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Service vs. product startup

wisdom about making great apps

2013-04-08, 01:59:51-2014-05-12, 09:23:35

Service-oriented startup #

sweat, work and marketing

Service startups are all about lean methodologies and aquiring community. For example Edukami, Facebook, Trello are all service oriented startups and their scope is a lot more different than the product-alternatives. For comparison to Facebook check app.net (the other comparisons I will leave to you).

  • Community

Most of the times we didn't build a web app - we build community. A community that is living and thriving while you build your service. That's why I focused to feed the community because it's hungry for more information regarding the service and everything around it. This community building is hard, takes a lot of effort and time and sometimes you end up with something you didn't quite expected because everything is constantly changing.

  • Ever-evolving

Everytime when I think about service-oriented startup I end up with thinking how the service will be 6 months from now or 1 year, in order to preserve and maintain a mid-long term mission. This sometimes can be exhausting and anti-agile but is necessery evil when you're building something that will "stay". Because it is evolving there's no versioning (do you know what version of Facebook you're using? :P) and the application is living.

  • A lot of errors

When building a service startup I think you should need to be prepared for a shit load of errors because of the ever-evolving nature. If you are building a product you easily can submit a hotpatch 

  • Large scope

Frequently I try to avoid out-thinking what can become if the community release it's wisdom upon Edukami but when I think about these things I realise that Edukami has such large scope that I can't even traverse it in my mind. This large scope can be a suicide for the mind because you lose precious time trying to out-think every possible realisation of your service startup.

  • Just release

I've read http://gettingreal.37signals.com/ and http://37signals.com/rework/ and for some things I agree with them - just realease. This state of the mind is crucial when building a community and fearsome when trying to build a product.

  • It's all about the movement

In order to build a community I need to establish a tribe, people who believe in the idea. This is different from the early adopters you can see in product-oriented startup who will just write a review or something. Creating a movement can be colossal in terms of magnitude - it can start small and grow exponentially. So when building service-oriented startup I want to 

Product-oriented startup #

pain,horror and uncertainty

Product startups are all about MVP and focusing how to get v1.0 while people buying the beta.

  • Pin-point a problem

When I start or become part of product-oriented startup I always think about what problem we're solving and how to reach from point A (realising the problem) to point Z(making  something final to beat the problem). This final stage can be sometimes tangled not only to solve the problem but to create other alternatives or make different solutions for something completely new (check out Google Glass). But most of the time I try to make it from point A to point Z which is a direct contrast to the Ever-evolving methodology in the service-oriented startup.

  • Salesforce

Building something "complete" is hard. But once we did that we can focus only on "selling" it, because everything is done(just bug fixing is left). So that's why I think for a product to be sucessful you should need somekind of salesforce mechanic. While for a service you need a strong and vibrant tribe.

  • B2B or B2C

No matter what I am doing with the product there's always big uncertainty (while with the service-oriented startup you have room for errors and you're bringing along community which has its own momentum). The horror is realising that your product is no longer needed (doesn't matter if its B2C or B2B). That's a big pain which if you don't have community can be devastating. When a service-oriented startup realises the same it doesn't matter because it has community of users :) (for referrence see google+ and diaspora)

  • Releasing

When releasing a product I want it to be in somekind of established buzz. Not just like the "just release" paradigm of service-oriented startup. I want the product to be awaited. For edukami we have done a silent launch before the actual launch, while 

  • Starting the next product

In my opinion this is probably the most noticeable thing as a difference between service vs. product startups. In product you have a development lifespan of let's say 1 year and then you hang out the relay to the next team

The verdict #

Altought nowadays these differences are melting into something unified, I think that it is essential of how someone is viewing his startup - this is showing a lot of his characteristics just like in a game of chinesse Go: you can learn more when observing the person who's playing (is he mindful of the battle or of the war?)

There's no clear winner in terms of how to approach and build your startup. I think mix-matching your mindset with both methodologies is so far the best decision to make. For me it is too stressful to think for something as a service because that is implying a lot of hard work but I neglect thinking of something only as a product with no soul :)

The best thing I'm doing is to approach building a startup one week in the form of a product and the next as a service.

There is more wisdom around the web like this one which is exploring the service vs. product subject from different perspective.

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