Perfection is The Enemy of Good Enough

This is the statement from Dave McClure’s speech given at Global Innovation Conference Osaka in February. Take a few moments and see what the boss of 500 Startups had to say to Japan.

I completely agree with his overall speech and particularly liked the part where he described current status of Japan not being able to catch up with Silicon Valley and the rest of IT hubs in the world by saying “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.”

I saw many Japanese startups doing over-engineering or spending too much time for things that nobody cares. This happens a lot to the startups where majority of staff is over 40 years old. They tend to do thing in an old-fashioned way, meaning they bring another set of old people and old ideas to the company.

They do market research, hire external agency to create a fancy looking logo, spend a lot of efforts to make sure scalability and security are taken care of, and keep worrying about their product until they think it’s perfect.

The fact is none of these things matters if your products don’t sell. Most of the time, products don’t sell not because you didn’t do market research, a logo wasn’t looking pretty, or the system didn’t scale enough. It’s simply because you were building a thing that nobody wants.

During the initial phase of startup lifecycle, they are expected to verify their hypothesis is valid by putting a product in front of prospective customers as early as possible and see if people are willing to buy it. Only then move on to the next step which is polishing the product. Not the other way around.

A concept of Lean Startup is still uncommon here in Japan. However, if you are a startup founder and thinking about bringing senior people to your company for whatever reason, make sure you give them a Lean Startup book and ask what they understand from it. If responses are all negative, don’t hire them. If you do, not only they destroy your company culture, but also they start bringing more senior people to the company with similar mind set. This is the beginning of the end.

I also recommend that you give them Little Bets by Peter Sims and The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank if you really want to maximize degree of fitness for your candidates.