Ship Web 2.0 Features Early, and Don’t Fear User Hatred, Investor Dave McClure Tells Dogpatch Labs Audience

3/16/10Follow @xconomy

“Ship early, ship buggy,” was the advice San Francisco-based Web 2.0 investor Dave McClure gave to his audience at Cambridge, MA’s Dogpatch Labs last week.

“The world is filled with products that shipped too late,” he continued. One example? The online budget-tracking service, Mint.com, a company McClure invests in along with other sites such as online jobs portal Simply Hired and TeachStreet, a Seattle-based website that connects students and teachers. McClure said that Mint delayed in delivering its products because of concerns with security and its features, rather than focusing on the fact that no one else out there was providing what it did. (In the end this didn’t seem to hurt the company, which was acquired last fall by Intuit.)

But what if the product is messy and users hate it? That’s OK, said McClure, who runs the Founders Fund seed-stage investment program FF Angel and publishes the blog “Master of 500 Hats.” The worst–case scenario would be customers who don’t care at all. “Hate is a good discovery signal,” he says. “If people hate something you’ve done, guess what? You’ve found something that matters. Haters are good.”

Too many startups get trapped in the linear cycle of developing a feature, shipping it out, and starting the process all over again without ever stopping to measure or reflect on the customer experience and conversion metrics around the first feature. Companies should continually be examining whether an existing feature improves user experience, rather than focusing on getting the next one out, says McClure, who launched Simply Hired and ran marketing at PayPal from 2001 to 2004. Dogpatch, created by Polaris Venture Partners, and David Cancel, CEO of web marketing startup Performable, hosted McClure’s lunchtime presentation. Polaris principal Jon Lim said after the event that the firm is working to further cross-fertilization of ideas between its bi-coastal communities, which also include San Francisco and New York.

McClure, who spoke later the same night at an MIT Enterprise Forum event on early-stage funding, counseled his audience of more than 100 to go home and immediately kill a feature (most Web startups have too many anyway, he says). Once users start complaining about the removal of a feature, that’s the one companies should really focus on improving and bringing … Next Page »

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