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What's the secret sauce to a successful project?
I believe this is a bit of a subjective topic, so first to set the table, let me share some of my thoughts on what factors (on their own) do NOT make a project successful:
1. The core idea of the project doesn't really seem to be that big of a deciding factor. Sure good or unique ideas are going to have a better chance, but really it's rare that a project becomes a success just because it's a unique or really good idea.
2. The technology doesn't have to better. Again, it won't hurt to have better or superior technology but it rarely will make the true difference on if a project is successful (in the market that is).
I will say however, the proper use of technology at the start will help to keep the company from a faster crash-and-burn IF it does catch on with the general public (as you grow, if you plan right, you'll have the resources to improve your technology to handle your scale).
So if it's not the idea, and it's not the technology, what is the real key?
To me, it's all about the people and the perception.
You have to first get (the right) people to notice the project/idea, and then you have to get them to fall in love with it.
That is they have to actually use it, and get hooked on it.
Once you do that, your project will explode into growth mode.
Here's the thing though, it's really really hard to invoke the right emotions in people.
I say right emotions because it's easy to annoy or frustrate people with a project, but trust me that's no way to become a success.
Traditionally it costs money - LOTS of money - to get people to notice your project. The internet has not really changed that for the average person.
Sure you can get lucky if you have some active and/or influential friends, or you can spend years building up a following and engaging in an active community before launching your thing, but for the most part if you're not already in a successful business circle in the real world, you're probably not going to be in one online either.
There are millions of books, blog posts, and theories about how to market your project or idea. All of which really just shows you that it's tough tough business getting noticed - no matter who your are or what your project is.
Assuming you do get noticed, even for just a second, the next challenge is almost as tough -- making them fall in love with YOUR project.
Almost always, to any project you present, people are going to have a first reaction of "so what" or "XYZ already does that. better."
Again there are gobs of books, blog posts, research papers, etc. on how to get people to fall in love with your ideas/project. And again, it all just goes to show that really it's a black-magic art that's tough to learn and even tougher to get right.
So after all of this rambling, what's my point?
Basically that getting noticed and making people fall in love with what you offer are the true reasons a project succeeds or fails.
And doing both is tough as hell - so you better get started on them right now!