Marko Anastasov wrote this on January 22, 2013

First thoughts after mentoring startups

Last week I was invited by Vukašin Stojkov to mentor attendees of the Startup Academy in Belgrade. The Academy is a unique two-month long program for people and teams that are starting a new tech business. The course is made of talks by regional entrepreneurs who’ve “been there and done that”, hands on workshops (eg on front-end or Android development) and mentoring sessions. It is an extremely valuable initiative for the local tech startup scene in Serbia, which is in early development.

I was positively surprised that most teams have begun implementing their idea already. The stage of course varies: while some are still working on a viable strategy based on an interesting concept, some teams are not far from launching the full MVP.

While discussing their MVP, most of the people I have spoken with have had an a-ha moment, usually after a suggestion on how to do less. Wanting to do many things is a common fallacy for first-time product makers, caused by underestimation of the scope of the execution that is required.

Even properly shipping a tiny open source library - including readable code, clear and extensive documentation, announcements - and iterating more versions after that, while talking to its users, is a big undertaking, and a nice lesson that is easily accessible for programmers to take.

When working on the MVP, there is not just the question of limiting the scope of an idea, but also figuring out if the idea is right for you in the first place. If the product is such that it cannot grow organically, but requires a kind of a sales process that you don’t have yet a remote idea how to conduct effectively, succeeding is going to be tough.

Your product cannot be bigger than you; it can grow only as you do. The less experience your team has in shipping products, the smaller your first steps should be. If you are describing your business idea in eight sentences, pick a detail that fits in one sentence. Start with a micro app to test the waters, and yourself. Overnight success takes years. It’s a long and wonderful journey.

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About Marko Anastasov

Rendered Text co-founder. Started with code, currently more focused on people and words. Foosball striker and entry-level cyclist.

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