Thoughts on how to start up and build a virtual product (PART 1)
In this text I will share my thoughts on starting your business and building mobile/web product.
When I was younger I thought that it couldn’t be that hard to create something. You’ve got an idea, just implement it and it will sell itself, because it’s so good right? I also thought that I can lift a 2 ton trailer when I was 5. I have a scar on my forehead to this day :).
As time passed I have learned that basing something on “I thought” might be painful.
“I know we can make it if we take it slow” (The Killers — When you were young)
When I started working in a corporation on their biggest project at that time which was introducing a completely new retail chain to the market I understood how much effort it takes not only to build something, but also to ensure its success (ensure might not be a good word, but deal with it for now).
Let me name a few things that an entrepreneur will encounter while working on his product: R&D, P&L, BEP, ROI, sales, marketing, PR, category management, controlling, SEO, SEM, accounting, CRM, HR, accounting, operations, the list goes on and on.
For a big company like the one I’ve been working at, most of these have dedicated people with experience in given fields, and even that does not ensure that the project will be successful.
Does it mean that a lonely founder without much experience is doomed to fail? Of course not! Actually, I think that anyone can do it. Whether it will be successful or not is a different story, but remember to learn not only from your own mistakes, but from others mistakes as well. Now while working at a mobile/web development agency (appunite.com) I come across startups everyday. I see that many of them take wrong turns that have/will have tremendous impact on their business. Some examples of common mistakes:
- No MVP — that’s kind of “I know better” attitude that might work if you’re a clairvoyant,
- Hiring a bunch of people at the beginning — expect others to do your work? Try, I dare you,
- Money>Product — sure, everyone would like to be rich, but you won’t be selling money right?
- Not taking advice into account — “I know better” again. Everyone has their unique point of view so any advice is good, even if it’s actually wrong.
I think that you shouldn’t think big at the beginning of your road. Think small, there is actually a term for that in Japanese incorporated in most of big companies approach to business called 改善 (Kaizen) which literally means “change for better”, but the business philosophy behind kaizen is to improve with small steps, every day, continuously.
Let there be light!
If you already decided you want to start something — don’t wait, take the first step and start doing it. Otherwise, you’ll end up thinking about if for too long and eventually give up.
There are two main aspects of business:
Project — from idea to deployment to the market. This stage focuses on research and development.
Operation — maintaining the product. This stage focuses more on marketing, sales, CRM.
Obviously project stage is the one we’re looking at. It requires less money, but more risk is involved, so it’s good to do your homework.
Focus on what you can, instead of cannot. In the pre-seed stage there is actually a lot of things you can:
- Think of what you are particularly good at — it’s easier and you will be more creditable with prior experience/knowledge,
- Think of the challenges the community around your interest has — even small things can make a big difference,
- Do the market research, basic SWOT would also be good — confront your idea with available solutions, find a niche you could fill in,
- Prepare an early idea and try to keep it simple — you should be able to explain its core values within 30 seconds, Google search “Elevator pitch”,
- Ask people around you what do they think about it — understand that your point of view is only yours, pivot your idea if necessary.
There is a lot of things that I didn’t cover, and even with the best idea ever it’s still just an idea, worth nothing if you are not able to properly execute it. Assuming your target group isn’t small (an idea needs an audience) and you won’t be lying to yourself on the way, you should be able to create something that is at least interesting.
Don’t think about profits, if this is your main reason to start your business — don’t.
In Part 2 I will try to explain some basics to focus on during development of virtual product.