This post is brought to you by Wattpad Co-Founder and CEO Allen Lau.
Hackdays are the best way for a startup to support innovation. They give everyone a break from their normal day-to-day, and optimize the use of time and work. At Wattpad, some of our most popular features and products started as a hack.
Limited resources are common in most startups, and even in an environment of abundance it’s important to make the most of your resources. The optimal hack project has a purpose. The best way to start thinking about your hack is by asking yourself two questions:
How is the product currently supporting user growth?
What can I do to strengthen the product and accelerate that growth?
The diagram above visually demonstrates the best kind of hack project. Going with an idea that falls in the top left quadrant is obviously a safe choice. Unfortunately, most ideas fall in the other three quadrants.
The trick is to pick some interesting ideas that exist in the bottom left quadrant, where the green dots fall in this diagram. Invest a little in those ideas and test them through small experiments. Optimally, working on these ideas should push the dots toward the top left quadrant while avoiding a movement towards the bottom-right.
You might be surprised to learn how many important in-app features and related Wattpad apps started off as small experiments. Our recently launched SoundCloud audio integration for Android, and stand-alone apps like Covers and After Dark app, are all great examples of what a small team can do given the right structure.
The structure looks something like this:
Set a clear goal up front
- what assumption are you trying to validate?
Form a small team 2-4 people max
- this is key. It optimizes speed and decision making
Set a time limit of a week or two
- time limits get things done faster and reduce risk
Always remember, the best hacks support your users in some way. The collective intelligence of your users is an endless supply of insight. Creating boxes, where users have to use things a certain way, keeps you from spotting how users are developing their unique behaviours.
These two questions and simple structure can help you set up a successful hack by uncovering opportunities to accelerate user growth. Recognizing those opportunities, however, requires knowledge sharing across the startup.
At Wattpad, our hack teams are user-obsessed and we have a strong record of rolling out new products and features that build off ideas that support user engagement and experience. Every employee is challenged to bring an idea to life in a single day as part of our monthly Hack Friday event
I encourage you to hack in a way that supports your users. Reduce risk by thinking in low-effort, high-reward, it will put you on the path to success.