Reid Hoffman Wikimedia

LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman has been quoted on many of his sayings, but none so widely as his product release advice.

“If you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you’ve released it too late,”
he said over a decade ago, and as with all good quotes, it’s been hopelessly misconstrued.

The problem, of course, is context. Speaking on his Masters of Scale podcast with Mark Zuckerberg, he went into more detail about the issue.

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“Over the years, some people have have interpreted my theory as permission to cut corners, act recklessly, or proceed without a clear plan,” he explained. “But notice, I said if you’re not embarrassed by your product. I didn’t say if you’re not indicted, or if you’re not deeply ashamed by your product. Indeed, if you launch so fast that it generates lawsuits, alienates users, or burns through capital without any apparent gain, you did in fact launch too soon.”

The Importance of Rapid Feedback

Though Hoffman’s push was for fast launch, it wasn’t to the point of a botched release. However, it’s also a comment on the assumptions businesses make about consumers and the need to correct that.

“You’ll probably be embarrassed by how many wrong assumptions you made…” he said in a previous blog post. “you lose out by delaying the onset of the customer feedback loop: If you’d launched sooner, you would have started learning sooner. Instead, you launched too late.”

The core message, then, is not to charge ahead recklessly, but to pursue a fast and iterative model. In the tech world, everything moves fast, and holding out until you achieve perfection will usually result in being left behind.

“In the end, entrepreneurs shouldn’t be so focused on what happens on the first day of launching a product,” says Hoffman. “The relevant timeframe you should be thinking about is the first month, then the first year.”

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