I’ve been surprised by the recent negative op-eds and news about Facebook’s IPO. I think a main driver behind is pageviews but I’ll bite. Here’s why I think you have to be bullish on Facebook or you’re being stupid.
Facebook has 900+ million registered users of which they have an extraordinary level of information on; arguably more data than any other company. The level of ad targeting they are capable of is stunning.
They have chosen when to IPO for a reason. They (Facebook private stock owners) have a lot of motivation to ensure they have picked wisely. Their product roadmap and revenue results are most likely setup to beat street expectations quarter over quarter at this point.
They are a company that is already able to make a billion dollar acquisition by convincing them to take Facebook stock.
They haven’t even begun to do mobile advertising. The potential here is huge. They are still a relatively young company and mobile consumption is even younger. Why do pundits think they won’t figure this out just because they haven’t done it yet?
Deep Facebook integration in existing OSes and potentially a Facebook-branded mobile OS is an obvious future move. There have been rumors. How hard would it be to offer modifications to Android that integrate Facebook at a deep level? How hard would it be to offer an iPhone-like (think Kindle Fire) Android phone under the Facebook brand?
Using likes and shares as quality signals in a search engine they either partner with, buy, or create is a massive opportunity. It would give them the ability to target ads at the time of intent to purchase. It could also be the way to build a search engine that is a step-function increase better than Google.
Instagram, which they now own, continues to grow like wildfire.
One of the biggest near-term opportunities I see is their chance to build a viable competitor to AdSense. What would stop them from offering Facebook-powered ads for external websites? They could crawl the page a la AdSense, which tells them about the page’s context and pair that with what they know about the user (Facebook cookie) to deliver a better ad experience than AdSense. They had a significant amount to the bottom line within a few quarters of debuting it. The stock price would jump on the announcement alone.
Facebook users express a sort of brand loyalty and engagement level (daily in most cases) that is usually associated with top brands like Apple and Google.
And lastly, if you’d have bet against Zuckerberg in the past you would have lost every time.
That’s why I will be buying Facebook stock when it IPOs (as a long term investment) and you’d be stupid not to.
Writing help documentation is never fun. But clients and users will say they want it. Here’s a trick you can use to make it write itself.
It’s a common practice to use question mark icons next to elements that may need more explaining. Users can hover over or click on the icon to get the documentation. But you’ve still got the issue of having to fill those tool tips or pop-ups with text you’re not sure anyone will ever read. That’s the key. Let your users tell you which things they need info on. Spread icons around your UI’s and wait for people to access them. When they do a quick ping is sent to the server identifying the icon that was accessed. They’ll get a quick notice stating that help text is coming soon. Even better, you can ask them what their question is and a way to contact them.
Now you know which areas of your app are confusing, what the user’s question is and by answering it you’ve written the help text for that section. Never have to write help text that isn’t needed or read ever again.
Hat tip to Brandon Corbin for teaching me this trick.
I have seen developers think they can worry about design at the end of their project. They think the designer is a decorator whose purpose is to put pretty pixels on things. That’s a limited view of design. I believe a designer needs to be involved at each step of the development process. I’ve attempted to make my case for why design is too important to leave until the end to a few developers unsuccessfully. It’s not that I haven’t stated my points clearly I just think they have been too emotional. I need to try approaching it more logically. So I’ll prove my point by proving it as an inverse theorem.
Imagine a designer who gets an inspiration for a new iOS app. She mocks up a bunch of screens in Photoshop. They have details like buttons and notes about functionality. The app has a beautifully rendered news feed and a settings screen that she spends considerable time on. The mock ups are polished and take considerable time. She takes the finished mock ups to a developer and asks how much it will cost to develop. The developer pours over them periodically asking questions and points out that the news feed design is using so many custom fonts and images that it could be jittery when scrolling. Parts of the feed will need to be rendered asynchronously to provide smooth scrolling and even still the feed will likely need to be redesigned. The settings pane she spent so much time on could be done via the Settings on iOS, which is standard and therefore where users expect to find it. Doing it this way will reduce the overall project cost. Then their conversation starts to delve into suggestions on how to better accomplish the social network integration and questions from the developer about whether she considered x or y features. The app is already being iterated on and improved in this one conversation. Involving the developer only at the supposed end was a mistake she thinks to herself.
We’ve established that developers can lend value at each step of the design process because they know the technical limitations of the platform and can provide suggestions to improve the app.
