Doing too much will kill you

One of the first really important lessons we’ve learned while developing StudioTalker is that focus is what makes for a successful startup business. We’ve spent hundreds of hours re-inventing the wheel, trying to create our own top-to-bottom infrastructure in-house, and it’s been killing us.

When I first had the idea for StudioTalker, I thought it would be simple. A month (maybe six weeks) of coding by myself and it would all be easy. I’d have a sparkling, all-singing all-dancing, and most importantly fully functioning product that I could start doing real world tests on.

Eleven weeks in and we’re only just starting to make real progress. I realise now, that not only were my estimates and expectations totally nonsensical, but that my approach was too.

StudioTalker’s value as a product doesn’t lie in the low-level mundane infrastructure that I wasted (as in pointless, will never get it back) approximately a month trying to construct. Given another month, maybe two, I’d probably get that down; but that’s time that I just don’t have.

As a tech startup, the number one priority at all times must be to ship. It’s a race; only in this one, the tortoise doesn’t stand much of a chance. The best way to win Formula 1 is to reduce weight, improve handling and streamline the car. All of these things apply directly in business.

It’s a shame that it required the loss of a month of productivity to realise that, but it’s a learning curve. I never claimed to know everything before I started (even if my self-expectation required that), nor to have a crystal ball.

My approach is, unashamedly, to make it up as I go along. In doing so, I’ve learned a very important lesson the hard way. Hopefully in sharing this, you may avoid the same mistake and reserve more time for making others, for that is the nature of evolution.

Ben Langfeld 29 August 2010 Manchester, England