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I changed my mind about the market launch of one of the startups we are accelerating. I thought about pushing the launch date slightly because I wanted to launch it perfectly. Despite my experience of being an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, I almost fell into the trap of delaying the launch. It happens to every entrepreneur. You focus on launching that perfect launch. I guess we all, deep down in our entrepreneur subconscious mind, are looking for that perfect storm.
The perfect launch correlates to making that perfect product, that perfect version of your software app, that perfect book where there are no typos, or that perfect ____________________, (please fill in the blank because I know you have done or tried to do the same).
This is different than the concept of feature creep, because you’re not adding more features. Instead, you’re trying to make the features you have become even more perfect. Or, you’re trying to make sure all your marketing and publicity efforts are set in place perfectly.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to achieve perfection in your products and services. I am all for it. But when it comes to launching them into the marketplace, I really don’t believe there is such a thing as the perfect launch. You can always do better no matter how perfectly you launch something.
Look — I've launched a lot of products and startups in my life. As an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, I have never seen a perfect launch. There is always something that will go wrong or some element of the launch that you could have done better. And if you’re a perfectionist like me, you'll notice imperfections that others won’t — and you won’t be happy with yourself because you made the errors.
Your launch of the startup, product, service, idea, etc. takes time and preparation. Unlike some of the other business development processes, there is uncertainty associated with the level of success of a launch. If you want to execute a perfect launch where everything goes gangbusters, everything has to be like a perfect storm.
Oh, yeah — if you have not seen the film The Perfect Storm, don’t waste your time. I hated this movie because it wasted my time. Everyone dies during the perfect storm, so you could say that I don’t like bad endings in films. The same applies to launching your idea.
You don’t want to have a bad startup launch, but by the same token I see too many entrepreneurs place too much emphasis on expecting a startup launch to be where everyone just opens their eyes and drops their jaws to the floor to say, “Wow, this is incredible. I must buy it.”
I know … I know … you most likely use Apple as an example of launching products successfully. But if you recall the initial launch of their iPad, it wasn’t received with enthusiasm. It was more like skepticism. Sure, Apple is better at launching products than most companies but they are not immune to having imperfect launches. Do you remember Newton?
Besides, perfect launches don’t guarantee sustainable success. Just look at the launch of Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning’s startup, Airtime. When I analyze their startup launch, it was one of the best launches I have seen in years. Sean and Shawn "went Hollywood, baby!" — by making it close to a perfect launch, with celebrities galore attending the event. It was a major extravaganza.
There is another way to make your launch a perfect launch.
I am going to speak from two sides of my mouth: there is a perfect way to launch a product. It’s not the big bang approach. It is doing it under the stealth mode, one customer at a time.
No. I am not crazy. This is the best way to do it because you need time to figure out your launch process. You could call it the launch before the launch — an alpha or beta startup launch. I don’t call it either of these names because it might make the potential customer feel like the product or service is not complete.
I call it the “stealth launch.” I guess you could say this is my commando style of a launch. You penetrate your market, one person at a time — until you get enough market traction and momentum to just “pop” out of nowhere with market momentum.
This is my favorite type of a startup launch because you don’t give direct and indirect competition any heads up that you have entered their territories. Make your stealth launch quietly. When you penetrate markets quietly, it is easier to conquer the enemy.
In Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter 1, Estimates there is a great sequence of verses that describes the best way to launch your startup, product or service. They are verses 17 — 27.
(V17) “All warfare is based on deception.
(V18) Therefore, when capable, feign incapacity; when active, inactivity.
(V19) When near, make it appear that you are far away; when far away, that you are near.
(V20) Offer the enemy a bait to lure him; feign disorder and strike him.
(V21) When he concentrates, prepare against him; where he is strong, avoid him.
(V22) Anger his general and confuse him.
(V23) Pretend inferiority and encourage arrogance.
(V24) Keep him under strain and wear him down.
(V25) When he is united, divide him.
(V26) Attack where he is unprepared; sally out when he does not expect you.
(V27) These are the strategist’s key to victory. It is not possible to discuss them beforehand.”
Launching products into the marketplace is similar to being a commando in a war. You have to learn to execute the launch of your attack with the least amount of resources, time and money.
The objective in any war, military or marketing, is to win the war with the least amount of resistance. You should think about doing the same. This is why I tell you to attack under stealth mode.
It is easier to win the mind of the customer when the enemy doesn’t even know you’re fighting for the heart, mind and satisfaction of the consumer needs they think they already own.
© 2013 entrepreneurdex
An entrepreneur and investor, with more than 25 years experience, he's worked with ventures in the technology, internet, media and publishing, entertainment, energy, and manufacturing sectors raising more than $300 million in capital for various companies and investing more than $50 million into startup and emerging ventures. He's sat on the boards of 11 companies, served as editor-in-chief of Futuredex, a private equity magazine. Follow Damir on Google+