If it’s bad for a designer to not include a developer throughout the process then the inverse may be equally bad.
Can a designer lend value at each step?
There are user experience limitations that designers know about. Great designers understand the general human interface guidelines for software. They know which design elements work well with users based on their experience. Designers are used to thinking about things from the user perspective. They think about things such as user flow and conversion, know how to make a user interface obvious and will push the boundaries of the app’s functionality with their creativity. Design is a natural element of the development process.
Therefore we have established that conversations and design work can occur before and during the development process that can shape and improve the app.
Design, like security and architecture is something that needs to be thought about early and often when making software. Therefore designers need to be a part of the development process.
I was bored, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room this morning and decided to organize my iPhone apps. I’ve been thinking of things in terms of concentric circles lately. Think dartboard.
Take communication as an example. The bullseye is the most personal option, face to face communication. It’s my inner most circle. Moving outwards you might call or text me. Calling is a more intimate action than texting. Although my phone number is harder to get than my email address, which is probably harder to get than searching for me on Facebook. The easiest and least intimate way to reach me is via my public Twitter account.
I grouped the following iPhone apps as Communication.
I realized other apps can be grouped by levels of intimacy. Here’s how I grouped the rest.
The relationship you have with your customer has a level of intimacy. Where is your product on the dartboard?
Netflix is a more personal experience than using Flixster since it knows my tastes and I enjoy it the comfort of my home. Instapaper knows exactly what I want to read because I submitted the content. Techmeme is a great way to read mainstream tech news, but it’s not an intimate experience. Oink is more about compiling other people’s tastes. But Peapod knows just what I want and delivers to my door.
If Flixster drastically changed their UI I doubt there’d be a huge uproar. When Netflix does it there’s an outcry. Because we have a more intimate relationship with Netflix.
Similarly when Redbox recently increased their fees it went largely unnoticed. They didn’t do much to message people about the change or explain it. They didn’t need to. Netflix however does need to spend time on those things. When they don’t they stand to lose a lot of customers.
Each level of intimacy is valuable. The point is to know which level you’re in and adjust how you interact with the customer appropriately.
Over the past few days much has been written about Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. All that is known for sure is contained in two short releases from Apple PR, Jobs’ letter to the board and the subsequent statement from Apple announcing his resignation.
Apple has carefully crafted these releases to deliver the message they intend. As far as press releases go these are downright spartan. In classic Apple form they are simple, well designed notes that have been stripped of any frivolous words. But the sparse content in those letters haven’t stopped the blogosphere from extrapolating on the news ad naseum. I feel like it’s time for a sanity check. I can’t read any more of these articles without dispelling one of the most popular points being argued.
Apple is safe since Jobs is still driving strategy and product design
There is a large number of people who think that Steve Jobs still has his steady hand on the wheel at Apple. The thinking goes that because of this there will be no major change at the company as a result of his resignation. Typically, the CEO has the responsibilities as a communicator, decision maker, leader, and manager. Shaping product strategy and seeing it gets executed on properly ultimately falls on the CEO. Until now that’s been Steve Jobs. Tim Cook wasn’t the CEO during Jobs’ most recent medical leave. Starting in January Tim was in charge of day to day activities (i.e. executing on the strategy Jobs set). Fast forward to today and Cook is now the CEO and setting the strategy.
I’m surprised how many people gloss over the sentences in these press releases. When Jobs took his most recent medical leave it was stated that he would “continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions of the company.” All you have to do is contrast this with the most recent announcement in which there was no such statement. In fact there is the rather ominous and sad sentence in Jobs’ letter to the board that he is unable to meet the duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO. It’s stated clearly, he is no longer able to be involved in shaping strategy. His role going forward will be limited to Chairman of the Board. Boards do not drive strategy or product design. Make no mistake about it, Tim Cook is now firmly planted in the driver’s seat, not Steve Jobs.
As CEO, Tim Cook needs the confidence that he’s not going to be undercut by Jobs. The idea that Jobs would undermine his newly appointed CEO by having final say and vetoing his decisions is ludicrous. He has to believe in Tim Cook’s judgement or he wouldn’t have recommended him for CEO.
His resignation is part of the plan
Steve Jobs is slowly unwinding himself from the company step by step so the company and stock price can survive his exit. If he remains an integral piece until his last day then his death would have a sudden and negative effect on the company. For that simple reason he needs to ensure that the company has little to no dependency on him when that day comes. That includes strategy and product design.
