Designing a product to scale is hard! That's what I have in mind when I wake up, drive, drink coffee, read news, eat dinner, ... and ultimately go to bed. Why is it hard? Because, there is a lot to be done, and there are millions of ways to get them done! I think the most difficult part of building a product is scoping out what to do first! Not knowing what to do first, leads to doing many things at the same time, and doing things that are nice-to-have. You talk to people about your product rather than building it, you read your favorite blogs, you learn new things, and add more items to your to-do list. Ultimately, when things get hard, you start playing startup rather than being one! These past few weeks I had a feeling that we are just playing start-up! Somethings needed to change!
As is usually the case, when we spin around for a couple of days (this time it has been weeks), we know that it is time to go back to the drawing board again. What are we making? Why are we making it? And, how do we measure our success? Let's remind us of our first six months goal:
In our first six months, we will build a product that at least one person is willing to pay for it.
How to design something to scale is the question that had us spinning! I got the idea from Elon Musk. In Q1 2016 quarterly analyst call, one of the analysts asked the question "what does make Tesla confident that it can deliver against its aggressive production plan per the promised volume?" Tesla's CFO responded and Elon elaborated that Model 3 is designed to scale from the get-go. It made me think if there are similarities between the production of a Tesla car and a De.Re. card (this the core product we produce at Invest Groove.)
Both are technologically complex. A Tesla car is a complex hardware, while a De.Re. card is a complex analysis. Both need specialized know-how, multiple components that are sourced disparately, and are expensive to produce and iterate relative to the price customers are willing and can afford to pay. Iteration cost is especially an important factor for us. Because from one hand we are working with a version zero and we still expect to refine the product as we talk to our customers. On the other hand, we do not have a free-flow investment source running through our veins (remember, we do not plan to raise capital in our first six months). Elon and his lieutenant did not provide more details, but they certainly triggered the thought in our minds to explore the drivers of a scalable design. Here is what we learned from our research following Tesla's quarterly call:
You can produce a product that is designed to scale through a process that has three components:
Although we knew the De.Re. card is our core product but after our research we were not 100% sure whether a De.Re. card is what we would want to sell as our product. Our plan for our product is evolving as we learn about how to design it to scale. Our long-term vision at Invest Groove is to give the investors the confidence to buy/sell/hold stocks. This vision does not mean we need to sell our core methodology to give our customers the confidence to invest in stocks. There are many ways we can develop a product to do just that. We can provide stock-picking services. We can create a fund that people invest in. We can create a newsletter that recommends a stock(s) on a regular basis. We can develop a rating system that scores and ranks stocks. We can teach people how to invest in stocks. We can offer creative new ways (like what ibillionaire has done) to give people a way to invest in stocks confidently. There are probably many other ways to go about it. Which one is our product?
To be honest, we do not have a clear answer to this question. What we know is because we are designing a scalable product, we must sync our product development activities with the three characteristics of a scalable product development process that we talked about in this post. What does that mean? It means that as our first step we will break up the task of investing in stocks with confidence into the smallest components possible, and we will document every step and action into a roadmap. We expect the outcome to be a modularized construct that anyone could use to invest in stocks with confidence. The delivery model will be what I'd like to call a "teachable course." Primarily because the only way you truly break up a process into its smallest components is when you are ready to teach the process to someone else. I'm not sure whether this "course" is something we will ultimately monetize, but without it we certainly won't be able to achieve our design-for-scale outcome. We will be focusing our effort on developing a "teachable course" that allows us to break apart, document, and ultimately automate the process to buy/sell/hold a stock with confidence.
Before I wrap up, a confession I have to make is that writing this post took me a week. When I started, I had no idea how and when I will finish the post. It reminded me of why I started this blog. This blog more than anything else is a diary of our journey to build our company and act as our formal drawing board where we can officially and in a structured manner think, evolve, and build our company. The only thing left is a shoutout to the one and only Alex Turnbull who inspired this blog (without knowing). I hope I could meet him in person one day (although I know he operates in a true remote / work-from-wherever fashion). Thank you Alex!
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