Launch is…Just a Launch

by francine Hardaway on August 29, 2011

My friends at launched last week into a blaze of YCombinator Demo Days, Steve Jobs’ retirement, and for good measure, Hurricane Irene coverage. In short, they didn’t get the “Tech Crunch effect.” Thank God for that; they’re lucky they didn’t, because the Tech Crunch effect, often also called “the Scoble effect,” is both distracting and misleading to a young company.

What is the Tech Crunch effect? It’s what the relatively few lucky startups who are covered by Tech Crunch, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, Scoble, and a couple of other major tech blogs experience: a huge surge in traffic that can even take the servers down and makes the founders feel they are off and running.

But they’re not.

I think I’ve been involved one way or another in about a hundred launches, and I can tell you a few things for sure:

1) the Tech Crunch traffic goes away after it causes your servers to overload and gives your visitors a bad first impression.

2) the people who come from major tech blog coverage are usually not the right people to build a business around. They’re like the people who like to be seen at the latest hot club, and then leave it cold for the next hot club. That’s why the night club business is hardly ever sustainable. It’s built on flash and trendiness. Good businesses are often not trendy. I am composing this post in Evernote, a very un-trendy app that happens to be incredible useful and has locked me in.

3)the launch is the first step in a long slog across the chasm.

4) entrepreneurs are as misled about the launch as they are about outside financing. Both continue to be wildly overrated in how much they contribute to the success of a business.

For Wednesdays, the launch did two good things, no matter how much or how little publicity it has received so far: it provided a forcing function to do usability testing and get the product out the door, and it therefore made possible some necessary fixes to the user interface.

Andy Chen and Hugo Olliphant are former PayPal engineers, and if it weren’t for the “launch” they could have kept improving the product forever, doing private betas with their early adopter friends. But early adopter friends are the same people who make up the Tech Crunch effect: they sign up and try out many things they may never really stick with. They’re not as good at helping you build a sustainable company as people who may never read a tech blog, but who have more time and inclination to form a lunch or dinner club. Like alumni of the same school, or employees of the same company, or old friends from Iowa who have all moved to Phoenix.

The launch date forced Wednesdays to freeze the product as of August 24th and remove the wraps from the new site. Now the public can really try it.

And now Wednesdays can implement their marketing plan.

Marketing plans are all too rare in San Francisco. I’m an old school girl, and I don’t believe that if you build it they will come. I believe you have to identify “them” and go after “them.” And publicity is probably the least effective, most random way in the world to find good customers.

How do I know this? I owned a large PR company for seventeen years. Brian Solis owned one, too. Do either of us do that now? No, because we know all too well what its limits are, and what ELSE has to be done. Brian’s name for this is “social business,” and the verb is “to engage.,

Despite all the big blogs, the newspapers, and the magazines, there’s no substitute for engaging with your customers and making them your evangelists.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Blah September 3, 2011 at 1:12 am

the wednesdays site looks like exactly why the new trend coming around the bend is what  I call “selective disconnection” or what others have called being “off grid.” wednesdays looks dreadful.

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