[Warning: Long post, sorry]
It's been slightly over 24 hours since we kicked off the beta over in Crackberry Nation. I thought it would be useful to give you an inside look at what happened, what when right, wrong, etc. The objective here, as always, is to help you and your start up.
Crackberry Nation was the right call:
Simple put, I made that call because I believed, based on my knowledge of the Kevin's readers, the application would get smacked around really hard and if we passed muster with the CB Nation crowd, we'd be well on our way. And, true to form, a stompin we a gettin. Exactly as we wanted.
Answer people's email....immediately:
My core belief on beta software is that if somebody takes the time to download it, try it, and then give you feedback of any kind, respond to them with a personal note as soon as you can. Within 3 minutes (I clocked it) of Kevin's post, we had 100 downloads. Within 5 minutes of that (8 minutes total), the first feedback came in and I answered it, 300 emails later into the night, I was still pounding on the keyboard. Then we have twitter stuff, then Crackberry started forum comments, as well as comments on the blog post itself. My happiest emails, for the last 20+ years, have always been those magic words: Thanks for your prompt reply. We will, of course, put in an auto-responder to ensure people know we got the note. We now have two extra people tracking and logging the bugs, etc. The core of any good company is how you treat your customers and what they say about you. You can get "product wasn't for me but, wow, great people" and that's win for many reasons. Raising capital? Trust me, investors simply Google/Twitter/Search for this stuff to get sense of your culture. I know, I did it for eight years.
Beta Testing - Target the Crowd:
If I could buy a round for the entire Crackberry crowd, I would for one core/top reason: The idea of an actual 'beta' is not dead? Got a BlackBerry application you want actually tested with people who will really test it, understand it will have bugs, etc? CB nation. The lesson here is that whatever your product/service is, use care. We/I could have done a blog post, had people re-tweet/blog, etc, and get feedback. No problem. It made far more sense to go to the source and target a focused/hard core group to get a mass number of people kicking the tires all at once. It was solid squeeze and a solid pile of feedback. If you believe in the fail fast theories ( I do), this process works. This crowd would give us the back to the drawing board message loud, clear, and fast. So far, so good.
I'd like to take credit for this brilliant insight but I got slapped into reality by my co-founder/partner. We had a fairly good sign up plan for the beta. You signed up, gave us a pin number, we validated, did this, did that, sent emails, etc. All great coding, process. All stupid, my bad. Plan B was ask, open it up, send it out, and those people who become rabid love it/hate it, will phone it in. Ah, yup. Hundreds did. Lesson: Get it out there and let the people speak. Friction-Free trumps process every time. And I should have known better anyway because the gang at Xobni had it down to a science. If we are half as good as those guys, we're picking out the yachts.
Via la Competition:
This is the best part for me. Cutting deals and teaming up. It's a massive market (Thank you RIM and Google). If you have a product, code, etc, and you'd like to partner up, email me, we are here to grow a massive business you can be part of. Hopefully, for others, rising tides will lift all our boats. Lesson here: Check your ego at the door, ignore titles, don't be a control phreak and focus on the big (massive/profitable) big picture.
We have a problem with the BB Tour. My bad, I didn't properly test the device and there are a couple of hundred people who I know have the problem which is getting fixed. To the hundreds that wrote in, we are saying "sorry, thanks for letting us know, its being fixed, my bad for not doing a better job testing your device." This probably goes hand in hand with the answer people's email point, but this point is the specifics. Mea-Culpa has people coming back to us saying no problem, I'll keep helping which is exactly what you want. I know this sounds simple but saying, known issue, thanks, fix coming is not as good as "my bad" it's personal and people, hopefully know you care.
Servers in the back room and under my desk? Ahh, I'm thinking no. RackSpace rocks. Nuff said. .
One person wrote in from Munich. I grew up there and ask how close they were to my old house. Great back and forth. One guy wrote in who was from Sprint and I talked about my uber-smart nephew who works there. A lady who was on a sail boat (!) wrote in. She was a live-aboard and we talked about all of that fun as I am a sailor. And so it goes. Life is short and (this is the secret) most people want to help you. Really. Most people want you to succeed. They will share in your success, gladly pay for product from people they like. Investor point: They turn down personalities and culture way before they get to the idea/company. Have fun, it will show and pay off.
Some numbers for you:
Thousands (5) of downloads within 10 hours; still happening. Hundreds (10%) of feedback notes. Piles of great ideas, features, and I'd pay for this product notes.
My favorite email so far:
"Wow this is an amazing application, thanks for doing this. Since you appear to know the Blackberry, perhaps you could help me get some really cool iPhone apps installed on my BlackBerry"
To everyone who has download the application to test and give us some feedback, we all thank you. It is truly appreciated, we are listening, we care, and we will be delivering products to meet your needs. It's our goal/mandate/passion.