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Matt_noble
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The most successful founders see their vision-based decisions in the same light as their customer-driven decisions: as experiments. When founders bet on genius, it doesn't have to be an end-game strategy where to win you have to be right. The question is not whether the source of a decision is founder vision or user testing, but whether the founder is willing to accept that he was wrong and react accordingly. Drew Houston's decision to ignore power users' requests can be seen as another hypothesis test within his lean approach. He believed complicating the product would make it more difficult for people to adopt it into their lives, and adoption/retention was the whole game for Dropbox at that point. But if Dropbox's analytics (which have the advantage of tracking user behavior rather than articulated requests) showed virality slowing and user retention dropping, I bet Drew would have reconsidered his vision. Continued success is a valid data point, as long as it doesn't blind you to changing conditions and customer behavior. As such, I'm not sure that Drew's decision to keep the product simple is any more "genius" than the decision to abandon SEM because the data showed it to be an ineffective customer acquisition method. It just turned out he was right, which makes it harder to scrutinize--and attribute causality to--his process. As with Dropbox, Aardvark's success or failure stemmed from the desire and ability of users to adopt and use the product. The team had great data, so they knew things were not going as planned, but amid their efforts to change the trend the "conversation" paradigm was a sacred cow. It's not clear that archiving was the answer, but faced with flagging adoption rates (in contrast to Dropbox) Max and his team probably should have given it a shot. I think Drew Houston would have. (Full disclosure to the community: I'm a student in the LTV class.)
Toggle Commented Jan 29, 2012 on Steve Blank vs. Steve Jobs at Seeing Both Sides
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Jan 29, 2012