Culture of experimentation

How it feels to experience a startup when there are still no customers nor money

October 15, 2020

A scientist in the middle of a colored crater after a meteorite has landed.
Culture of experimentation in startups — Bits Kingdom

Ahhh, yes. All of us who work in technology want to show how open-minded we are. We are in an industry that innovates all the time. We cannot afford to be less! We all want to be part of that legion of testers and analysts, with mountains of data enough to talk about “storytelling” and an endless number of new clients with whom to test whether a button works better if it is red or green.

One day, you spin around in your chair and face reality: you only have your computer, an app in the stores that your friends have downloaded, and much unspecific work for external clients.

Yes, of course, it’s easier to experiment in a big company like booking.com, where they invest tons of dollars in A/B testing to decide where to place a button. If you use this site to make reservations, you were probably one of their guinea pigs in one of their 25,000 experiments per year. Nobody there asks permission to launch a test, and they do something called “guerrilla usability testing.” Sounds cool, doesn’t it?

All this is part of their company culture. An idea appears, then it is tested and, depending on the result, it is implemented or discarded. How easy it sounds! But guess what: you don’t need to be Booking to experience, and certainly, their way is not the only way of doing it.

At this point, you may be asking yourself: how can I experiment if I barely survive? The good news is that experimentation is already happening: running a business from nothing is an experiment in itself, and you are putting all your energy (and probably all your capital too) into making it work.

You may think you don’t have anything to experiment with. Your app doesn’t have enough users, or maybe your company offers outsourcing services, and you never get to know your final customer. Don’t be discouraged: the culture of experimentation is a much broader concept than launching tests left and right: it is an impulse to try new things, a need to discover different paths.

When you embrace the culture of experimentation, it becomes part of your company’s way of being.

Creating a space for experimentation

As you may have noticed, we are not Booking.com either. We only managed to gather about fifteen people (including freelancers). We work a lot and, until recently, we didn’t have time for anything but clients. Not to mention learning new technologies, analyzing strategies, or simply renovating our website. And we do websites ALL THE TIME.

So, making a huge effort (and not without some fears), we cleaned up our agenda on Friday mornings and set up a space called Happy Place. We don’t attend to clients, we don’t answer questions. We just work on whatever our company needs at the moment.

While we have breakfast together (all in different cities worldwide), we have a small meeting to distribute tasks. We work in teams to join forces, and four hours later, each person or team shows what they’ve been working on and the results. There are more productive days for some and frustrating for others, but it is an invaluable opportunity to learn what others are doing.

How is it going for us? We don’t know yet. We’re experimenting!