No doubt some listeners will disagree with me. But if you read through the press releases it becomes clear. His resignation as CEO means he is no longer in charge of strategy at Apple.
If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on his resignation listen to this episode of my podcast.
I want to talk about freemium for a moment. The freemium business model, for those not familiar, works by offering basic features for free while charging a premium for access to advanced features. It creates a low barrier to entry, offering free sign ups, so that users have no reason to not create an account. The logic is that some of those non-paying users will eventually want the advanced features and pay up. Skype, GitHub, and Flickr employ the freemium model. Chris Anderson wrote a fantastic book about the model titled, “Free”. Freemium is the most popular business model among web startups and it’s broken. Freemium is a money burning business model, cheapium is better.
Cheapium works by offering basic features for a nominal cost, usually a dollar or less, while charging a premium for advanced features. This can be in the form of a one-time or recurring fee. Cheapium creates a low, but not trivial, barrier to entry. All users in the system are paying. It might sound like a small difference but this has several advantages over freemium.
Paying the overhead costs
Three prominent startups, GetExceptional, Ning, and Instapaper, recently modified their business models to move away from or lessen their reliance on freemium.
GetExceptional is an exception handling service. They offered a free plan that was great for my small startup, Talentopoly. My site doesn’t throw a lot of exceptions but for the few times it did I would get an email with the exception that occurred. They featured my startup in their customer spotlight. It was great. That is until it stopped being free. They upped their rate to $9/mo. My site doesn’t throw a lot of exceptions, certainly not $9/mo. worth, so I found another service that only costs $2/mo.
Ning is a community building platform. I had played around with the platform a few years ago and created a small community. They too offered a free plan to get users started and then tried to up-sell them on premium features such as removing the Google ad from each page. They too had to remove their free plan and tell users to convert to paying plans or take a hike. I decided to close my community.
Instapaper is still technically a freemium model. It lets users save articles to read later. Up until a few months ago iOS users could download a free app that would download and store the 10 most recent articles in their account. I had been using the service more and more but was still getting by with the free iPhone app. To my surprise Marco Amrent, the service’s cofounder removed the free app from the App Store in recent weeks. He wrote a piece on his blog about why he removed it. I highly recommend you give it a read. In the end I agreed with a lot of what he said and as cheap as I am I bought the full app for $4.99.
All three of these services have overhead costs that they need to pay. You wouldn’t expect a restaurant to seat you, serve you a free soda, and cross their fingers that you’re going to order a meal. So why do web startups act this way? A web startups overhead costs may be less than that of a restaurant but there are still overhead costs per user. The freemium model focuses on growth for the sake of growth while the cheapium model focuses on sustainable growth. It’s growth you can afford. It’s simply not economical to support a user base of which the majority of users aren’t paying anything.
Don’t give users a reason not to pay
The freemium model gives users a reason not to pay. I found this out the hard way when I started selling iPhone apps a few years ago. I offered a photography app in the App Store for $0.99 called QuickShot. Sales were low in the beginning so I stripped out a bunch of features out of it, called it QuickShot Lite, and gave it away. I even bought some Google and Facebook ads to help promote QuickShot. I would talk to my customers whenever I could to get feedback. What surprised me was how many customers had seen the ad on Facebook, went to the QuickShot purchase page, liked the app, but suspected there was a free version and searched it out instead. My free app wasn’t driving sales to the pay app. It was working the other way around. I was giving users a reason not to pay for my app. Instead of being a powerful sales tactic freemium weakens your stance. What if car salesmen had to compete with their dealerships giving away free cars? Freemium is a crazy business model. Cheapium doesn’t give users a reason not to pay.
Price as a signal
There is a phrase in economics called price as a signal. The price you set for a product or service sends a signal to potential customers. It can indicate the quality, rarity, etc. All of which, hopefully, translate into desirability. Apple, Coach, and other high-end designers know this well. If you build a quality product with unique features you should charge well for it. TweetBot is a recent example of this model working. Freemium devalues the product to zero. This sends the wrong signal to consumers. Cheapium on the other hand sets a low entry price but still tells people this is something worth paying for. Cheapium is essentially the model that most of the successful apps in the App Store use.
