JFSI – Just F***ing Ship It

The Return of Hephaestus to Mount Olympus

Hello Interwebs! This one’s going to be salty. I have worked with *many* product folks and I’ve met my fair share of fledgling entrepreneurs – from the “Would you like to develop my app” idea folks, to ones with serious execution chops. And I gotta say… it’s getting a bit much don’t you think?

When we were starting Tyk – our open source API Gateway – startup accelerators, entrepreneurship courses, and the wide unbundling of “making shit” weren’t really a thing. There was Y-Combinator, and maybe a handful of others in Europe like Seedcamp. That’s it.

Since then, “doing a startup” has turned into a multi-tiered, million-dollar industry of influencers, coaches, boot-camps, and courses that capture young talent, and propose to provide advice and “the right way to do things”. Don’t get me wrong, if you can get good advice when you start your project, it’s absolutely essential. However, just like being a writer, no amount of prep will really get you ready for a startup until you actually start one.

With the folks that I’ve come across and spoken to, the sheer degree of baggage they carry to try and alleviate doubt and risk is astonishing. There seems to be this entire threshold of would-be-entrepreneurs that do nothing but validate ideas through vaporware-landing-pages and endless PowerPoint pitches of concepts and ideas.

Where did this attitude come from? I’ll tell you: from folks building publishing and coaching careers off the back of previous successes, with the implicit assuming that because they did it, they obviously did it right.

Karl Popper calls this attitude historicism, an observation that states how intelligent folk apply predictions of future behaviour, on historic events – usually to underpin some conceptual framework they have built (be it the free market for Adams, or political machinations of Plato). Economists, sociologists, political scientists, philosophers and more fall into this trap of building theories off the back of historic trends to fit a narrative they are selling.

On a more micro-level – at the personal level, it applies too – it’s a known fallacy called “the gambler’s fallacy” – when an individual erroneously believes that a certain random event is less, or more likely to happen based on the outcome of a previous event or series of events.

Now the gamblers fallacy is specifically for random events, but I would argue that starting a business – and the multitude of variables that go into just surviving the first year – is composed of a fantastic degree of random events.

Or, more plainly – dumb luck.

It simply can’t be underestimated how much luck plays in hitting your stride as a startup – the right people, the right customers with the right timing, in the right market with something that you can sell, that you know how to make. Let’s not forget the ability to even take the risk – do you have six months of savings to fall back on? Mommy and daddy to bail you out? A cash-out from a previous company? What’s going to keep the lights on while you toil?

Luck is everywhere in this business.

Overall, when it comes to innovation and risk, my real issue is that the prevailing “startup advice” of test-adjust-repeat-pitch (but never build), traps talented people in a fearful loop of endlessly validating their ideas without actually making anything, and without actually evaluating how they can even “do the startup” without help.

An idea is worthless without execution. Explaining or marketing vaporware is not execution – It’s over-promising and never delivering – and it’s not taking into account the real world of you simply needing to survive.

A product isn’t ever truly tested until it is tested by your buyers. All the advice, coaching, and boot-camps in the world won’t change that.

At some point you need to take the plunge… and here’s my blunt advice: Just f***ing ship it.

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