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Minimum Viable Blog: What Blogging Taught Me About Startups

This blog was started in late 2009 after several attempts at blogging. Every time I'd configure the LAMP stack, source a the perfect Wordpress theme, and then, fine tune its look-and-feel. Being completely locked-in on the technicalities, however, I never got to write any actual content. Consequently, there was no room for feedback and my motivation stalled. It was a vicious cycle.

So in 2010 I figured it was time to go quick-and-dirty. I had to break with the cycle; forget about that stunning domain name, forget about database design, forget about adding yet another feature. Instead, I'd just publish that first post, watch what happens, and start collecting that feedback.

Without going into that content is king thing, it has been more of a learning path and understanding the real value of interacting with real audiences. Nonetheless, one year later I'm still using standard WordPress.com hosting and theme, and subscriptions are growing.

Now, if you swap the word blog for product in the short story above, you will notice that the pattern has a thing or two in common with startup methodologies – the very thing I have been ranting about the past year.

Launching a "Minimum Viable Blog" did not only enable me to measure visitors, clicks or subscription metrics. It enabled me to test and validate value propositions with real people.

Initially, I had this plan on writing about digital strategies - an idea grounded in a recurring problem I had experienced through consulting: existing strategy frameworks were not adapted to the web. First, however, I couldn’t resist scratching my own itch as an aspiring entrepreneur. So I decided to write a short piece on trade-offs between deliberation and creativity. Fortunate enough, I was soon having Skype calls with inspired voices of the tech scene. I had discovered early adopters who encouraged me to continue down that road.

This motivated me to revisit shelved ideas about early-stage business models and methodologies of integrating marketing and software development. Since, I have learned about customer development, lean startups, minimum viable products, pivots, product/market fit, among others, which I brought into teaching at Centre for entrepreneurship at the University of Oslo. From theory to practice and back, I expect to give such topics a real try this year.

So far I have studied, taught, worked for and ranted about tech startups, but have yet to go all in. Going forward I will share here my pursuits in search of product/market fit for my new Internet software startup (more to come).

A special thanks to all subscribers for following me in 2010.

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  1. Good luck. I had the same problem and just ended up using Tumblr. Blogging has helped me with so much on my startup. Such as meet new people, help me to validate ideas, and to help crystalize my thoughts.

    Keep it up, it’ll pay off in the end. Take care.

    -JP

  2. I enjoyed your first 2011 post and sympathized enormously, having wrangled the challenges of 2 WordPress-hosted blogs over the past year. With similar lessons, but fewer technical skills to either aid or complicate matters. I’ve now gone too far, with a staging server self-hosted on Mac OS X, but am experiencing too many time-wasting glitches for that to be fruitful.

    Perhaps it’s the cross-Atlantic thing, but your server appears quite slow when it comes to displaying all the components of your blog page. ~45 seconds before the whole page displayed (and I have fast bandwidth here).

    Having said that, I really enjoy the way you synthesize concepts relating to lean startups, the business model canvas, agile development, and Steve Blank’s customer development ideas. Keep up the good work!

    BTW: my business blog is http://www.informing-arts.biz/blog/ and my personal blog: http://christinethompson-blog.com

  3. That’s the way to do it. There’s not many people out there that care about how pretty your blog is, it’s the content that matters. Look at startuplessonslearned.com, it’s certainly not going to win any design awards but Eric Ries’ content is fantastic so the readership is huge.

    Keep up the good great posts.

  4. My last blog was much the same as you describe till I hit the reset button and just focussed on content and NOT “technicalities”. I still have the same thesis theme I had 14 months ago. It works. No reason to change it till I have more time than I know what to do with it (which is short for never).

    I have found myself applying the Lean Startup pattern to many things other than traditional products – the blog for one, the book I’m writing, even finding a co-founder…

    Kudos on starting and sticking with the blog… it takes patience and discipline. Writing is simultaneously one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve done in a while…

    Wish you all the success with your new venture.

  5. Thanks all for your comments and whishes. At end of this post, in “Going forward, I will share here my pursuits in search of the Lean Startup”, I substituted Lean Startup for product/market fit. The Lean Startup is not a goal per se, rather it is a set of principles used for achieving problem/solution fit > product/market fit :-)

  6. Well, we also have a similar story, Foundora was and is a minimum viable blog.

    When we started we quickly put up a landing page with Twitter and Facebook follow buttons and started talking to people for interviews (The lean startup style). And once we had 5 interviews ready we then hammered a free theme from Smashing Magazine to fit our requirements and began publishing interviews. This way we could go straight into the substance instead of spending time on the technicalities and design. And, before we even published our first interview, we already had a good number of people following us on Twitter and eager to know what we were doing.

    So, in a way, we tried to implementing the lean principles where ever we could. And, it really helped us move faster yet understand what people wanted from us.

    But, yes one thing we did spend time on was our domain name (Foundora.com), which we thing was worth it. We kinda picked it from 52 options we came up with.

  7. Yep, my site and blog is really ugly but Google and visitors keep coming. So I try to make my routine:

    55% content creation (for me that is creative commons music)
    25% promotion
    15% responding to users
    5% tweaking the blog theme and making websites updates