What is Your first Domino?

March 10, 2016 Blog

When I was young, single digits young, I had one of those sweet domino sets. Not the proper black and white ones but the multi-coloured dominos that include ramps and other gadgets that allow you to build up elaborate domino displays for the short lived and simple pleasure of trashing everything you’ve built with a single push.

In working with the leaders of new software projects, the term MVP(minimum viable product) has become almost ubiquitous.When a term reaches that point, it’s meaning inevitably becomes misinterpreted, diluted or outright abused. Talking about, and deciding on your MVP can feel like trying to mold jello with your hands these days.

I like to talk about what your first, or next, domino is. Momentum is key with an early business. What is the smallest first domino that we can stand up….and push….that gets us moving well? That first domino should strive to be a complete experience for your end customers. This is not about the grand technology palace you’re excited to build someday, this is about having some hustle, engaging with your market, building early traction.

So what is your first domino? It may be acquiring a first paying customer, gaining the interest of a certain investor, proving that this end customer will transact on a subscription model etc.

Another way to think about defining your first domino is using IF this THEN that statements…..

IF we acquired 10 paying customers THEN I’d quit my job and jump into running this full time
IF 5 customers will pay on our subscription model THEN I have an investor lined up to…..
IF we can pre-sell this to 20 enterprise customers THEN I will fund building the next version of our product.
One more cliche….There’s the old joke, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. (Caveat, I believe elephants are in danger so this is a metaphorical elephant!)

In the early days you have to make near perfect decisions about what you build on the software side. If your budget is small, you need to build traction and prove your business model quickly. As you determine what your first domino is, or your first bite, do your best to approach it with the goal of creating a complete user experience. You need to think more about your end users and your business rather than technology. Don’t get lost choosing your first domino from a purely technology perspective.

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Brydon Gilliss

Serial entrepreneur and Head of Canadian Business Development, Guelph office.