Reinventing the Wheel

So it turns out that the tech industry, like every other industry, every once in a while, needs to admit that we don’t know everything.

Yesterday PandoDaily published an analysis of the FitBit Force recall and focused on the possible causes for the rashes users have been experiencing with the product. The author, Tim Worstall , recommended that instead of trying to solve every problem on their own, how the FitBit designers should have hired a “decent graybeard jewelry designer and [found] out what we’ve collectively learned about the alloys that you can place in close proximity to skin.” His conclusion was that “it might be sensible for the designers of new to look at how the designers of old solved the same problems.” It’s OK to rely on other experts that are not usually part of the tech industry every once in a while.

Mr. Worstall made a very valid point, one I think other tech startups would do well to consider.

Take, for example, today’s news about Uber changing drivers’ different insurance options. It was probably obvious to  the Uber team that they were going to have insurance issues but they may not have prioritized it. After all, getting the app out there, explaining the concept and recruiting drivers seem like such a greater challenge. Talking to a car insurance expert may have enabled them to put together a better and more comprehensive plan for drivers before encountering difficulties.  

Wheel. Still round.

Wheel. Still round.

Likewise for Airbnb and their million dollar host guarantee. As with Uber, they’re good people and great engineers but they’re not insurance experts and needed a very negative incident to look into providing insurance to their hosts.

Finally, let’s take a look at security, or the lack of, in several social startups. As Trip Jones said in the NY Times: “there’s so much focus on acquiring customers and delivering products and services that security is not top of mind.” But while it may not be a priority at the very beginning, an experienced security expert should probably be brought in as some user acquisition threshold is reached, not after a serious breach. 

Bottom line: there’s always going to be an area where your product may need expertise your team doesn’t have. Seek it out before it’s too late.

 

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