Flying Blind

Imagine an airplane without windows and instruments and you'll get a pretty accurate picture of most startups. Listening to the sound of the roaring engines, startup founders like to think to themselves: "We're going full throttle, so we must be going somewhere!" But without windows to interact with the customers and no instruments to measure direction, speed, and operation of the service, the startup can really go in just any direction or can even go in circles. As in real world, safe landing spots are few and most of the blind flying endeavors end in crash. I think most of the startups are caught by surprise how time consuming is looking through the windows and how difficult is to define meaningful measurements that can be trusted and acted upon. At Zemanta we've learned that the hard way. It has been a year since we started looking through the windows, it has been half a year since we are measuring the operation of our service, and only recently we have started to insist that everything we do must produce measurable outcomes. If you don't want to repeat Zemanta's mistakes and you are about to found a startup, I very much recommend that your first action is to draw the first and the most important indicator on a (virtual) whiteboard

thus starting a build-measure-learn cycle.