Showing posts from January, 2011

Top-down vs. Bottom-up product development

We were recently discussing a new feature for my new startup TheIceBreak that involves building functionality that has never been done before. In order to design it, we relied on a few assumptions that are difficult to validate without actually building the product.

This reminded me of the fundamental differences between dogfood-style (bottom-up) vs vision driven (top-down) product development, and the companies that follow them: Google vs Apple, and how this approach defines how products are built.

Google has a strong bottom-up culture and believes in being extensively data driven. All the products that are built at google go through extensive number-crunching and analysis before (except the 20% projects). It is very difficult for someone to justify a brand new product as there might not exist enough existing data to validate it. Also, someone who is a small contributor might not see the 'big picture' and help move the company in that direction.

Apple (or Facebook), on the ot…

Presentation Zen

Just finished reading the book 'Presentation Zen' by Garr Reynolds.

Its a really good book if you want to do an actual presentation, when you are the speaker on a podium and everyone else is listening.

The concepts in this book revolve strongly around keeping the 'deck' as simple as possible with heavy use of images, etc. The author also suggests that instead of adding more details on the presentation, there should be a separate handout.

This approach makes sense for one-way presentations to a large group of people, and there are some really good points made.

I find that this approach is not very useful while presentating to a smaller group of people whome you are more involved with, like a product review with the team. Such presentations involve a lot of discussion, and its good to have all the data cleanly presented. There are lots of charts and tables (though, less bullet points), which does not blend well with the style in this book. People also expect to be able t…

Pivoting + Startups

Pivot is one of the most overused terms in the startup world in 2010. The general thinking is that Pivoting is a good thing and founders are very proud to say that they have 'pivoted' X number of times for their current startup. I have seen funding pitches which even contain a slide on 'possible pivots', where the founders talk about how its easy for them to change their vision.

Having 'pivoted' my own startup (Pickv -> TheIceBreak), I feel this is definitely something that is important in a startup's lifecycle. However, it is not all that fun or glamorous, and there are very strong reasons to have a plan that does not involve pivoting as the strategy.

Pivoting usually involves changing the vision of the company. From what I have seen, there are 2 kinds of 'pivots':
Pivot to a bigger opportunity: You have a generally decent product getting tiny amount of traction, but see a bigger opportunity so you switch over to that.Pivot to a new product: What…