Why Your Startup’s Beta Sucks

Jun 04, 2012

I chose this title, because I knew it would attract all the entrepreneurs that wanted to tell me “F you Amanda”. That’s okay.  But this post is actually quite the opposite, so please read on to find out why.

First though, a note: a beta is an early stage product in the startup cycle of a new business.  This doesn’t just apply to a tech startup beta, this applies to any kind of beta product.

A beta is supposed to suck.

If I could sum up, in one simple sentence…the one thing I wish someone had told me in building a beta product, it would be this.  But instead of just this, no…they have to use words like “lean”.  So when someone (like myself two years ago) that has never done this before, looks at your startup’s beta..and says “this really sucks”, I want you to smile and say “because it’s supposed to suck right now.”

A beta is meant to be broken.

A startup’s beta product is like that “one” kid.  You know who he is.  His mom won’t buy him any new toys.  When the kid asks why, the mom says “because you’re just going to break it anyway.”  Same with a startup beta.  You’re going to break it anyway.  If you’re not not breaking it, you’re not pivoting.  You’re not testing.

It’s either ugly, or doesn’t make sense.

The majority of startup betas are ugly, and they don’t make sense.  That’s why they call them a beta.  People on the “other side of startups” (like marketing, where I came from), are so confused by this.  It’s because they ONLY SEE COMMERCIAL READY PRODUCTS.  Same as consumers.  Not until you have actually created and launched a beta yourself, do you realize why it looks ugly and/or doesn’t make sense.

You’re supposed to be criticized.

Another thing about a startup beta I wish someone had told me before hand.  You are supposed to be criticized.  In fact, you should love to be criticized in a beta.  In the first day or two of SH’s beta, I felt like everyone was criticizing.  It was making me mad, I felt like all the work I had done….was pointless.  Started lashing back at people.  Finally, someone said to me: “You’re missing the funnest part of a startup, because you don’t understand what a beta is all about.  This is the one time…arguing with each other & breaking stuff is productive.  Kind of takes you back to childhood.  Just enjoy it, because no one’s attacking you personally, you’re attacking a product together”.  After that, you just jump in and start breaking stuff and arguing with everyone else.

After the beta.

After a startup, you realize one thing: that you need to have one focus and dedication in whatever path you choose.  Don’t worry that your startup beta sucks, it’s supposed to suck.  The point is, stop worrying about it, and get out there and test it.