There’s a lot that I like and agree with in Sam Altman’s recent post “Projects and Companies“. As he says:
The best companies start out with ideas that don’t sound very good. They start out as projects, and in fact sometimes they sound so inconsequential the founders wouldn’t let themselves work on them if they had to defend them as a company. Google and Yahoo started as grad students’ projects. Facebook was a project Zuckerberg built while he was a sophomore in college. Twitter was a side project
I still think it’s best to not spend time on development until you find that “emphatic yes” from customers. (See Why you Need an Emphatic Yes) . But even then, if you think of what you’re doing as a project (at least in the early stages of your company) you’ll be less likely to add on the overhead (and expense) of a company, like a CFO and a VP of Sales or Business Development, and a VP of Marketing. Early on, it’s a much better idea to be a project team, and have founders do sales, marketing, and the basic accounting. Not only does that reduce the burn, but early on you don’t need a CFO and you want founders to have that direct marketing/sales link with customers. Once you clearly have reached product-market fit, then by all means, think like a company. But early on, it’s OK to stay lean and be a project, not a company!