one huge mistake startup founders make
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If you're considering applying to work with me, please take a moment to understand my process, and how I can help you build a successful product.
When it comes to software development, I’m a big believer in the Agile Development process.
Agile is a development philosophy that emphasizes constant evolution and improvement of the software being built, in order to move it towards solving the customers problems as quickly as possible.
By practicing the Agile way, I can ensure that you always have a working product that is useful to your customers.
Your software is never “coming soon” or “under construction”. It’s always in front of your customers, delivering value, solving their problems, and making you money.
Development cycles of an Agile project take place over a series of 1 week “sprints”. These are short periods of concentrated designing, coding, and testing, during which new features are added to your software.
At the end of each weekly sprint, a new version of your product is released to your customers, ready for them to use and to give you feedback on.
For new startups, quickly getting to the point where your product delivers real value to customers allows you to:
For existing businesses, Agile enables you to:
The Agile process is perfectly suited to achieving all of these goals as quickly as possible.
Discovering which product features perfectly solve your customers’ problems is simple with Agile.
During each sprint, features are added to your app in order of priority, so that your customers can access the most important functionality first.
This means that after the first sprint, your product already includes it’s most impactful features.
By releasing software quickly and improving it in an incremental fashion week by week, you’re able to gather feedback from your customers and immediately discover what software features help them achieve their goals, and what features hinder them.
You can use this feedback to further refine the product during the next cycle of development, sculpting it to perfectly suit your customers’ needs.
By developing in this iterative manner, you are able to quickly reach the Minimal Viable Product stage, the point in time where your product has the minimal set of features necessary to solve your customers’ real problems in the simplest way possible.
Building your MVP is a process that requires constant feedback from real customers. You cannot decide yourself when you’ve reached the MVP phase. Instead, your customers determine when you’ve obtained your MVP.
While the Agile process allows me to build your product quickly, it doesn’t mean that I will sacrifice quality to finish your product faster.
Quality is my #1 concern and I refuse to cut corners.
In fact, I only work with clients who value quality.
Why does software quality matter so much?
Badly written software takes longer to adapt and change, which ends up costing you more money and time.
Being able to adapt to customer needs is vital for Agile startups, since the journey to the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) stage will require you to repeatedly make changes to your product vision in response to customer feedback. If your software is written badly from the beginning, your developer will be spending most of their time fixing bugs instead of adding the new features that your customers are asking for.
Low quality software leads to dissatisfied customers and gives your startup a bad reputation.
Imagine spending all of your time and energy convincing new users to try your app, only to have them hate using it because of constant bugs, slow and sluggish behavior, and intermittent crashes. What chance will your startup have of surviving if your brand becomes synonymous with a horrible customer experience?
Slow apps are harder to market and rank in search engines.
Did you know Google takes the speed of your web app into account when ranking it in search results? If your app isn’t built to be fast, kiss any chance of being a top search result goodbye. And how will anybody use your app if they can’t find it?
Clearly, spending a little extra time building quality software will not only save you money, but also preserve your reputation and increase the chances of your product succeeding.
I want to give my client’s the highest chance of success. That’s why I care about software quality so much.
My chief goal is to help you build a successful product. Take a look at my Product Development Process below for an overview of what I can help you with.
Continue reading below it for a more in-depth explanation of each stage of the process.
During our first discussion, we’ll talk about your business and the problems you’re trying to solve for your customers.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
This is your pool of potential customers. You likely already know the qualities that they all have in common. Sharing this knowledge will help me understand who your product is meant to help.
If you’re building an N-sided marketplace or platform, you could be serving two or more markets simultaneously. There is usually a producer of goods or services, and a consumer of those goods or services.
This is the biggest issue your customers are facing, and the problem you’re trying to solve for them.
Knowing this will help me craft your product to solve this problem as effortlessly as possible.
How will you fix your customers issues? This is usually the basis for your big product idea.
It’s important to note that during the process of building your product and gathering feedback from customers, your solution is very likely to change significantly.
Once your solution matches what the market wants and is willing to pay for, you have reached the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) stage.
This is how you’ll make money from your product.
A business isn’t really a business if you don’t have a way to make money. Even if you don’t plan to monetize immediately, you should have a general idea of when and how you will monetize later.
What makes your business unique? If you want to stand out from your competitors, it’s important that you offer something valuable that they can’t.
