Essential Lessons for Startups, Services and Products

So the other day I read a really good article over on one of my favourite blogs, Process St, What Startups Can Learn From the World of Video Game Development.

My partner is a video game producer so I know a little about this world. As in, I get my ear chewed about it pretty often.

The article goes pretty in-depth on these points

  • Starting with a minimal viable product
  • Having regular and (largely) transparent updates
  • Hosting a regular community communication schedule
  • Gathering user feedback from multiple platforms
  • Giving special attention to your “promoters”
  • Allowing you community to run/chat amongst itself
  • Sharing your experience publicly

And the thing is, I don’t think it is simply advice that startups can learn something from. I think it is going to be absolutely integral to the performance of all services, products and everything from here on out.

Over ten years ago I changed to a new bank. In addition to being an ethical investor it was internet-only. And I still complain, to this day, that its UI was rubbish. It remained so rubbish that I almost exclusively used the mobile app when I could. It had limited functionality so I would go tutting and fussing back online.

Then, last summer, it was updated. For the first time in over ten years – probably since its inception. (The update, as they often do, made it worse. Now, instead of seeing the balances of my three accounts all on one screen I have to click through them all. Why would they do this?)

But the point is – I expected more. One update in ten years is no longer sufficient. Our phones update their apps just about every day. Our TV shows get updated every year, books come more often now, our social media and our games.

So when our games and apps get constant updates it conditions us to believe everything else should too. It conditions us to a new level of accountability. And if we get this in our free time from some products that are free themselves then we certainly expect it at work from products we pay for.

Massive AAA games don’t end with the shipped product. Some have so many DLCs they barely even start with the initially released product. And even the little freemium games on your phone or Facebook are ever-iterating.

In the original article I would have added the concept of the sandbox. Sandbox games give the player the tools and it is up to us how we use them. Startups need to be able to pivot and go where their userbase takes them. Some of the greatest have only survived because of that – Google and Apple, notably. The flipside of that is you lose your way and try to be all things to all men.

One especially good solution to several of these points is blogging. It ticks your communication, community, transparency, and sharing boxes. And gives you a good start on the others.

So if your startup doesn’t have a blog yet that’s yet another reason to get one going. Don’t wait to get bigger or get an audience first – let blogging help you with that.