Features Aren't Products
Yesterday, I wrote:
I had dinner last week with a friend of mine who's a Sand Hill VC, who told me about seeing a business plan from one entrepreneur who had implemented a single feature -- the kind of thing a talented AJAX programmer could get up and running in a day or two by hooking into an existing Web service's API -- and was looking for full first-round funding. The feature wasn't a demo of a small slice of what he wanted to build with his funding -- he just wanted to build services around it. Around a feature.What I didn't write was that late last year, within the span of a week, I had two friends e-mail me asking me what they thought about both the company mentioned above and another company building what appeared to be an identical product. I replied then just as I wrote earlier today, that it sounded like a feature to me, something that could be built on top of an existing Web service within days.
What triggered today's blog entry was reading a commentary by a well-known entrepreneur-turned-venture capitalist saying that Web 2.0 companies are massively overhyped (often true) and that the term is basically used to get funding for ideas that don't deserve it (often true). This person then went on to list his investments -- one of which was the company described above, about which he says he's excited. So Web 2.0 is just hype, unless you're invested in it, in which case it's cool?
Everyone repeat after me: features aren't products.
How can you tell when something's a feature?
- If it can be built to prototype stage by one programmer within 24 hours, it's a feature.
- If it's completely reliant on an existing Web 2.0 service, and is valueless without that service, it's a feature.
- If you can imagine it as a single menu item on an existing desktop software application, it's a feature.
- If, when you show it to people, their typical reaction is, "How cute!" it's a feature, unless you're showing them a picture of puppies, which isn't a feature -- it's just a picture of puppies.