The wrong type of user
The freermium model attracts lots of low quality users. A user who isn’t willing to pay $1/mo is unlikely to convert, ever. The cheapiummodel filters these users out at the front door.
Sandbox instead of free plan
Chargify is a recurring billing service. They don’t offer a free plan. What they do offer is a test account. This is great because it lets you build their service into your startup at no cost but when you are ready to start using it you have to pay. Instead of offering free accounts use a cheapium model and offer sandboxes or test accounts. The difference here is that a sandbox is shared with everyone but can give would be users a chance to peak behind the curtain. Chartbeat does this. If your service is something developers need to integrate with then a very limited test account might be appropriate.
Lowering the cost for everyone
By charging everyone you can more easily cover your overhead costs. This can decrease the gap between price plans. Instead of offering a free plan and a $9/mo. plan you can offer a $1/mo. and a $6/mo. plan. This means that your $1/mo. users are more likely to upgrade their plan to the next level. Now you’re covering your costs and up-selling.
Better customer support
Often times the free users are the ones who aren’t taking the time to learn the site before firing off support tickets. These users make up the vast majority of your users. You spend most of your time supporting them. This stretches your resources thin and lowers the quality of your customer support. You run the risk of losing paying users. With cheapium you can focus your attention on supporting paying customers.
Switching from freemium to cheapium
If you’re launching a startup now is the best time to make the switch to cheapium. Do it now before you have to make the hard choice down the road and risk alienating users. Transitioning a startup to cheapium is difficult. But if you’re overwhelmed by the support and overhead costs of freemium and need to make the switch here are some key points to follow to make the transition easier. Make sure you communicate the reasons you are making the switch with your customers. Openly discuss the numbers behind the decision. Start focusing on your paying customers and telling them that things are going to get better. Don’t increase rates, at least in the near term. Offer a low monthly plan for free users who upgrade now. But most of all keep focusing on your product and making it best in class.
You’re in your second year of a computer science degree at a top
university in 2004. Why did you choose a CS degree? Because you have a
passion to build a great web startup. You read TechCrunch, GigaOm, and
all the other tech blogs. So you think you know a little something
about what makes a startup successful. You overhear one of your
classmates talking about a new project he’s cooking up. You hear him
say it’s a social network. Laughing under your breath you think to
yourself Friendster and MySpace are already well-established
encumbents in that market and are well on their way to capturing
millions of users. OK, I’ll stop my lame story here as I’m sure you’ve
all figured out what dorm room social network project at a top
university I’m talking about. But while we all know how this story
ends I thought it’d be interesting to look at why it even happened.
Hey Zuckerberg, have you heard of friendster?
This is the antognistic question you probably would have asked Mark
after he excitedly told you about his idea. Where would we be if the
prescence of well-established entities was enough to scare
entrepeneurs away? We might not have ever heard of Facebook or even
Google because they would never have been started.
Most things are just tweaks on other things
Think about this. Some of the most successful software is a variation
of other, existing software. You could make the argument that Twitter
is really just public instant messenging (a combination of IM statuses
and messages) and they picked up where AOL left off. Microsoft Office
is a variation of the office suites that paved the way for it. The
camera apps in the App Store are tweaks on the native camera app.
Twitter clients come in various flavors but at the end of the day
they’re all fairly similar. I would venture a guess and offer the
theory that the majority of software companies being publicly traded
today did not invent their market segments but rather came in after
someone else did. Here are some of the reasons why I think it makes a
lot of sense to try something old, that has already been done before
and tweak it for your next project.
Validated market demand
By picking a popular market segment you already know there is demand,
a lot of demand. This is the most important variable in the “success
formula” (don’t Google that made up phrase, I did and it’s all spam).
Microsoft was famous for doing this. There is admittedly a stigma
attached to this tactic but I think that stigma exists because of
Microsoft’s harsh business strategies. Providing what is hopefully a
better product and creating competition is the essence of innovation
and should be looked on as a positive characteristic of capitilism.
Since you aren’t having to focus your energy on creating and
advertising a brand new market to people you can instead put your
attention towards the product.
