This story would be useful for anyone who, just like us, is looking for different ways to launch their startup faster. Alina, Egor, Anna, Roman, Anna, Trevor, and Katrina — your motivation and hard, disciplined work made this launch possible. This story is about your success.
Every 3 months we launch new product together with Harmony Venture Labs (HVL). Their goal is to create successful companies and help grow the tech ecosystem in Birmingham, Alabama. HVL invests pre-seed money into the company and helps launch the MVP. If the company starts to grow and show traction — they continue to invest.
So launch speed matters to HVL (and pretty much to everyone who is launching startups). With every launch Paralect and HVL work more and more to reduce the time to build and launch MVPs.
In February, 2022 we started talking about launching the next product, named ListedKit (it’s launched already). ListedKit streamlines the process of buying or selling property for both realtors and buyers.
Historically at Paralect, we launch MVPs in 2.5-4.5 months, depending on complexity and initial feature set of the product. On ListedKit we set the ambitions goal to launch in 2 months.
Fast forward — we launched in 1.5 months. We spent another 2 weeks to implement a few things which were important and which we missed during the discovery and finally, we launched in 2 months.
For the curious reader: in 2 months we launched a fully featured and high quality product for two roles: realtor and client. Below you can see our high level feature map we used to track how close we were to the release date. You can read it to understand complexity of the product.
So… What is the secret sauce of launching in 2 months or faster?
Use pre-built solutions & no/low code
For a long time we’ve used Ship — a toolkit for makers to launch new products faster. We used some existing Ship components like signup, signin and onboarding pages. It also comes up with ready deployment scripts which help us deploy applications very quickly.
But we wanted to optimise development speed even more and come with a few theories:
- By using Evergreen UI framework we can save time on building custom UI.
- A low-code API/Database solution Supabase can greatly reduce time to build product as it automatically generates API for any database table you create and you can use this API right from the client.
All these experiments were done in the mvp-20 repository (we hurried up and just gave this dummy name). We built three distinct projects to test our theories. Results were great…
First, we decided to keep Evergreen. During the testing phase we we able to build 4-8 very accurate pages, without the help of a designer. The dev experience was also great. The UI framework saved a lot of time down the road, as we had to rebuild some screens 5 or more times during MVP development.
Secondly, Supabase was the discovery of the year. Two test projects we built showed we can move very fast. It not only allowed us to not write APIs, but also out of the box solved some common problems, like registration, welcome/invite emails and many more.
With Supabase, 95% of work is done on the frontend. Instead of building backend and frontend we just built frontend. That saved a lot of time.
We learned that it is great idea to learn which no-code/low-code solutions you can find to write LESS code. It not only allows you to move faster, but also reduces maintenance burden.
Motivate the team
Even before the project start we spent a good amount of time to convince the team, founders and ourselves: launching fast is important to the health of the startup. We agreed we’re going to review the product over and over to remove a lot of features to narrow down the product focus.
By the time we kicked off, the team was very excited to start MVP development:
- We told founders and the product team we want to launch in 2 months and set the release date to April 14th. This created a sense of urgency for everyone and underlined the importance of an early launch. The launch was a big event for all of us.
- We explained the idea to everyone and why it would improve the world around us. ListedKit removes pain for realtors and for house buyers or sellers.
- We introduced a few new, exciting technologies like Typescript & Supabase.
You can read more about motivation in this essay.
The idea here is simple — instead of launching 10 features you need to launch 1 feature that solves user pain. It takes less to build a single feature.
Simplify requirements ALL the time. Anna, a business analyst on our team, was literally cutting features every day. She worked with the founders, discovered disconnects and worked over and over again on scope reduction and simplification.
For every feature we built, the development team took time to find the 90/10 solution — use 10% of time to build 90% of what you want.
- Simple built-in emails at Supabase instead of building custom emails.
- Instead of building a custom billing module, we decide to solely use Stripe hosted pages and just incorporated them into the product.
You can read more about cutting MVP scope in this essay.
40+ internal launches
In 2 months we released the product over 40 times (almost daily). The dev team, Anna & Egor, shared product update demos every few days and the founders were able to instantly provide feedback.
On day 2 after the start of development we had a link with the initial product we could share with everyone.
Multiple launches were an essential tool for the founders. They stayed connected and deeply involved in the product. We were able to discover 100s of small things, which are impossible to discover when you build product on paper.
Founders used the beta/prelaunch product to show and gather feedback from potential users. That also helped shape it towards a product that people actually wanted.
Ups & downs
There were a few. We decided to use one database for all environments and that worked well during the MVP, but shortly after — one engineer removed some production data. Luckily, we had a backup and restored it all quickly.
We still love Supabase — few months after MVP we still move fast and can release 50+ features & changes weekly.
The product & engineering team saved the founders a lot money. They not only built what the founders asked them to build, but helped them to find and remove features they didn’t need and implement very simple solutions.
These efforts saved at least one month, which the founders could use to attract first beta clients and start their journey towards product-market fit earlier.