the tone and direction you are headed.  If you really want to impress an investor, bring them a project with the fuse lit and leave them no doubt that whether they are in or out this rocket is blasting off.