Maybe you have an insider perspective on a niche industry and can understand your customers better. Or perhaps you have exclusive connections to large suppliers that consumers want access to.
These are obstacles standing in your way and preventing you from succeeding.
They might include:
This is the stage in the process where we take into account your markets constraints and design a product to get around them.
Two-sided marketplaces and platforms face unique challenges, since you need to cater to the needs of two groups of people instead of just one.
If you’re planning to build one of these solutions, I will help you design your marketplace or platform to solve the special problems that having two or more markets presents.
User Acquisition: When you launch your platform, how will you get consumers to use it, when you don’t have any producers yet? And why would producers use your platform if there are no consumers? This is the “chicken or the egg” problem that all two-sided platforms face. Luckily, there are numerous strategies you can use to overcome it. I’ll show you how to design your platform to utilize these strategies, and make acquiring users much simpler.
Sharing & Virality: “Going viral” on social networks is the secret to immense popularity and practically free marketing. I’ll help you design you platform to harness this highly effective marketing method.
Matching algorithms & Curation criteria: Once you have both sides of your market using your platform, how will you make it easy for your users to find a counterpart to do business with? Matching algorithms, curation, and effective search functionality can help with this. I’ll help you build this into your platform to make pairing up users efficient.
Tools: Your marketplace or platform should be more than just a way for two markets to communicate. You’ll also need to provide them with tools to increase the value of their transactions, and make doing business easier. I’ll help you design effective tools that will keep users coming back to your platform.
What data will you collect from your users, and how will you use it to increase the value of your business?
How will you protect the privacy of your users, and the security of the data you collect?
I can help you answer these questions, along with setting up your data analytics and implementing secure storage of any sensitive data.
Getting and keeping customers starts before you even build your platform.
I can help you come up with a strategy to reach the people that will want to use your platform. This includes harnessing social media, content marketing, email marketing, influencer outreach, and SEO/SEM.
Will you be seeking outside funding from investors to boost growth, or bootstrapping your company yourself?
I can help you prepare your business to attract investors, and help you reduce your business risk to make your platform a more attractive investment.
If your project is especially large, you’ll need a team of professionals to help you pull it off. I can help you hire and train web designers, developers, copywriters, marketers, and more.
Once we’ve decided on your strategy, we begin the core phase of Agile development, where we put your strategy into practice.
This is when we break your high level requirements down into actionable steps, so we can build your platform.
This involves several steps:
User stories & Acceptance Criteria: These are descriptions of the various features of your app, written from the perspective of your users. These are key pieces of information that will be used at every stage of development, that specify exactly how features should function. Once a development sprint is finished, your app will conform exactly to the criteria laid out here.
Software stack & hosting infrastructure: This is where we decide on the underlying software that will become the base of your platform. We can save time and money by using open source software, frameworks, Software as a Service, or third-party APIs, since we won’t always have to develop our own solution to problems.
Sprint planning & estimation: Once we know exactly what features we’ll be building, and how they should function, we will know with better accuracy how long each feature will take to implement. We can prioritize features based on importance, cost, or risk. If needed, low importance and high cost/risk features can be delayed until later, when your business is better prepared to implement them.
At this point, I create wireframe mock-ups of your application’s User Interface, and work on improving the User Experience.
A web designer can then take these mock-ups and design a professional look and feel for your product. Or, if budget is an issue, we can use pre-built designs and CSS frameworks to keep costs down.
This is where we write the words that will turn visitors into users.
Strong copy can make a platform easy to understand and use, and can convert casual visitors into paying customers.
This is where the coding happens. Your application is built using industry best practices, with an emphasis on quality.
This part of the development cycle happens simultaneously with development. I test your application to make sure it functions properly and conforms to the acceptance criteria outlined earlier.
I also perform a variety of tests, including browser and mobile device testing, security testing, and performance testing.
Here’s where you can try out the app, and make sure it conforms to the requirements we set out during the planning phase.
Finally, the sprint is complete and the new version of your app is ready for the public. We launch your updated app to early adopters, and collect their feedback.
Based on feedback and any other new information discovered during the last sprint, refinements can be made to your platform to improve how your customers interact with it.
We’ll review this information, and devise a new strategy to follow for the next sprint.
Whether new development is happening or not, regular maintenance must be performed to keep your app running strong.
I will keep your data backed up, make sure software components are kept up-to-date, and continually monitor your application for performance and security issues that might arise as your business grows.
If you want help with all or part of this process, apply to work with me.