Fit and Finish

Originally written on 1.3.12

I wrote earlier about how we observed virtually unprecedented exponential growth from companies in the past few years and how some start-ups in the consumer world leveraged the concept of the ‘atomic unit’ or ‘trivial gesture’ to achieve this growth. We also observed another common characteristic or trend in apps/services that got early, rapid traction. These apps got their ‘fit and finish’ right from the get-go – they were impressively polished and did one or two things cleanly and elegantly. As Jack Dorsey would say, they tried to get every detail perfect and limit the number of details. Some of the companies who fall into this bucket (IMHO) are Batch, Orchestra, and Oink.

Looking back, this seems to make sense. Social media or “word-of-mouth” channels like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and others get your app out to literally millions of people within months or even weeks. Viral marketing and mechanics have become standard best practices. Notifications on phones have become the standard default. And for better or worse, these channels effectively act as amplifiers for the word-of-mouth zeitgeist. If your product doesn’t doesn’t have the right ‘fit and finish’ or is deficient in some other way from day one, then you will hear about it quickly and loudly.

When Google launched “Google Talk” back in 2004-2005, it seemed easier to field-test publicly. You didn’t have to get your ‘fit and finish’ down tight. There was a relatively small number of people online (compared to today) and the ‘word-of-mouth’ channels discussed above weren’t as robust and stable (or didn’t even exist, in most cases). You could launch a rough product; iterate; update + tweak; iterate; etc. without damaging lash back. You could stay in Beta forever. It’s not clear you can do that anymore, and some companies who experienced exponential growth in 2011 demonstrated the power of getting the important details right from day one.