Over the years I’ve read many books on entrepreneurship, both about software itself but also more generally, and one thing that is often talked about but I’ve never quite connected with is the fear that surrounds launching a new product and the need to move past it and not become gripped in a cycle of procrastination disguising itself as perfectionism. You gotta ship!
After all I figured – I’ve been there and done that. I’ve delivered many products over the years in a variety of markets and models. Some shrink wrap, some enterprise, and both public facing and internal websites. I’ve had my share of successes and flops and while I’ve certainly worried and always been determined to deliver a good job and felt great when we’ve made our users happy and bad when I’ve felt like we’ve let them down I’ve never come close to paralysis, and I’ve certainly never felt any fear.
Rationalising this, I told myself, these were delivered on behalf of someone else: usually my employer. There’s a plural involved. And I wasn’t in the direct line of fire if the product went wrong or was badly received. Sure if its bug-ridden software I’d feel the pain of trying to fix it under pressure or maybe even lose my job but no customer was likely to tell me to my face: your software sucks.
I also thought about the open source and free software I’ve released. Things like Photo Drive and the Activate Your Glutes website. If people had been unhappy about them then sure I wouldn’t have felt great about that, I wanted to do a good job and make something useful and if I could fix the problems I would, but heck, ultimately they’re free, things I’ve given away with no real obligation: they work for me and if they don’t work for you then just throw them away. All it will have cost you is a little time.
However now Mocking Pad’s release is imminent, it will be submitted to Apple in the next few days, I finally understand The Fear. I’ve invested a lot of time in Mocking Pad. A lot of me. And now I’m about to ask customers directly, for the first time, to give me money for it. To say to people hey I think this is worth $10 of your hard earned cash.
And you know something?
I mean lets get realistic about this.
Maybe no one will even notice it, it will be ignored and sink without trace. Ouch.
Some people will see the product but judge it to be poor before buying it.
Other people will buy the product and it won’t quite do what they want.
And some people will buy the product and hate it.
But maybe, just maybe, some people will buy the product and love it. Maybe most people. They’ll find it useful. It will help them out. They’ll become fans and talk about it and tell people about it and they’ll buy it too.
And it turns out that thats how you conquer The Fear. Better still thats how you use it. You use the fear to drive you to do your best job but, like Schrödinger’s cat, you won’t know how your products going to do until you open the box and release it. And if you’re anything like me you need to know if the cats alive or dead.