Monday, July 2, 2012

Lean Startup Machine Day 3

Strap yourself in... this is a bumpy one.

Yesterday night, we deployed a website late in the evening to test our hypothesis that experienced developers would sign up for an event where they'd work with startups on weekend-long projects to give both parties a chance to better evaluate one another. We wanted to try to get 20 experienced developers to sign up for the event by 10 am. The site was up and running quickly and we sought ways to promote it. Then came a huge mistake that we won't ever repeat and which we will share with others so they don't repeat it. After a verbal sign-off from someone we thought was associated with a particular brand, we added that brand's logo to our site to entice potential participants to sign up based on brand recognition. Looking back, it's hard to say why didn't further checks our facts before pulling the trigger. We really got caught up in the moment and let it blind us.

As today morning came around, we ramped up our marketing effort. We promoted as much as we could with a goal of hitting our target. In the end, we didn't make the bar and went back to analyze our next move. At this point, we realized that we had skipped a step by not interviewing developers first and finding out what their needs were. So our next hypothesis to test was that developers wanted to learn about and work at startups. But that's not nearly as noteworthy as what happened next.

I believe around 10:30am, we received a cease and desist call from the legal counsel of the company whose logo we had used. We immediately took the site down and started working on an apology to the involved parties. We knew we had messed up and wanted to do our best to undo any potential harm we had done to a brand we love. The right thing to do was to be open, honest, and sincere.

The ironic thing is that we probably would have had success if we had reached out to the company or a similar one through official channels to request a partnership. The test was also invalid since the result was driven by something we didn't have proper authorization to use and that would be difficult to replicate.

Before doing something, ask yourself whether you have checked all the facts appropriately. Use your good judgement and don't let your excitement or eagerness allow you to jump the gun. It's really just common sense.

This was a major failure, but we certainly learned from it. One thing I can assure you is that we will never make this mistake again. Our future judgements will be much better and we will share this experience with others to make sure they can learn from our mistake and won't repeat it.

Our sincerest apologies to everyone involved.