Ninety Days

Aside from a bit of snark, I’ve kept mostly quiet about this year’s indie developer snafus. It’s not really my place to tell you how to run your business, but I can share some things I have done that I have found to be successful.

When Jared told me last year he was going independent and planning to work on an RSS app for the iPhone, he asked me for some advice. I gave him the same advice I give anyone who is striking it out on their own.

Do not spend more than ninety days on your 1.0.

Jared spent approximately 365 days on his, so I apparently give crummy advice! But, there’s a reason I told him this (and anyone else that would listen). 3 months is a quarter of the year. When you are bootstrapping a company and don’t have much cushion to fall back on, every decision counts. You could argue its far more risky than playing with some venture capitalist’s funny money.

Ninety days is a good amount of time to get a semi-polished 1.0 out in the world, especially in mobile. It won’t have every feature that you wanted to ship, but it will be out there and either be validated or invalidated by the buying public.

Best case scenario, people find your product, start using it, and (most importantly) recommending it to others. Now you’re generating revenue and your customers are funding your work adding those missing features and putting those extra bits of polish in your UI.

Worst case scenario, people don’t find your product, you make a couple hundred bucks, and you’re in debt for the project. This is the most likely statistical outcome at this stage. Would you rather find this out after 3 months or 6 months (or a year)? Ninety days.

If the product bombs, you’ve burned 3 months of the year on the project, but there’s still 9 more months to try and find something that will stick with consumers. Kill the old product. Start a new one. Move on.

The notion that you have to build this perfectly polished 1.0 in 2014 is poor advice. I like to reduce the amount of risk I take on in business. Taking four swings at the fences a year to find a new business is way less risky than trying to take just one.

Don’t ship junk. Just don’t bother spending weeks or months polishing something that users may not even care enough to buy.