1 for $5, 5 for $20

If it wasn’t enough that last week Eric Ries told me to stop wasting my time today I read a brilliant response on Hacker News to a developer who was depressed about the lack of attention for his brilliant ideas.

You seem to have been terribly misled. Only very rarely do products sell themselves. 99% of the time, the product is largely incidental to the sales process. Your idea doesn’t matter one jot, what matters is how well you can connect to customers and really sell to them.Let me tell you about a fine English gentleman by the name of Joe Ades, now sadly no longer with us. Joe wore Savile Row suits and lived in a three-bedroomed apartment on Park Avenue. He spent most nights at the Café Pierre with his wife, sharing a bottle of his usual – Veuve Clicquot champagne. You might assume that Joe was a banker or an executive, but in fact Joe sold potato peelers on the street for $5 each, four for $20.

I urge you, I implore you, I beg you, stop what you’re doing and watch Joe in action – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCUct4NlxE0

That is what business looks like. Sometimes, once in a million, you luck upon a product so amazing the world beats a path to your door. For most of us, the best we can hope for is to be some chump with a thousand boxes of vegetable peelers. Anybody can sit out on the street with a box of peelers, but Joe sold them. Joe made his peelers sing, he made them seem like magic. He took a humble piece of stamped metal and created theatre. He did something so simple and strange and wonderful that people would buy a fistful of his peelers, just so they could tell their friends about this little Englishman they saw in Union Square.

Look at the Fortune 500, tell me what you see. I see grocery stores, drugstores, oil companies, banks, a funny little concern that sells sugar water. I see a whole lot of hard work and very few great ideas.

Forget about striking it big with a great idea, it’s just as childish and naïve as imagining that the tape you’re recording in your garage is going to make you a rockstar. Get out there and talk to customers. Find out what they need, what annoys them, what excites them. Build the roughest, ugliest piece of crap that you can possibly call a product. If you’re not ashamed of it, you’ve spent too long on it. Try and sell it. Some people will say “I’m not buying that piece of crap, it doesn’t even do X”. If X isn’t stupid, implement X. Some people, bizarrely, will say “yes, I will buy your piece of crap”. It is then and only then that you are actually developing a product. Until you’ve got a customer, it’s just an expensive hobby. Paying customer number one is what makes it a product.

The video of Joe Ades is amazing, I want to buy a potato peeler right now, but that last paragraph is the advice. Build it, get it out, talk to you customers and add the features that they need. Thanks jdietrich, whoever you are.

So, if you are reading this, if you’re a game developer, if your team are unhappy because localizing your game is wasting their time and their energy then drop me an email dave@codeampilfier.com and I can help you.

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