Start-ups: the perils of launching early

There are good reasons for some start-ups to run in stealth mode for months or years of their early existence.

I was reminded of a few as I was reading Chris Maxcer’s review of Joost for the iPhone. Check out this gem, about the desktop version:

I had briefly used Joost’s client-side Mac video viewing application in its early days, back when Joost had very little content … then forgot about it.

The dilemma is harsh: you want to launch as early as possible to:

  • start the buzz machine
  • stake your claim to the space
  • tantalize current and potential investors
  • maybe, possibly, potentially, hopefully start to pull in some small amount of revenue
  • and, of course, reassure your mother that you have a real job, actually work, have prospects, and aren’t aimless, drifting, shiftless, and just too stubborn to admit it

But the problem is obvious: launching too soon can blow your buzz as users eat your dogfood and throw up … never to arrive at your dinner table again.

That’s exactly what happened to Chris. In this case, however, Joost is lucky enough (and, frankly, has enough market momentum) to warrant a second look – occasioned by the release of their app on a new platform: the iPhone.

The question is: have they learned their lesson? Apparently not, as Maxcer reports:

The 1,813 reviews on the Apple App Store seem to agree with me: Joost has lots of promise but it fails miserably. The average rating is two stars. Many users, though, noted that they were basically waiting for a non-buggy updated version from Joost.

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