#3: You can launch with less than you think

Premature optimization is the root of all evil

No one likes to launch half-baked products that nobody wants to use. Committing tens of thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars to build a thing nobody cares about is a dark, lonely place.

As a response to this fear, sometimes founders overcomplicate their products as they believe the more feature it has, the better it is.

Even though the notion of MVP and incremental improvement are well known and internalized concepts, sometimes nit-picky details consume lots of resources while they shouldn't.

Donald Knuth, American computer scientist and Professor Emeritus at Stanford University famously said

Premature optimization is the root of all evil (or at least most of it) in programming.

I agree wholeheartedly. It's not only valid for programming, but I would also say it's true for every process of creation.

What's so bad about premature optimization? It's mostly wrong allocation of time and resources - you may find out that you didn't ever actually need it.

Sahil Lavignia, Gumroad CEO and founder, has showcased excellent examples in his recent tweet. I quoted a part of it as the title of this essay.

While you may argue that Twitter made tweets immutable on purpose, and it's actually a feature, the Instagram example is spot on. They did the minimum in regards to the web application, too - e.g., one still cannot send messages to users in the web version.

Now you might wonder - How do I reduce number of features and, at the same time, not make it just another buggy MVP that nobody will pay attention to?

Here are some common features that initially make it to the scope, only to be removed later as irrelevant for the MVP stage:

  • Built-in chat/DM mechanism. Unless it's another Slack or Telegram clone, you are good to start with email and social accounts.

  • Profile picture edits. Cropping, zooming, saving to file storage, and so on is a pointless overhead. Pulling profile pics from Gmail/ Gravatar suffices. It might be crucial for social trust platforms such as Uber or Airbnb, though.

  • Multiple social signup methods. These are being implemented mostly to reduce sign up friction and boost users count. Good old email/password method + optionally Google is all you need. Notice some niche products may require platform-specific user data to import (such as a live coding platform and GitHub sign up method)

Remember those market leaders as you see them today, one day started as just an MVP.

However, there was at least one thing (usually two or three, though) that the product did exceptionally well and outperformed all competitors.
But that's a consideration for another issue - I will tackle the idea and examples of key differentiators in the next Alta Bit 😉.


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