Standup Comedy and Startups
What do standup comedy and startups have in common? More than you might think. Although they are two very different fields, standup comedy and startups have one very big aspect in common. They are both about delivering what your customers want. When people go to a standup comedy show, they want to laugh. When people sign up for your app, they want it to solve a problem. So how do you know what makes people laugh? How do you know what problems people have? The best way to solve both of these problems, is to test on your customers.
Comedians write jokes that they find funny. Similarly, a startup founder will build a product that they likes, or that solves a problem in their life. The only way that comedians know whether their jokes are funny or not is if they get in-front of a crowd and “ask” them if they are funny. They doesn’t literally ask the crowd though, they tells then the jokes and they read the crowds reaction. Same concept with a startup founder. You will find people with the problem that you are solving and see if it is helping them. You don’t ask them directly if this is solving your problem, you observe through dialog and testing to see if you are on the right track.
Comedians and startups will continue to write jokes and build features using this methodology. After enough features have been implemented, a Startup will have an MVP. When a comedian writes enough jokes, they have a set. With a set, a comedian can start performing regularly at clubs around the country. Obviously this isn’t an easy task. There are many great comedians that do not tour regularly. But for example, we will assume that our comedian was able to start headlining clubs around the country. Similarly, a startup will release their MVP. This is the next step after testing individually with users. In some ways this is similar to a beta, but we are going to follow the Paul Graham way and get our product out there as quickly as we can. Comedians will continue to work on their set while they are on tour. They can continue to get feedback from even more people. People that are very different, but all want the same thing. Startups do the same thing with an MVP release. We know that we are solving the problem and people like it, but how many people like it? Is there any other things that we need to change? These are questions that startups and comedians need to answer with their sets and MVPs.
After the tour is done, the comedian would have probably spent a year or more touring the country and updating his set accordingly. By then, the set will have become a special. There is more to making a special than just a great set, but it definitely plays a role. Specials are recordings of the comedians act that are licensed and distributed by an entertainment organization. Startups don’t license their MVP, but there is a next step. After feedback has been received and bugs have been fixed, the startup finally has a product. Products are heavily tested and very well received by the target audience, or at least they should be. Similar to the fact that a comedian shouldn’t make a special without a funny set, a startup shouldn’t finish a product without having an MVP that has proven to solve user problems.
This is just an opinion piece. I may be way off with some aspects of the example. I definitely made a good amount of assumptions with the success of the comedian and the startup, but that was necessary to make the point.