Productive Paranoia = Good

July 31st, 2009

Curiously enough, what got Segway into this problem was that the company was itself a kind of Segway. It was too easy for them; they were too successful raising money. If they’d had to grow the company gradually, by iterating through several versions they sold to real users, they’d have learned pretty quickly that people looked stupid riding them. Instead they had enough to work in secret. They had focus groups aplenty, I’m sure, but they didn’t have the people yelling insults out of cars. So they never realized they were zooming confidently down a blind alley.

Paul Graham, YCombinator

My take:

paranoid

– I agree, raising “too much” capital for an idea is poison. Having to do a lot with a little instills discipline, and forces one to be uber-resourceful, razor focused, and quite frankly a little paranoid :) I’m extremely lucky to have mentors like David who have drilled this mantra into my head. We achieved a lot with little at both Lookery and Compete.com, and now Shareaholic.

– Iterative design is the way to go. All of us that create applications for which we can push updates and upgrades at-will at not much cost are blessed. Criminal not to take advantage of this gift.

– Focus groups? Community Managers (= everyone in the company) should be curating the feedback loop from in the field – talking to real users, asking them how we can improve our products, create the most value for them, and knock down the most roadblocks in the process — in short, make their lives easier.

Users first, always.


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