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May 08 2014

How Saying No Led To One Of Our Best Engagements

One of the things we're pretty good at is building applications for nontechnical founders. The process usually starts with an email from someone whose strengths lie in Product Development or Sales or Marketing. They have an idea for a world-changing application and they want to know if we can build it.

They know exactly what they want it to do and how it should work. They have a Vision.

Oftentimes they've skipped things like market validation or they’ll have a spec that calls for building elaborate systems when in reality some off-the-shelf plug-ins or platforms are probably "good enough" to get a project out the door to start finding that elusive product/market fit.

The idea of Lean or Agile principles are generally foreign to them. Rightly so. They’re coming from worlds where these concepts don’t exist.

Having launched more than 100 companies, we know that building a complete product without going through the Build/Measure/Learn process to test your assumptions is a recipe for failure.

Because of our commitment to a successful end product, we’ve passed on a few of these projects along the way. (Though we’ll admit that it’s tempting when someone walks through our doors with some lofty ideas and a blank check in hand.)

So we were pretty excited to see our client Ripple Funding featured on Wakefield the other day. Ripple Funding connects celebrities and their fans to help raise money for charities. A quote from a co-founder caught our eye and reminded us of a time when we said no, but ended up with a yes.

Cofounder Mikko Passananti: "When we first had the idea, we met with MojoTech, a Providence-based mobile dev shop,” we pitched them the idea and they kindly showed us the door, saying ‘You guys aren’t ready to do this yet’… Eric and I spent the next six months becoming students of wireframing and user-experience and completely rethinking the app. We went back to MojoTech in summer 2013 and ended up partnering with them.”

Mikko and Eric had a fantastic vision. They knew exactly what they wanted Ripple Funding to do and had listed out an entire feature set. But what they were describing was essentially version 3.0 of their product. They knew what they wanted, but hadn't spent a lot of time figuring out if anyone would actually want to use their product.

They simply weren't ready to build. Yet. We walked them through some concepts like minimum viable products and the process of build - test - learn - iterate. We told them to come back when they’d done a little more homework. A risky thing for MojoTech to do as a business, but the right thing to do for the success of a potential client. (Mikko would later tell us that they’d been to a few development shops who were eager to start right away, but chose MojoTech precisely because we challenged them to think further before they paid us a dime. They said yes, because we originally said no.)

(For another take on partnering with an agency like MojoTech as a nontechnical co-founder check out what Alex Turnbull, the founder of Groove, had to say about what [he did when he was ready to get started on his idea](http://www.groovehq.com/blog/technical-co-founder "What I Did When I Couldn't Find a Technical Co-Founder”).)

~ Nick Kishfy (@kishfy)

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Nick Kishfy