The Biggest Decision

So we have been working  on Jernel with our small team since about November. It is now June. We thought v1 would have been completed by March and in reality it won’t be ready until at least next week – so essentially about 3 months behind what we expected. Like most startups we have been trying to deliver a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for v1 (a la Lean Startup philosophy). The reality is that we are delivering a lot more than an MVP. This has to do with a decision we made a long time ago about how we would architect our product platform.

Let me take a step back and explain.

Last year we had a working model of the Jernel offering and did some user testing which taught us a lot. Not only did we get a feel for what users valued and what they didn’t, we also got a pretty good qualitative feel for the appeal of Jernel. Now past experience has taught us not to overvalue user feedback in usability testing on how well a product will do, but this time was a little different because the sentiment was nearly unanimous and consistent. It has been the same since I have told or shown anyone about Jernel and how it works. I am sure many marketing purists will tell me I should not overweight this feedback – but at this point in time (before we do our next set of user research) I still believe we have something special in development.

After we did the user research I also went to visit a few friends on Sand Hill road just to share with them what we were doing, get their feedback and start having them track our progress. By far the best piece of feedback we received was from a young VC partners at a major firm who suggested we horizontalize our offering and create add-in vertical solutions. This meant that instead of having unique offerings for each vertical to allow users to have a general version of our app and add ‘action packs’ as he called them for each area of interest to the user. “Otherwise you idea seems to narrow” he said. Several other good points were made that I hope to include in future posts.

The main benefit to creating a single product platform would be the ability to only need to acquire customers once and then retain them for life while they Jernel about all their interests in single location. This made a lot of sense given our learning from our first offering.

However, this feedback meant we would need to fundamentally change how we architected the product. Instead of separate instances of each vertical we needed to have a single platform with users would customize by adding the individual verticals that were right for them. This meant the set-up process was to be more complicated and user experiences needed to be adapted to toggle between verticals. It would also mean changing the paradigm the user would need to understand how the product worked. Net-net this added complexity and time to our development.
Now that we have an almost-ready for primetime product it is clear the decision to have a horizontal platform with vertical solution was the most important and best decision we have made so far for Jernel. Without making that choice it is likely we would have created our “start-up ceiling”, limiting our potential before we even started.