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How to Ship Your Product

On Friday at VeloCity’s Great Hall, Gareth MacLeod and Scott Tolksdorf of the 7 Cubed Project and founders of LifeTracker talked to our VeloCity students about how to ship their products. With 4 VeloCity startup weekends under their belts, they were able to bring a lot of great information to our students. They described shipping as taking a product from absolutely nothing to a working demo, something that you can share with people. Shipping was explained in 3 parts: plan, communicate, and execute.

For planning, Gareth and Scott highlighted the importance of everyone on your team knowing exactly what your product is – it’s essential for them to scope out what they are actually going to build. They suggested that you start off with a minimum viable product (MVP) with as few features as possible; your project needs to work and it isn’t necessarily important that it looks good. When planning, it’s important to be very specific: everyone on your team should know what everyone else is working on. Having a master document can help you with this. Ideally, your project will divide itself into modules that can be easily assigned to each team member. A great tool for planning that they described is the Onion Diagram – in the middle you have your minimum viable product and after that, you start adding features in small batch sizes, one at a time. These features are mapped as rings around the MVP.

Scott and Gareth explained how extremely important communication is when coding your product. Engineering is often seen as a technical discipline, but it really is all about communication. They recommended having stand-ups every couple hours, where everyone who’s coding stops, turns around, and talks about what they are doing and what they’ve already accomplished. Scott and Gareth also mentioned the importance of team morale. Your team needs to have lots of energy (they recommended caffeine) so that you are happy and comfortable with what you’re doing. Cooperation is key: if there is a problem amongst your team, settle it. Lastly, the guys told our students to ask for help if they need it. You have to get over wanting to solve problems on your own; it’s all about finishing your project so you need to put your pride aside.

The last part of shipping, execute, is all about getting your project done. You should use tools that you are familiar with to make the process easier. Also, when you can choose between using something that already exists or building something, you should always use the preexisting product. When you are coding within a short period of time, you need to use strategies to save time. You should commit small and commit often: build code in small batch sizes that you can revise easily at the end of every hour instead of trying to revise a huge amount of code at once.

Finally, Scott and Gareth really emphasized having fun. They said that your product would actually be better if you enjoyed building it.

A big thanks to Scott Tolksdorf and Gareth MacLeod for all of these great tips. Our VeloCity students have coded all weekend and we are excited to see their final product tonight!