These days, I find myself pondering on the next article to write on. At first, I wanted to write about best practices to utilize during rate limiting. I was going to write about different ways to implement rate limiting using Node Js and then buttress on the limitations of each approach.
On second thought, I realised I wasn’t doing anything new, as much as I wanted to sound new and different, these things exist already and even if I end up convincing my readers that I have a world-best approach to it, it still wasn’t new.
Then something hit me, is there anything new under the sun in 2020? Aren’t we all just re-inventing the wheel?
On a much deeper thought, I realised the most successful products we use today,- talk of Facebook, Instagram, Paystack were not new ideas. It was simply a mix of different ingredients ranging from providing new ways to do old things, evolving themselves, to right positioning and even sheer luck.
So, what point am I trying to make? No point actually, just trying to say some things you know but probably don’t realise.
It is about the right moment and can you recognise it?
Back then in school, my head of department would say open your mind. While I have attached a personal meaning to it, only he can say what he truly meant.
Zuckerberg didn’t build a billion-dollar product just because of his coding skills. He wasn’t even the only one writing codes in the early 2000s. Kevin Systrom was not primarily a coder but he was able to build Instagram. However, he had to understand the moment in order to make Instagram a success.
So what is this moment, I’ll say it’s when you turn that minimum viable product into whatever it needs to be. It was the moment Kevin was speaking to his girlfriend and realised `you should probably add filters`. He needed to add filters to Instagram first before any other good thing could materialize. You probably know the Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss brothers story and how Zuckerberg realised the moment he needed to build Facebook. You should probably read it if you haven’t.
As if this is not enough, we still hear the story of a 17-year-old kid who turned down $8 million dollars to put ads on his coronavirus-tracking site which had over 30 million visitors. I would probably not turn that down (lol), but I am sure no coronavirus tracking website could gain as much as 30 million visitors today, maybe in the future. That is what I refer to as the moment.
Start with an MVP (minimum viable product)
Everyone wants to be the next Zuckerberg, the next Ezra and Shola. But where do we start, I’ll say start by building a MVP. MVP, a term coined by Frank Robinson in 2001, and popularized by Eric Ries through his book Lean Startup, the MVP has become a pillar of high-performing product teams all over the world. If you want to build a Facebook, you probably have to start by building Facemash, which simply helps people decide whose picture is hotter. Whenever I discuss ideas with people, all I hear is how they can add this and that complex feature which was going to blow out users’ minds. Of course, it’s going to blow out people’s mind, but just like smoke, that feeling would not last.
Then, you’ll become obsessed with how to add this and that feature until you give up. Simply start with a very simple solution, something basic — an MVP, then as you move on, you can make decisions.
If you’ve watched Silicon Valley like me, then you can’t help but ponder why Pied Piper failed. Even with their great idea of a new internet and an excellent algorithm in their palms, they still ended up a total failure. Well, one thing I couldn’t fail to note in the series was their obsession for making things complex. That was why a lot of users could not understand their product, hence they failed to recognize its power. In the long run, they could not gather active users.
Reinvent the wheel
In truth there is nothing wrong with reinventing the wheel, if you think you can make it better, stronger, faster, or different. Why not? If your passion is building fine racing cars, then use the wheels that are currently built and work best for the application for which you will be using said wheels.
During one of those moments where I take a log of successful products I know and try to understand what they are really doing, I noticed most of them are just reinventing the wheel. The only difference is that, while some are changing the colour, others are changing the alloy of the wheel.
Successful Fintech apps fall into these categories. Cowrywise, PiggyVest are simply doing the work of the thrift collectors. Thrift collectors have existed ever since the time of Jesus Christ.
Whenever I listen to podcasts about entrepreneurship, I notice how they are all about the same thing. I was listening to How I built this with Guy Raz yesterday and I realised all the successful hosts he interviewed were not doing anything new. They were simply putting old wines in new bottles. Ranging from how one built a million-dollar cosmetics company to how another gained a million customers in 6 months on her clothing line website. They were all reinventing the wheel
Solve a problem
This was supposed to be the first point but for some reasons, I decided to make it the last. While all has been said and done, you cannot build a successful product without providing a solution to a problem. Either you are reinventing the wheel or starting with an MVP, you still have to provide a solution to a problem. If you have a way of helping shopping malls detect shoplifters at sight, go for it.
I must admit that this is the most difficult aspect of building a successful product. It seems most people cannot find the problem to solve. Even the ones we find have existing solutions already.
Well, like Einstein, I’ll say try to understand the problem and the solution will emerge.
These are just my observations in footprints of successful products around us today. Many others will tell you differently, that is why I believe in the journey of a successful product, nothing works and everything works at the same time. It is similar to the idea of Schrodinger’s cat. The cat is both alive and dead.
Well, While I am yet to build my own product let alone become successful. I have learnt that you don’t have to be ready to start. In fact, do not wait to be ready, start as soon as you can. Someone once told me- any idea you have, at least a thousand other people have it. So why wait to be ready? You think Zuckerberg was the first person to build a social network? He couldn’t even wait to be done with school and be properly ready.