Dave Morin CEO of Path and Mike McCue CEO of Flipboard were both interviewed on the main stage yesterday at Le Web. They are both high profile CEOs of high profile startups that have raised a lot of money for very design focused mobile apps.
They have also both recently launched new iPhone apps and we had demos of both. Morin and McCue were both at pains to show how beautiful their apps are and how much time and effort they had put into making the interface intuitive and easy to use. They both also explained that they had wanted to get the apps right before launching and had preferred to take their time and get it right rather than launch early with an imperfect product.
Morin explained how with the first version of Path they had launched early with a minimum viable product but they found that iteration cycles on mobile were too long to make the lean methodology work, which was why they switched methodology for the second release.
So we have two leading companies that are moving away from the lean startup methodology just at the point when the rest of the world is adopting it as an orthodoxy.
I haven’t figured out what to make of this yet. Path and Flipboard have both raised huge amounts of capital so they have the luxury of not being lean if they don’t want to, and that might explain why they are adopting a different approach to everyone else. Alternatively, it might be that as great design becomes more and more important there is less and less to be learned from minimum viable product. Put differently, if great design is the essence of the product there is no way to quickly develop a rough version.
The point about iteration cycle times on mobile is also interesting. I’m assuming that is because of app store approval processes, and if we move back towards a more web oriented world that will become less of a problem. And if we don’t, it won’t. I’m not sure which way that will go, but if Morin is right the outcome will have a big impact on the way startups approach product development.