What if we have so many customers knocking down our door that we can’t support them all? What if our support is so bad, they never come back? We should build our company and technology for that day, just in case. This hypothesis keeps companies overbuilding their product for an eventuality that will probably never come. Most “overnight” successes take years to create, but this fear of too much success, persists.
The two most critical resources for a startup are time and cash. The more time you spend in building something, the less time you have for trying something else. If you spent too much time overbuilding a piece of technology, you lose out on the ability to build something of more value. Moreover, most technology development follows the 80/20 rule: The first 80% of functionality takes 20% of the time. The final 20% of polish takes 80% of the time.
Ultimately, I think this is what the mantra “Fail fast, fail often” is really about. It’s not so much about the value of failure itself, it’s about being willing to face the fear of shipping. It means putting out incomplete work and getting some experimental results, even if it means learning that you need to do something different. Once you get confirmation that you’re on the right path, that’s when investing and executing on the remaining 20% will pay off huge.