Brands and startups tend to compare Fabric to other development shops. Some of this is fair. Often, we add engineering resources or act as an extension of existing in-house teams. Much of our work is in user experience, design, and almost always front and back end development. This is what we do, but it is not the core of the value we bring.
Let's talk about startups. While Brad Feld, Fred Wilson and other VC's are right when they say you should have your core product team, your engineers, your experience designers, and your designers in-house, the truth is that most pre-Seed stage startups cannot find quality talent in all these positions. From the pool of startups we've worked with, most are somewhat inexperienced entrepreneurs and often lack deep product development experience. Often, startups that do have technical co-founders often lack customer development experience or user experience design knowledge.
Most importantly, it is very difficult for startups to hire and develop strong teams fast and to adopt a solid grasp on the chosen development methodology instantly. When founders are young, as they often are, many product development mistakes are often made. This “learning on the job” can be very expensive.
These are some of the reasons Fabric is a good collaboration partner for many pre-seed stage startups. Unlike most development shops, we contribute experience and talent in several areas:
We Add Complete Product Focused Teams With Experience Working Together
Everyone on our teams have worked together for at least one year. That means they have strong communication and faster execution paths than a new team. They are strong collaborators producing more output per Sprint than a new team who just met or have never completed a project together before.
Proven Methodology = Successful Products
You don't have to buy into everything we preach. We're still wrong about stuff all the time. That said, we have spent years optimizing our Product Development process and, if you follow along, you're guaranteed to learn more faster with less waste. We've also seen what happens when you don't have a solid process. Very expensive.
We've probably made more mistakes than you - we'll help you avoid all those
We can spot mistakes early. We've seen success and we've seen failure. We have been “in” failure and we've been “in” success. Our teams have made 100's of mistakes and learned from it. You will also make mistakes, but with us, you will not make the mistakes we made. This can save you 500 hours of programming time or 100 hours of design time. Fewer mistakes also is less expensive.
Development shops build what you want them to build not always what you should build
We ask hard questions. We challenge your assumptions and push hard on the edges of your idea. Will it stand up or fall down? What are the major assumptions that have not yet been tested? How many customers have you talked to? Throw away your feature list. Throw away your spec. Now, let's start over: what is the minimal product we can build to test the #1 assumption?
One question we always ask is: How can we do that for LESS? It seems counter-intuitive right? Shouldn't we just build and bill? No. That is what most development shops do. That is what agencies do. That will not help you raise money, which for most of you, is what you need to do. To raise money, or get to profitability for some of you lucky bastards, you need product/market fit and traction. To get that, you need to spend the minimum amount possible on things that don't matter. What are those things? (Polish your design… probably. Feature #13? Definitely.)
Venture Development and Startup Experience
We have raised capital and pitched VC's. We've run our own businesses and we've started several companies between us. We've been through the hard times, we've run out of money, and we've been in “partner fights.” We have created business plans, 100+ pitch decks, financial plans, and jockeyed CAP tables. When you work with us, you tap all this experience. You can get it from others too. Incubators, accelerators, and entrepreneurs all add this value. You won't get it from most development shops. It's not in their “wheel-house.”
Deep Brand, Media, and Agency Relationships
Most other development shops are deep on the engineering side. That's great. However, they have limited or no relationships with brands, media, and agencies. We've spent 10 years working with some of the biggest brands in the world: IKEA, Toyota, Redbull, and Hachette. We understand selling to these brands and agencies. For all our startups in our family, we've been able to make direct introductions to C-Level contacts sometimes enabling the startups to win major contracts - a major value add for any early stage startup.
We're different. To find out how different? You should call us now.
We spend a lot of time working with web/mobile entrepreneurs and we're super lucky to be working with amazing people with cool ideas, tons of energy, and a lot of passion. For the past six months, we've tried to pull our clients, both startups and brands, into following our methodology: Lean Product Development. The benefits with Lean are clear: better products from a science/testing approach, less time to market (or less time to get in front of users), and less waste.
For our clients, the “trouble” with Lean is that you never really know “what you will get.” You don't know what you will eventually build even when you've spent 25% of your budget. You cannot, and you should not, estimate the “entire” project up front and you should not spend time on specs and documentation of “features” that you may or may not build.
This can be unsettling to clients. We understand why. The traditional model, most often used by agencies is very clear and straight forward. It goes like this:
In the traditional model, because you “know what you are building” up front - you can tell how much it will cost and “what you will get.” This is a great feeling. It seems less risky. I can touch it. It's a “deliverable.”
The problem is that this “method” does not work at all for consumer web/mobile product development of any kind today. The reasons are many, but the main one is: You will most certainly be wrong about “what you need to build” and you can be sure that what you build - the whole thing - won't really work or connect with users until you are well into future releases.
Despite this, this “waterfall” model, is the standard among most agencies and many development shops. Most of our clients who have interactive or agency experience are familiar with this model. We understand why it seems to “work.” The problem is: We cannot build products that way, because it is wrong. We know that it doesn't work.
The truth is that you never know what you will build
You don't know what you need to build in the beginning of the project and you don't know what you have “left” to build when you are 50% “there.” It is wasteful to do big estimates and loads of documentation up front - before you get users engaged. It is wasteful to spend time on spec writing and requirements that does not center on specific assumptions, test cases, data from learning, and/or user feedback.
It is true, neither you nor we know “what it will cost” and exactly “how long it will take.” You don't know when you will be “done.” In fact, being “done” is not a possibility. You will never be done. (Unless you sell your product or exit in some way.) You have to get used to it. There are no “complete estimates” and no “complete specs.” You don't need it.
You should focus on what matters. That is not documentation. That is not estimates. Those are wrong always. What you need is what every scientist spends her time doing every day: EXPERIMENTS. Well structured experiments.
This is what we try to do with every client. We do it because we have tested the traditional model vs the Lean model and Lean wins hands down every time. We hope you do it too. Do you?
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