So I heard a short interview today on my favorite business radio show, Marketplace on APM, with Dennis Crowley the co-founder and CEO of FourSquare. I use FourSquare to keep in touch with my team and my family, to let them know where I am and what’s going on. I don’t check in every time but it’s nice sometimes it’s nice to just tag my favorite pub when I get there and then have friends show up! Or tag my friend’s (really good) new restaurant to help get the word out. That’s a cool thing to do.
So when I heard that a fellow CEO was going to be on the show today, I made a mental note to listen for updates about the app. What I heard though, were two inspiring messages about technology and innovation.
First Kai Ryssdal from Marketplace asked why FourSquare upgraded their app so dramatically a few weeks ago. Dennis said that when they started, there were 10 or 15 people at the company and they wrote everything. After they grew and new programming teams came on board, they realized that their application had become “crowded”. Too “crowded” to allow the team to continue to add the stuff they needed to meet customer expectations. So, Dennis and the team made the decision, despite having something like 20,000,000 users, to chunk it all and start over. That was a controversial decision and an expensive one. But not as expensive as NOT doing it and loosing their edge.
After that, Kai asked him for any advice he’d give others (like us) who are engaged in the very difficult work of enterprise software. He said “don’t listen to people who think your ideas won’t work, go out and find out yourself”. I love that. It reminds me of a book I read, it asserted that “great ideas have lonely childhoods” and I think that’s what Dennis was saying. Maybe you are an idiot and your idea is stupid, or maybe you’ll have 20 freaking million users! How will you know unless you take out and validate your idea in the marketplace? You won’t, you’ll just wonder later what might have happened!