Don’t Try to Build a Cronut

August 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’m not sure what the cronuts in NYC taste like as that is where this craze started, but all of the cronuts I’ve tried here in San Francisco have been a complete and utter execution fail*. The problem is that it’s a “dessert” attempting to be a donut and a croissant – both very delicious in their own rights – rather than focusing on one, and taking the best “features” of the other. The cronut is attempting to be too many things to too many people but ends up being a subpar, and rather pedestrian execution of trying to be the very best of the donut and the very best of the croissant.

This is a problem seen with a lot of early stage startups. Their product, in an attempt at appeasing too many people, ends up appeasing no one. The product goal of an early product is simply to validate that it solves a problem. Or rather, that it’s the right execution for a solution to a problem. An early product should be feature minimal, or, more commonly,  a Minimal Viable Product. It shouldn’t attempt to integrate multiple very strong, known-to-be-successful, mechanics – the focus should be on validating the core and the problem.
For the second iteration of GleeBox (no, not the now nonexistent Chrome Extension, but the platform connecting consumers to local goods *shameless self promotion: download here for iOS!*) , I had a list of features I wanted to implement. I wanted user profiles, I wanted a notification center, I wanted people to be able to message each other, etc etc. I ended up stripping those features out of v1.0 when designing all of that became overwhelming and building all of that would be daunting – especially since we knew the focus should be on validation. We didn’t want to become the cronut – we were okay with not appeasing everyone if we could appease at least some, rather than none. (If you’re wondering what happened to the first iteration, we invalidated that execution of the problem we’re trying to solve and moved on quickly). The problem with the second iteration is that it was a giant step in the right direction, but a giant misstep in execution. We were trying to build a platform on mobile and web, without first testing the idea.
For the third, and current iteration (not quite a pivot because we aren’t changing our focus on the problem we’re solving, simply the execution of the solution – we follow more of a Design-thinking philosophy rather than the “pivot” of the Lean Startup Movement – possibly because Design is a core part of GleeBox’s company DNA), the product is super minimal. Most of our users can only browse the local goods around them, and a small minority of users can add content. Users can share on Facebook, bookmark, and comment, but they cannot follow each other, message each other, see what’s trending, see what’s new, etc etc. We intentionally have chosen to keep the app incredibly simple and for product we are focusing on fixing massive bugs that affect usability, as well as fixing weird UX nuances – this is about 40% of our focus. The other 60% is going towards validating and seeing how people use it.
The cronut takes the two best parts of two delicious baked goods without focusing on one of them and improving it. Of course there are a number of bakeries focusing on one and adding “features” to it for a delicious execution win on taste (Bouchon Bakery’s almond croissant, various iterations of donuts from tequila infused pastry cream to ginger grapefruit donuts – The New Cupcake: The Donut).
With GleeBox, we’re attempting to do just that – focus on one set of users and the core of our product to validate, before we start integrating additional features or attempt to appeal to other types of users. We want to create the very best donut or croissant and slowly add features that make sense, rather than just take known successful social mechanics and create a craze. We’re in this for the long-game, not for a short-term craze.
PS: If you download GleeBox, definitely pass along your feedback! 
*Cronut opinions are my own, and based on the cronuts in San Francisco.

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