The Starting Line is not the Finish Line

There weren’t a whole lot of really new things announced at the Web 2.0 conference, mostly large companies saying what you’d expect. But one of the launches that stood out was stikkit. There are plenty of reviews of the service; I’m not here to talk about that.
I got a chance to talk to the folks behind Stikkit a bit at the event, and I’ve been friends with them for years. So instead of “hey, what does it do, what are the features?” we ended up talking a little more generally about what starting a business, and launching a product, actually means.
Michael sums it up well on his blog:

Talking to Anil at the conference, I realize something now that I only sort of had at the back of mind before. He described how he just got back from watching the NYC Marathon, and how gruelling it can be just to arrive at the starting line. You need to fly there, take taxis, ferries, subways, then register, warm up, and finally start running. He said “You’ve just now arrived at the starting line, and your marathon has just begun.”
And there’s no doubt he’s right. I see much more clearly now that we’ve launched that a lot of attention has to be paid to pacing ourselves, and making sure we’re tapping into the collective intelligence of our rapidly growing user base. Some of those little things we put off prior to the launch are now beginning to take center stage, and we’re spending good quality time getting things right.

Too often, I see people, especially in the new wave of startups, treating their launch as the finish line. Or putting all their eggs in a single basket — a big press story or coverage on a prominent blog. Maybe a partnership or endorsement from some company. Any of these things are great (hell, I work on that kind of stuff every day) but none of them, on their own are enough.
Launching something meaningful is about every day, every minute, that happens after that start. Honestly, it makes me feel a lot like when I was talking about getting married: “If you tell people you’re engaged, they start talking to you about that one day, and almost never about the other half century you’re signing up for.”
I am, frankly, tired of reading reviews of new technology that omit the commitment of the team, that don’t mention how the success of the product almost feels like life-or-death to the people making it, or ones that ignore the people who make the damn thing happen. I’d settle for one product review that said, “we’re not sure which direction this service is going, but the people behind it have a history of making magic happen”. The technologies I use most every day were almost all conceived as something else entirely, and evolved into their current, indispensable forms through the dedication of people who were interested in running the marathon, not just entering the race.
(Thanks to David for the photo.)