Exclusive isn't just for elitism
If you invite only a select group to your early service you are following the golden product release path. Who you invite in to a pre-alpha stage can have a profound impact on your business direction. Limited early invites creates a sense of scarcity. This scarcity is not completely unreasonable as you can only respond to so much user feedback at the start of a new company.
At this early product phase a small community of people that care about your effort will socially mold the style, utility, and personality of your groups design efforts. By getting healthy feedback from the getgo you can face the biggest challenges to adoption while your service is most flexible. Older products have built in limitations on usage, as their design lifecycle was targeted towards a specific function. While older utility libraries are a great way to hit the ground running, the character and charm of a novel product is:
- it's unique combination of existing products or services
- it's a genuine new fundamental offering
- it's an older concept that now is ripe for marketing
Game designers have thrown private alpha parties for some time now. A plethora of web service businesses have released limited access codes at domain conferences. The early users require some functionality, but do your best to eliminate bugs immediately. While some may forgive early software bugginess, many will simply move on to more functional, and reliable alternatives.
Who to invite?
If you select the private testing group properly expect better feedback and greater enthusumiasm and product support. The target test group should consist of industry experts, friends who can be brutally honest, and other potential users you believe would benefit most from your service. Random test groups are only good at giving average feedback. Most random sample groups have little motivation to provide any helpful feedback.