Full Cycle Product Development

8 Dec, 2014 | Entrepreneurship, Product, Startups

A few weeks ago a friend introduced me to a project by levels, 12 startups in 12 months. Then I stumbled across Zack Shapiro’s Built in Public. These projects both felt new and exciting and I realised they shared a lot in common. Mainly, these multidisciplinary projects cover the full cycle of product development and promotion.

The following points make up the similarities between these projects and what makes them so interesting to me.


These projects are out in the open, subject to the critique of the internet. No “stealth mode” here. Which leads me on to…


Before starting to code, the idea is thrown out on Twitter and written up into a blog post. These projects find lean ways to get feedback, guage excitement and test whether it is something worth building in full. Before he launched Product Hunt, Ryan Hoover operated in a similar way, writing about ideas as much as he could. He has written about a few of these methods including email first startups and blog first startups. Which brings me on to…

Write & Share

We’ve already mentioned that writing about an idea can be a lean way to test the concept and get feedback. It is also a chance to build the community around a product proactively before it even launches. Furthermore, it is also a way to build a community around you. Some people may just be interested in the product or idea being shared, but many will also become interested in the person behind the post. This opens up opportunities to work with others and collaborate.


With the culmination of the above, several ideas can be wittled down into one and built with the context that people are already interested and excited. Which leads me on to…

Launch, Launch, Launch

Launching a product and putting it out into the public is often the biggest fear for young entrepreneurs. These projects break through this fear my launching early and launching quickly to an audience who has already validated the idea in some way. I imagine for the creators this must be hugely liberating.


In startup land you typically have people who take on one of two responsibilities: the building of the thing or the selling (and marketing) of the thing. I love these projects because they take on both responsibilities. These projects cover ideation, testing, feedback, build, launch, promote and growth. In short, they cover the whole cycle of product development and further.

Projects like those by levels.io and Zack Shapiro are essentially one-man startup studios. By being open with ideas you can gain early feedback and foster a following before building and launching a product. The most compelling advantage of this approach for young entrepreneurs is that even if the idea or product fails, you will have learned a lot from going through the complete cycle and probably gained a small following as well. These projects aren’t just about product development, they are about self-development. With that in mind, I think I’ll start my own.

My thanks go to @levelsio and @zackshapiro for being so open with their work and letting us learn from them. Thanks also to @BenCDavis whose candid discussions helped shape this post.

[Update - 20th Dec 2014] - Another awesome example of being open in your progress is Groove’s journey to $500k in monthly revenue, written by their CEO @alexmturnball. Thanks to @_ryanbrodie for sharing this with me.

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