Newborns vs. a Startup’s First Product

Two folks in different Mastermind groups added newborns to their households in the last few months experiencing all of the joys and anxieties and frustrations and insights they bring. I thought it would be fun to compare a startup’s first product with a couple’s first child.

Newborns Vs. a Startup’s First Product

Smiling Little Boy: Newborns are (not) like a Startup's First Product

A baby can open up a whole new world for you. Starting at 2 o’clock in the morning.
John Drybred

As the two entrepreneurs are settling in to life in a household with an infant–a truly wonderful tiring scary delightful time–I thought it would be useful to put a short comparison table together of the difference between newborns and new products.

Comparing Newborns and a Startup’s First Product
Newborn New Product
Preparations Before
Ship Date
There is a lot of preparation required and many things get left undone.  Some turn out to be
unnecessary and least one or two prove critical and require quick thinking and improvisation.
Ship Date Rarely arrive more than two weeks after schedule
and can arrive one to three months early.
Rarely arrive less than two weeks late,
never arrive more than a few days early.
At Birth Everyone celebrates and congratulates you, but it gets harder from here.
First 3 Months After Wonderful when they sleep. Terrible if neither prospects nor customers
are calling.
Thoughts at 3AM
We got what we asked for, we should have been more specific.
It’s like arguing a car alarm, it doesn’t really help. Team may fall silent but it’s unlikely they
agree or will bring bad news in the future.
Debugging You cannot always figure out what’s wrong.
Problems Many are temporary and get better on their own. Require focused ongoing attention.
Sleep A full night’s sleep is hard to come by.
Adding Functions
Much happens naturally: e.g. talking and walking. Requires hard work and collaboration.
Surprises There are many surprises, some pleasant, some unpleasant, all educational.
Independence Most children exhibit a gradually growing and
effective independence, culminating in teenage
years when everyone is looking forward to full
Products never lose their dependence on the
development team although they can be
designed to support end user configuration
and customers may develop add ons.
Improvisation Flexibility and responding to feedback is as important as detailed planning before launch.
Changes Changes can happen both suddenly (e.g.
accidents, first words, teething, puberty) and
almost imperceptibly (e.g. growth, judgement)
Changes looks more like punctuated equilibrium,
where most features–and bugs–don’t make much
difference and a few have a significant impact.
“Behind the Scenes”
 People celebrate a product doing well or a baby growing but rarely see the amount of
“behind the scenes” work required.  This can lead to people underestimating
what is required and prematurely jumping into either starting a family or a business.

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Photo Credit: Amber McNamara “Smiling Little Boy

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