When I was young, single digits young, I had one of those sweet domino sets. I’m not talking about a set of proper black and white dominos, oh no. I mean one of those play sets that contain not only multi-coloured dominos, but also ramps and other gadgets that allow you to build up an elaborate domino display and then knock it down, allowing for the short lived and simple pleasure of trashing everything you’ve built with a single push.
When working with the leaders of new software projects, the term MVP (minimum viable product) has become almost ubiquitous. When a term reaches that point, its meaning inevitably becomes misinterpreted, diluted, or outright abused. Working on your MVP can feel like trying to mold Jjello with your hands these days.
I like to talk about what your first, or next, domino is. Momentum is key with an early business. What is the smallest first domino that we can stand up and push that will get us moving well? That first domino should strive to be a complete experience for your customers. This is not about the grand technology palace you’re excited to build someday; this is about having some hustle, engaging with your market, and building early traction.
So what is your first domino? It may be acquiring a first paying customer, gaining the interest of a certain investor, proving that this end customer will transact on a subscription model, etc.
Another way to think about defining your first domino is by using “IF this THEN that” statements.
IF we acquired 10 paying customers, THEN I’d quit my job and jump into running this full time
IF 5 customers will pay on our subscription model, THEN I will have an investor lined up.
IF we can pre-sell this to 20 enterprise customers, THEN I will fund building the next version of our product.
In the early days you have to make near perfect decisions about what you build on the software side. If your budget is small, you need to build traction and prove your business model quickly. As you determine what your first domino is, do your best to approach it with the goal of creating a complete user experience. You need to think more about your end users and your business rather than technology. Don’t get lost choosing your first domino from a purely technology perspective.