An instructive lesson for our project from Groupon CEO Andrew Mason who sums up his entrepreneurual experience building a global $15 billion company:

We started out building a site that was designed literally to solve the unsolvable problems of the world, and now we’re hawking coupons.

View the video here: NY Tech Meetup with Andrew Mason [Apologies, WordPress doesn’t allow Livestream embeds]

For journalistic endeavors that typically embody very low risk thresholds and a lumbering capacity to pivot, this bit of advice from Mason is especially enlightening:

The biggest mistake we made with The Point was being completely encumbered by this vision of what I wanted it to be. And taking ten months to build the product and making all these assumptions about what people would want. Then, we spent the next ten months backtracking on instead of focusing on the one little piece of the product that people actually liked.

If there’s any advice I have it’s that you’re way too dumb to figure out whether your idea is good. It’s up to the masses. So build that very small thing and get it out there. Keep on trying different things. Eventually, you’ll get it right.

It’s easy to dismiss Mason’s critical point delivered in a gee-whiz, golly-gosh fashion. However, it encapsulates the importance of the customer development model we must infuse into our project.

Though we’re still having fits and starts identifying our primary customer (news consumers, media partners, advertisers or the as yet undiscovered X factor who’s actually ponying up the cash for this product).

After working through the class lectures, readings, mentor meetings and, now, listening to Mason, the password for this week is: Build small, iterate fast or die trying.

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