Glenn Kelman, the CEO of Redfin, wrote a great post on TechCrunch that questions the popular hit-driven, trend of rapidly building inexpensive products that only have the minimum features needed to succeed. The Lean Startup / Minimally Viable Product thesis advocates failing fast (and often) and iterating quickly based upon customer feedback.
My thoughts on this subject can be summed up in one sentence: 'Sometimes you need to build a nuclear-powered bullet train.'
It seems to me that the narrower the value proposition is, the harder it is to build a minimally viable product. I am not sure if the following analogy holds up everywhere, but try this:
- If you want to provide reliable ground transportation, you could build a locomotive.
- If you want to provide high-speed, ground transportation, you need to build a bullet train.
- If you want to provide comfortable, high-speed, ground transportation, you need to build a bullet train with leather seats and beds.
- If you want to provide non-stop, nationwide, comfortable, high-speed, ground transportation, you need to build a bullet train with leather seats, beds, and a nuclear reactor.
A narrow value proposition does not equate to a narrow market opportunity, it's just harder to build.