Fail fast and cheap: Right or wrong approach?

Ana Vilar García

Fail fast and cheap is a mantra for entrepreneurs, startups or venture builders — anyone who needs to ideate and develop a brand new product has this sentence in mind. Why? Today, we analyze this mantra and discuss if it is the right or wrong approach.

What is “fail fast and cheap”? What does it mean?

Fail fast and cheap is a popular approach among entrepreneurs, startups founders or venture builders. This sentence encompasses a mindset that is shared among all of the mentioned before — a mindset to accept failure and being prepared for it.

Fail fast and cheap means your efforts to create a product and find its market fit, you need to be aware you can fail. If this happens, it is important that this moment arrives soon (so you and your team don’t lose your time) and without putting much resources into it (so your investors don’t lose faith in you).

Why fail fast and cheap can be wrong

While accepting failure is a good approach, failing fast and cheap usually leads to delivering half-baked products. In order to test the product or service and the response from the market, startups tend to deliver products that don’t show all of their value proposition, present bugs, or simply are not developed enough. Trying to save money and time can lead to a poor product, sending an image that you’re not trying hard enough.

In the best case scenario, your MVP should be launched after following the whole design thinking process, including carrying out extensive market research and developing a proof of concept. These paths will ensure your market will be accepting the product and potentially reach a product-market fit, while the second ensures the feasibility of the project, usually in terms of technology. After carrying out both, it is still possible to fail, but “fail fast and cheap” shouldn’t be an excuse not to do your homework.

👉Learn about PoC vs prototypes vs MVPs and the importance of taking good care of them👈

Taking failure as a mid-term goal is certainly not a right approach, product-market fit is. 

When is failing fast and cheap a good idea?

Failing cheap and fast can be the right approach, especially if we take in consideration that it always implies learning.

If you’re ahead of the plan (hence, if you have a plan) 

If you have followed the design thinking process, it is possible that failure happens soon enough, delivers a learning and is the key to finding a missing key piece. The important thing here is you follow the correct strategy and don’t deliver a poor product simply because you rely on this mantra.

Failing fast should imply that you have a correct roadmap, have followed a sensible strategy, and detecting failure on time will help you pivot your business on time.

If your budget contemplates learning through failure

Innovation is no longer a startup thing. Large companies are into innovation and many of them have their own innovation labs or intrapreneurship programs. In this particular case, it is possible that the company has a budget dedicated to innovation efforts, including failures. Failing must imply learning, and if this is the modus operandi you have chosen for your company, then go for it.

Unfortunately, startups don’t have this kind of resources, so failing can’t be an option sometimes. If this is your case, try finding a balance between what you invest in the product and saving as much as possible in the first stages.

Learning through failure

At Corporate Lab, we’re experts on launching new startups for larger companies. And one of the reasons why we consider ourselves experts on the matter is because we have succeeded, and also failed before. Our team is formed by entrepreneurs and startup founders. We have all walked the entrepreneurial path and know failure can present opportunities — mainly the opportunity to learn. This experience has shaped our perspective and turned us into a precise and attentive venture studio. If you too are okay with failing fast and cheap, but prefer straightforward succeeding, just drop us a line.

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