That Start-Up Vision Thing

I found a remarkably honest post from the founder of The Point, Andrew Mason, over at GigaOm. The Point helps people start and run campaigns and is one of many growing platforms in the busy online social activism sector. Andrew’s post is a great one for any social entrepreneur to key in on, but I was struck by this bit of practical history:

In our case, we spent nine months developing extra features to accommodate our grand vision instead of focusing on what our users would really need. This cost us precious time, delaying our launch, originally planned for June 2007, to November of that year. Even after launch, the costs lingered — maintaining the extraneous features was a time-consuming distraction from improving the parts of The Point that people were actually using.

Thankfully, we caught on to what I call the curse of “vision overload” — when you put your vision ahead of your users — and quickly reversed course. This month we’re delivering a major upgrade to The Point, our first release in months, and we’ve actually cut more features than we’ve added. While arguably less grand, it adheres to the critical success maxim of KISS, or “Keep it Simple, Stupid!” All founders face an inherent conflict between their most ambitious visions and the practicalities of execution. Below I explain how The Point addressed this uncomfortable compromise, and how you can learn to KISS, too.

Read the rest, it’s great. In the sector I’ve written about in CauseWired, sometimes the vision is so strong – the desire for change so palpable – that driven founders can’t help but to add features and try every new idea and partnership that comes along. After all, they’re trying to change the world. But as Andrew points out, a little tunnel-vision can be a good thing indeed.

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