“Iterate in the marketplace, not in the conference room”

Chris Herot tells the story of Convoq (which then became Zingdom) from the very beginning to the very end. An interesting chronology, worth reading if you're thinking of (or are currently) playing the startup game.

"The company formerly known as Convoq, and later as Zingdom Communications, closed its doors Friday, November 30th. It was the end of a five-year run that saw three rounds of capital and a comparable number of CEOs and product strategies.

While the company was an innovator in on-line meetings, and had a core group of enthusiastic customers, it never achieved the traction that would have provided the necessary return on capital, and the investors, patient as they were, eventually called it quits." (from Christopher Herot's Weblog)

The conclusion is a useful set of lessons learned:

  • "Iterate in the marketplace, not the conference room. Agile is the only way to go.

  • Just because you are using agile methods doesn't mean you don't have to plan. Write your stories before you begin an iteration, but don't waste a lot of time on the details that aren't needed until later.

  • Don't spend a lot of time and money naming the company until you have the product and positioning figured out.

  • If you are depending on paid search to generate traffic then your marketing is broken.

  • Raising too much money is almost as dangerous as raising too little - it sets high expectations which then drive high expenditures to deliver the results on time.

  • If you want to do a consumer-facing product on the East Coast, stay engaged with the community in Silicon Valley. By the time you read about something in TechCrunch it's too late.

  • Remember the three stages of building a web property: 1. Attract, 2. Engage, 3. Monetize. Don't skip a step."

(from Chris Herot's weblog)