Easy to understand
Just as people used to compare Facebook to MySpace and Friendster (OK,
maybe Friendster not too much) they will enivatably compare your
project to other ones. Here is where you can use this to your
advantage. Instead of that comparison being difficult and saying,
“It’s a cross between YouTube and GroupOn”, you can say, “It’s like
GroupOn, but for buying cars”. By the way, if somebody is working on
group discount software for car dealerships hurry up and finish it
because I’m looking to buy a new car soon. Back to the point though,
people are easily distracted and won’t listen to you describe your
idea. Their eyes will glaze over and they’ll start thinking about that
funny video their friend sent them or the delicious New York-style
reuben they had for lunch. If you can compare your product to
something they not only already know but also have a strong positive
feeling towards and in the same sentence tell them how you offer
something that other product doesn’t, bingo!
Drafting isn’t just for race cars
In racing, which I admit I know very little about, there’s something
known as drafting. Drafting or slipstreaming is a technique where two
vehicles or objects align in a close group reducing the overall effect
of drag due to exploiting the lead object’s slipstream. Follow behind
the leader and you can go faster with less effort. Choosing a popular
category or product and competing with it directly can put you in its
slipstream and magnify the success you would get otherwise.
You can’t just copy
If you’re still reading to this point you might be thinking I’m
proposing you simply copy something someone else is doing or change a
few things about it. I’m not. That won’t work. It won’t work because
you need to offer a compelling, unique reason to use your product.
That’s a difficult thing to do, reallly difficult. So this is where
your innovation is needed.
Plenty of inspiration
You have plenty of inspiration to draw on by choosing a
well-established segment. Do some research. Try using the other
products. Use them every day. Figure out what you like and don’t like
Still lots of room to innovate
There will be things you like about each of the competitors in the
space you’re going to enter. Putting the various bits and pieces
together in a new and unique combination is innovation. Often times it
can be the small adjustments or combinations of features that can make
the next big hit. Firefox is a great example of this. Firefox started
life as a stripped down version of Mozilla’s popular web browser. It’s
big feature was that it lacked a lot of the bloat that had crept into
other web browsers. The rest is history. Whether you’re a first time
entrepeneur or wanting to start your fifth company I recommend you
look for an existing market with an existing product that is ripe for
innovation. Start there and see where it takes you. My own project,
Talentopoly, is like Hacker News and Reddit but the links are strictly
on the topics of programming, design, and IT.
Your friend Dereck is really into baseball stats. A few months ago he started a web site where baseball fans who loved stats as much as him could discuss new ways to analyze them. He timed the launch of the site for baseball’s opening day and the site got picked up by a few media outlets. In just under a week 250 users had signed up for the site. He was off to a good start.
It turns out that some of the new statistical categories on his site are really popular with the fantasy baseball crowd and now, almost two months into the baseball season he has over 1000 users signed up. Things are going really well for Dereck, he couldn’t be happier.
Dereck was getting a few emails a week from users wishing to have their accounts deleted but he’s noticed an uptick in deletion requests in the past two weeks. Google Analytics is also reporting slightly lower visits over the past two weeks compared to a month ago. Yesterday his unique visits were off 200%. Until now Dereck had been thrilled with the reacion his site was getting. Now it seems like it’s growth could be at risk. What’s going on?
Have a plan
Reaching 1000 users is a great milestone. Most web sites will never reach that level of membership. So once your site hits that mark celebrate, then get back to work. You need to have a plan in place for how you’re going to keep those users happy and engaged. Dereck quickly realizes that he needs a plan. Here are some points Dereck should consider when writing his plan.
It’s only natural for a user to try a site out for a few weeks and then lose interest. People have daily routines and habits. Your site may be a regular visit for them this week and by next Friday they can’t remember the name of it. You need to build in ways to continue to engage those users so you don’t lose them overtime. A monthly newsletter can accomplish this. So can having email notifications when someone else leaves them a comment. This is why the like button can be so effective on a site. It requires minimal effort from a user to like something but the imporant part is that it sends an email to the user who posted that content, drawing them back onto the site.
Build around users’ passions
This is especially important in Dereck’s case since he is trying to build a community. Repeat, loyal users are users who buy into your site. Your site’s brand, message, and value all contribute to this emotional bond. Focus on a passion that other users share. Not only will everyone have something in common but your users will be more likely to build that emotional bond with your site.
Give users a sense of ownership
Make sure that users feel they have enough control over their experience. At Talentopoly users can see the roadmap of features and vote on which features they want implemented next. Have an open dialog with users through the blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, etc. Always respond to suggestions and advice thankfully and with an open mind. Start thinking about the site as being as much theirs as it is yours.
