Back in late October, I re-united with a few old friends of mine to participate in Rails Rumble. The Rumble is a developer competition that allots 48 hours to design, develop and deploy a web application of your choice — not dissimilar to Startup Weekend. Leatherbound was the result.
Within the first day of launching the site, we had over 11,000 unique visitors to the site, over 50,000 search queries and $7.79 in revenue… cha ching. What was initially started as a fun weekend project, turned out to be much more. Here’s what I learned about launching lean from that caffeine filled weekend.
Simplicity WINS – When you’ve only got 48 hours to develop an application, you’re forced to think simplistically. That was obviously the case with Leatherbound. You hit the site and have two options; type in a search query or check out one of the suggested searches. There’s no how it works pages, no tutorial videos, and especially no “request a demo” links. I learned that people like simple. They like using a site that allows them to be fluent right away. When you’re launching lean, there’s a concept of an MVP, or minimum viable product. This was our MVP. Of course we would’ve loved to add additional features like price drop alerts, wish list, and the like, but launching with the core functionality allowed us to test the concept, without any wasted time.
Revenue Models DO Exist – Weird, I know. Luckily we picked an idea that allowed us to monetize right away, but there’s a valuable lesson there. It is possible to generate revenue right away (for those of you that didn’t pick up on it, we’re monetizing through referral links). In an industry full of VC funding, we tend to forget that money matters. After this weekend, I realized that there’s more to web 2.0 than the simple goal of building a userbase. Monetization is important and very much possible.
Press = Kick Ass Product + A Good Story – You don’t have to be a PR professional to crack that equation. It’s simple, if you have a good product with some remanence of an interesting story, you’ll get covered. From our fun little weekend project we picked up articles in Wired, TechCrunch, Lifehack
Keep Good People Close – I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t do business with people you can’t trust. There are few people you meet in your life that you truly trust and respect. Luckily, I’ve been able to find a pretty good group of people that fall into this category. The three guys that I worked with on Leatherbound definitely fit that description. It’s important to remember how valuable those people are to you. Keep good people close.
Some Final Words – Experiences like this aren’t going to be picked up in a classroom. Don’t be afraid to get involved in projects like this. I’m far from a developer, yet I participated in a developer contest. It doesn’t matter what you do, there’s learning experiences in almost everything. Motion causes emotion… get moving.