The Ultimate MVP : The Saturn 5 Rocket

Saturn 5 Rocket
Saturn 5 on its Launch pad

Most people in larger companies look at the lean-startup movement and think it doesn’t apply to them (despite much of its inspiration coming from a very large company, Toyota). Well NASA ran a very successful Minimum Viable Product through the 1960’s called the Apollo program.

The Apollo program had a simple goal, put a man on the moon.  Every part of the mission was dedicated to that end. So although the Saturn V rocket is the largest rocket every built it was completely disposable apart from the Command Module that returned to Earth with the astronauts. Even that was discarded once the astronauts had been recovered.

There was no attempt to design reuse for trips to other planets or reuse in the mission of space station building. They reused extensive design knowledge gained in the design of Mercury and  Gemini and space missions and focussed on design simplicity and remote monitoring as opposed to onboard maitainance to resolve problems.

Most importantly, they recognized that the short duration of Apollo missions meant that the parts and sub-systems did not need to undergo the rigor of prolonged testing in the harsh environment of Space.

They wouldn’t have called it that at the time but they were engaging in lean design and adopting lean startup principles.

  • Minimum Viable Product: A rocket to put a man on the moon and bring him back
  • Reuse of standard components: Many of the sub-systems for Gemini and Mercury were carried straight across
  • No Over design: Design for the current mission, a short duration trip to the Moon, no a long duration flight to Mars.
  • Rapid Iteration: 11 Apollo missions in 8 years culminating in Apollo 11 that put a man on the moon
  • Failed Experiments:  Apollo 1 resulted in a mission fire that killed all three astronauts, apollo

So next time someone says MVP is a the new new thing. Tell ’em about the Apollo program.

Customer Development: From Drills to E-Readers


Cheap nasty power drill Sony E-Reader

Customer : I need a drill

Seller: What for?

Customer : To make holes in a wall <<—Pivot: Drills to Holes

Seller: Why do you need holes

Customer: To attach a shelf <<—Pivot: Holes to Storage

Seller: Why do you need a shelf

Customer : To Store Books

Seller: Have you looked at our storage solutions?

Customer: Yes but I like to browse my collections, boxes and cupboards don’t work

Seller: Do you have a lot of books?

Customer: Yes, four or five stand up bookshelves

Seller: What kind of shelf are you attaching?

Customer: Just a single shelf

Seller: How come not another stand up bookshelf?

Customer: I’ve run out of space <<— Pivot: Storage to e-Readers

Seller: Have you looked at our new e-Readers?

Customer: What’s an e-Reader?

Going Local vs Going Global when Outsourcing

I did a presentation called “A Cheap Date with Cloud Computing” at the a French Chamber of Commerce event last Thursday .

During the presentation I made an off the cuff comment about staying away from Irish outsourcing companies because they were too expensive. This comment was reported by Chris Horn which elicited some responses online.

Twitter is not a good medium for debate so I thought I would clarify my comments.

  1. Irish web design/dev shops are more expensive than overseas suppliers and they all seem to get business, so more power to them.  This is free market economics at its best.
  2. Overseas is not just India/China. You can find good, low cost developers much closer to home within two or three timezones of Ireland
  3. The tech requirements for the audience at The French Chamber of Commerce (primarily SMEs and mostly non tech sector) is limited in scope and doesn’t require high powered (i.e. expensive) design skills or code cutting capability

If you are building genuinely novel software for a new or emerging market using agile techniques then there is some argument for going local because proximity to your development team is a key  requirement.

However even in those projects a significant amount of “grunt” work is required (building wordpress themes, connecting payment engines, porting software to different platforms etc.). This work is an ideal candidate for outsourcing and Odesk and Elance do an excellent job of providing a marketplace for lowering the cost of these activities.

As for design work, well I will never ever source startup logos from anywhere other than, end of.

Dublin Startup Weekend @ The NDRC

Oct 1st to 3rd

Don’t forget to book tickets for Dublin Startup Weekend 1st – 3rd Oct @


This event is an intense 54-hour event that brings together people with great ideas for web or mobile apps together to develop them from concepts to operational, launch-ready systems over the weekend.

We’re seeking a good mix of developers, designers, bus dev, marketers, and all round innovators, to make this event bigger and better than the last one.

The last event resulted in the incorporation of 3 start-up companies, all still working to develop their products, and everyone who took part (whether they went on to start-up or not) spoke of the value of the weekend.

• To register, visit:
• To express your interest, see who else is interested, and receive updates on the event over the coming weeks, visit:

• To read about the event in Silicon Republic, visit:

Tickets cost €75 and numbers are limited.