Keep the site fresh
It’s easy to sit back and rest some once you hit 1000 users. Don’t. This is an easy mistake to make since you may be feeling burnt out or think you could screw something up by making changes. The site got to where it is on the back of your hard work and energy. It will continue to require that to sustain the current success. You need to keep improving the site even if it’s just tweaks. You should keep looking at the site with a fresh eye and questioning how you can make it better. Keep the content fresh on the blog and on the site. Don’t stop tweeting. Now is the time to put into place good practices that you can sustain for months and even years to come.
Always prioritize quality over quantity
As your site grows the amount of content on it is most likely growing as an exponential function. It’s more important now than ever to continue to guide the site, to enforce a standard of quality. If you operate a deals site you should focus your energy and attention on continuing to get deep discounts for your users rather than adding more discounts to the site. This is when the site can become a victim of its own success, especially if you allow user submitted content on your site. You won your current users over in part due to the quality of the content on your site. Make sure the site doesn’t drive them away by lowering those standards.
You should be reaching out to your users often. Let them know there is a real person working behind the scenes. Give them an idea of what you’re spending your time on, what excites you about the site, and where you’d like to see it go. A great example of this is Google and their blogs. Google is constantly messaging to interested users every day what they’re working on and excited about. Often times it’s in the form of a short post on a product blog that details a new feature or partnership. Other sites will use channels like Twitter to highlight some of the great content on their site. Whatever it is your site does it can benefit from frequent, meaningful communication with potential and existing users. Talking about your site is the best way to get new users.
Applying it all to Talentopoly
These are some of the things I’ve learned while working on Talentopoly. It’s a labor of love for me but one that requires a lot of time and energy. I hope to keep growing the site using the principles detailed above.
The alarm goes off. It’s 6:45 in the morning and you have a meeting at 8. Time to get out of bed. You jump in the shower. You’re standing there massaging shampoo into your hair barely awake when it hits you. You get this great idea for a virtual currency market. Your friends are always competing to be the mayor of that dive bar down the street. They’ve got mayorships, badges, check-ins, whatever built up in all these various services. You’ll setup a site where they can sell their accounts for cash. It’ll be like those MMORPG marketplaces, but for the check-in crowd. Seems straight forward enough. Now that you’ve got this great new idea what do you do next?
The Next Step
There’s a lot to do. You have to bounce the idea off your friends, find an available domain name, and put up a launching soon site. Next weekend you’ll get started working on the backend.
Wait. You short changed the most important step. You haven’t really answered the question, “What is it?” You think you did in the shower this morning. But there’s more to this answer that’s required. I used to make this mistake. Until you have one simple phrase that answers the who, what, and why of your idea you haven’t really answered the question.
Fully Answering the Who, What, and Why
Every time you talk about your new project “What is it?” will be the first question you’ll have to answer. It’s important you get the answer right. The answer to the question will be the description of your idea and should touch on the why and who in addition to answering the what.
Take a stab at writing the answer as soon as you come up with an idea. Write whatever comes to mind first. You’ll probably find that it isn’t as easy as you thought. Your first attempts at answering the question probably sound awkward upon reading them.
“A site for buying and selling your profiles on location-based services so users can purchase badges, mayorships, etc.”
How about this?
“A marketplace of mayorships to popular venues for location-based junkies”
It’s a start, it answers the three w’s, but could be improved. In the process of evolving the description you’re going to be forced to think about your target audience, the value proposition, and other specifics of the site. You’re not going to get the perfect description on day 1. Allow yourself to keep coming back to it early on in development. But make sure you have a working description before you do anything else.
Practice Makes Perfect
At a recent Startup Weekend event I used this tactic with a team to help them better define their project. Before jumping into feature development we spent 15 minutes on the description. Each team member spoke their description of the project. We quickly realized we all had a slightly different concept of the startup. A single description started to form out of us discussing it. The pieces started to fit together and before long we had a description we all liked. In the process we focused the scope of the concept and got everyone on the same page. The description was written in big letters on the whiteboard. It could then be used throughout the weekend to check if the team was still on target or to reign in a feature debate.
Writing a description for my own startup, Talentopoly.com, was one of the best things I did. For months I didn’t have one. The site lacked focus. I didn’t have a full understanding of who my target audience was and why they’d use my site. Writing the description caused me to re-target the site and it’s a big reason why the site has attracted users.