On the surface Kickstarter seems like a great way to get ideas launched. But the recent failure of Ossic to get a single set of regular headphones out to punters despite over 20,000 pre-orders, tells me there’s something wrong with the model. When looked at through the lens of Lean Startup — it’s amazing anything can launch
To be clear, I’m not dissing the model, just what confusion it can cause for founders. Kickstarter and their ilk do an amazing job of helping founders confirm product-market fit. Mark Andreessen describes it as thusly:
“Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.
In other words, a successful campaign tells you there’s plenty of people who want what you are building. Awesome! That’ll save you a ton of research . . . .
It’s also a really simple way to not fall into the trap of misinterpreting problem/solution fit when you are ideating. That’s where people tell you the idea is great but what you propose to build isn’t what they would actually buy (ie right idea wrong product).
So what’s the problem?
Well I’m glad you asked. Stretch goals are anti-lean and in my opinion a death sentence for a new product’s launch. They also force you into adding massive complexity and all in the same deadline you originally had for the simpler idea.
Most likely there is lots to learn about running the business before the kickstarters start actually building anything. On top of that, they’ve just promised the market some stunning new never-before-seen feature that attracted your eye and your wallet.
Throw in a bunch of stretch goals, that I can almost guarantee they haven’t really costed, and it’s a recipe for tears (and unfortunately sometimes Class Actions )
Lean tells us to start with the Minimum Viable Product, and using learnings and customer feedback to improve your product. Using scientific method, make incremental improvements and always take the pulse of the client.
Ossic even confirmed this in their final post. Admitting that the project had grown to require over 20 experts in various fields as diverse as UX design and developers in sound processing across 5 different platforms.
That’s nuts. It’s a pair of headphones FFS. Work to a scale you understand.
Even after admitting to this they still went on to boast that where regular headphones had 2 playback transducers, theirs had 8 and they had achieved working models of what they set out to build.
It may have been a work of art but as Steve Jobs was fond of saying to his team on the original Mac, “Real Artists Ship”.
Launching a new product is hard, don’t make it harder.