Evan Williams is one of those many entrepreneurs that I admire. Well, he is one of the team behind two hugely successful web applications – Blogger and Twitter. Here, I’m going to re-phrase and re-think over one of his recent article – Will it fly? How to Evaluate a New Product Idea (original at http://evhead.com/2007/12/how-to-evaluate-new-product-idea.asp).
Evan goes deep with the following points;
- Personally Compelling
He finally charts out a table of some of the most popular Internet Applications/Products to make it easier to bring home his points.
It will be a folly to review or analyze or even negate the points of such a successful entrepreneur. So, for my own satisfaction, let me phrase out some excerpts from the article which have made me re-think many of my own wild ideas.
Tractability is partially about the technical difficulty and much about timing and competition — i.e., How advanced are the other solutions? Building a new blogging tool today is less-tractable because the bar is higher. Building the very first web search engine was probably pretty easy. Conversely, building the very first airplane was difficult, even though there wasn’t any competition.
I’m not sure if it is gifted to just the smarter people, but hitting the right timing and momentum is one of the hardest things while working on a product idea, developing it and pushing it to the users. You’re are either too early or always late with the “Oh! I was thinking of that but I think I’m late now” moments. Or perhaps, one would learn after a heap-lot of failures and mistimings.
Most of your ideas seem obvious until you realize it isn’t that obvious with the users. You feel that your idea is kick-ass until you realize it is unclear to the users!
The key question for evaluating an idea is: Is it obvious why people should use it? In most cases, obviousness in this regard is inversely proportional to tractability. The cost of Blogger and Twitter’s high tractability was the fact that they were defining a new type of behavior. The number one response to Twitter, still, is why would anyone do that? Once people try it, they tend to like it. But communicating its benefits is difficult. We’re heartened by the fact that Why would anyone do that? was the default response by the mainstream to blogging for years, as well, and eventually tens of millions of people came around.
As Evan says, there are indeed common ideas that are highly tractable and obvious, like Personals, dating applications, which is so obvious of being a great business proposition. However, from Internet history, we know that there are only a very few which are successful despite the humungous number of Personals related applications that we’ve seen since the beginning of the Internet.
This is one of those areas where, if you’re few and small in number, don’t really want to venture initially. The deeper the concept, the longer it will take; the longer it takes, you become more and more tired and tend to give up mid-way. I’m pretty sure most of the Applications that are deeper now started off small, shallow and its depth increases with the need and demand for features.
Of course, one would like their products/apps are widely used and adopted by as many users as possible. However, there are niche products or apps that are targeted for a smaller fraction of the users and are apt for just those few users.
Here is another excerpt from Evan’s article;
Like deepness, wideness can take you by surprise. The web is getting so damn big, what seem like niche ideas can be very decent businesses. Sometimes, you can find a spot that is both deep and wide. This is where multi-billion-dollar businesses are built: Google, Windows, Ebay. It’s easy to think these kinds of opportunities aren’t laying around anymore — at least not for the little guy. But most people would have said the same before Facebook entered the picture.
Different ideas lend themselves to different discoverability strategies. Some things are more difficult than others to spread. Dating sites, for instance, have not historically been viral, because people weren’t going to invite their friends to — or even talk much about — their personal ads. The sites made up for this by buying lots of ads, which worked because they monetized signups via subscription.
Successfully spreading your product’s reach through “viral” methods are mostly out of luck and some through experienced “viral” marketing strategies. This is something which I’m personally most intrigued by and something which I’ve no clue where it should start and/or end.
Of course, if you know a way to earn money out of your Product, it’s definitely a plus point. However, it is rather common, especially among new entrepreneurs and developer-turned entrepreneurs to sideline the business point of earning money for a later date. We always believe if a product or an application is successful, there will always be a way to make money.
Yeah! It is better off being involved in a product developed in which you feel like using it and is proud to introduce the product to your friends, family, and relatives.
Great products almost always come from someone scratching their own itch. Create something you want to exist in the world. Be a user of your own product. Hire people who are users of your product. Make it better based on your own desires.
However, “personally compelling” doesn’t have to mean only that you want it as a user yourself. Curing cancer or helping the world be more green may be highly personally compelling for other reasons, which I think is just as good. My favorite products are those I really want as a user, but that I also think has some “greater good.”