Throw yourself out of the plane door

John Moody posted up a question on the Business of Software forums asking if a product idea he has – a hosted error logging and reporting service – is worth pursuing. The general consensus was that it wasn’t.

Screw the naysayers.

Starting a company is like skydiving*. The hard part isn’t falling through the air, opening the parachute or even landing. It’s throwing yourself out of the airplane.

Sure, talk to some potential customers, investigate the competitors and minimise the risk, but at some point you need to throw yourself out of the plane door.

The odds are you won’t land where you thought you would. Red Gate’s first product was a bug tracking system; Bill Gates’s and Paul Allen’s was Traff-O-Data; Joel Spolsky and Michael Pryor started Fog Creek as a consulting business; Apple started off selling hand-built motherboards.

And you’ve always got a reserve chute if things don’t go as you hoped. You’ll have more scars, skills and experience and be even more employable than you were before.

*Not that you’d ever get me to skydive.

7 responses to “Throw yourself out of the plane door”

  1. Eugene says:

    I started 9 years ago (in 1999). Launched 3 completely different commercial products (text editor, couple of games) at different times and only 7 years later (2006) did I have my first success in selling.
    It has been very demotivating at some stages during these years (especially after spending at least half a year developing each product and then seeing no result within the next year). The only thing that kept me going was seeing other people succeed. If that person is a close relative or a friend – there is some much you can learn easily.
    Neil is right, there are some things you can do to minimise the probability of being disappointed. And it’s not just focus groups and competitors. Using Google tools to investigating the demand is now easier than ever!
    Had I had the knowledge of the techniques and the power of these tools – I could have arrived there much earlier.
    Not failing in the beginning (e.g. being successful with a first product) can make you blind and puts you at risk in the future. Have you worked hard enough to earn your success?

  2. Well said Neil. I remember talking to many people before we launched our first product (surprise! a bug tracking system), and I doubt anyone gave us a chance in hell. WHY would you go into a saturated market they said.
    I bet they won’t be saying that any more 🙂

  3. John Moody says:

    Wow, did I stir up a ruckus or what?
    It’s funny – the first round of commenters on my original thread at the BoS forum were generally of the “I wouldn’t use it” variety. But keep scrolling down; the comments soon migrate into “what if you do this” land, and the idea begins to take on some steam
    I’m off to strap on my chute now… 🙂

  4. Market research

    Neil Davidson encourages a poster on Joel Spolsky

  5. Could not agree more.
    I like the skydiving metaphor, but it’s a bit tricky. With startups, unlike skydiving, if things don’t “quite work out”, you’ll more than likely walk away. In skydiving, no so much.

  6. Dharmesh,
    The metaphor definitely isn’t perfect. I considered using jumping off the 10m diving board where the worst that can happen is a belly flop but that didn’t seem as much fun.

  7. John Moody says:

    That’s why you have a reserve chute, Dharmesh. In my case, my business is totally self funded by my consulting work, so if the product doesn’t pan out, that’s no big deal – I just keep serving my clients! (And since I’m scratching my own itch, I’ll use my product even if no one else does!)