Showing the public your product for the first time

You're pretty sure people want your product. You're pretty sure you've made a good product. You're finally at the point where you're pretty sure it's ready to be seen.

Now what?

Well, you have to show it to someone sometime. But it's scary! You've been pouring your energy in to your product for the past x months. Despite all you've done to make sure you're not going to be hated (or worse, ignored), your mind is screaming doubts at you. That's ok. It's normal.

Current wisdom in startup space says that you should be building your audience from day 1. This usually invloves an email signup on your frontpage, communities you've started engaging with. So by the time you're ready for a beta you should have an idea of who you're going to show. 

I didn't. I dived in to There's My Bus before I even started reading The Lean Startup. So.. oops. That's ok. It's ok to suck, that's how you learn.

I was clueless. As a long time bus catcher I was building the app I'd always wanted. TransLink's site isn't fun to use. There's no app. I was pretty sure others would (and, I hope, will) want what I'm making.

Over the last few months I've been scrambling to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. I'm a developer, I love making awesome stuff, but getting people to notice it? Marteting!? No way! At best I had a vague idea that a blog was a good thing to have. I didn't have one, because I could happily convince myself that I had coding to do. Which was true, but if I'm to be honest with myself I was chosing that because it kept me nice and cozy inside my comfort zone.

Building for your own pain is a great place to start... but not validating your market is very risky. Being "pretty sure" based on assumptions is often the precursor to wasted effort.

So, learning all this too late led me to have some reservations. I tried to make up for it somewhat by getting some feedback from family and friends, but they're not really the most likely to tell you if your product sucks. Most likely you'll get a bunch of vague "oh hey that's really cool" type messages and very little validation for your idea.

Anyway. I resolved to suck it up, get out the minimal set of features that would make TMB better than TransLink's NextBus, and post it to /r/Vancouver (where I've been enjoying a slew of amazing pics and transit related tales). I've been a redditer for a long long time so it was the perfect place to test the water.

I had some reservations - that's the first time anyone has seen There's My Bus outside of my small circles.

Leading up to the post I was half expecting to be slammed for any number of things. There was still a bunch of stuff I'd have loved to include beforehand, but I decided to keep the features as they were and spend my time polishing it up. The results of which were:

  • It worked well
  • I got it out there sooner

Those are more important than a few extra features. Bugginess would mean that noone would use it, and waiting any longer was not something I really wanted to do - I've had too little time to work on it as it is, more delays would have been awful.

And hey, I could tell myself that I had an MVP. It was a lie, because no MVP should, by definition, not take so damn long to make. But telling myself that eased some of my worries. I coud focus on my goals without being overwhelmed by the whole "launching" thing.

Speaking of which, my goals for that post were simple:

  • Make sure it works
  • Make sure people want it

So I posted it. And.... I love /r/Vancouver. Seriously! The response blew me away. People liked it (yay) and it worked (mostly).

I still have a stack of tasks to get it ready for app stores. An icon, some content on the There's My Bus site, social pages, app store copy... And that's before the features I'd really love to add (based on some great feedback) before launch. 

And how much time to I have to do this? Not much, sadly. I'm dreaming of being able to devote myself to my own stuff. But for now, I've a 9-5 job and contract work to attend to. Bacon must be brought in.. 

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