Startups

Startups — don’t get lost in the tech

Nathan Allsopp
December 21, 2017

Take a look around your social networks and you’re bound to find someone you know venturing into “startup land”. They’ve got an awesome idea for a mobile app, website or platform that may or may not sound like a good idea. However, the increasingly common problem is..

I don’t know how to code!

Ah yes, this old gem — the punchline that everybody has heard. This conundrum leads side-hustlers down the rabbit hole trying to find solutions to build the codebase that underpins their idea.

Don’t get me wrong — finding a solution to one’s lack of coding knowledge is necessary in order to start. However, this run down the rabbit hole seems to carry on into the future for many startups.

Whether a solution is found or not, the focus seems to always remain on “the tech”. The tech infatuation sets in.

We can’t do that — because tech!. Need more tech. Forget the plan — tech. Wait, can you explain “the tech” again?
Tech. Tech. Goose.

All of a sudden, we’re in the situation of non-techs drowning in tech. Conversations about Elastic Beanstalk versus Heroku versus EC2 are going in one ear and out the other.

The tech is important, but it is only one part of the big picture. Getting lost only in the technology means other key business functions may not be getting enough consideration. 

Well then, what else needs to be considered alongside technology problems?

User Research

Simply talking with people is a great way to learn more about your idea. Unsplash

Having an idea is a great start, but in reality the idea is the smallest “win” along your journey.

You need to find the problem you are solving for people and see if the problem is something that really bothers people. Some ideas will be met with “Shut up and take my money!”, while others may sound more like “That sounds like a nice thing to have”.

Having insight into whether people find your idea truly valuable or not is a key part of the product process.

Research is critical to ensure you’re solving a problem, and that there is a market for that problem. Put the tech and business plans down for a second, and really focus on the people. Listen to what they have to say. After all, they’re the ones who pay money for it.

Product Design

is more than visuals — it is the way you solve your problem. UnsplashDesign

Many startups have a specific function in mind that forms the backbone of their idea. However, many fail to consider the overall solution that they are trying to deliver to customers.

Sure — every product needs pretty visuals. But there’s more to it than just the aesthetics.

Problems need to be scoped, tested and validated.
Wireframes need to be created and validated.
Various design approaches need to be brainstormed and carefully considered.
Users (or potential users) need to be engaged with. Prototypes need to be created.

Crafting the entire visual solution to a problem is a task that is often underestimated in terms of importance and effort. Your visuals are more than your visuals — they are how you solve the problem your company is based upon.

There is a huge world of Product Designers out there ready to help bring your idea visually to life, or you can choose from a range of basic design to get started. If budget is tight, tools such as Sketchapp, Adobe XD or Figma are a great way to start alongside a few tutorials.

Documentation

Documentation helps keep goals and objectives clear.

Ah, the funnest part of them all. Documentation may seem “fluffy” to some, but I’ve found it to be incredibly important.

When you’re building a product initially, communication is critical. When you’re not doing everything yourself, you need to be communicating clearly. If you do a poor job of explaining requirements to those building your product, there may be some unexpected surprises along the way.

You may have communicated X, but you got Y. Close, but not what your users told you.

As a result, documentation can be a great way to ensure everything is clear to the team building a product. Put the tech aside and provide a breakdown of the idea and the concept. What actually needs to happen? What does a user need to be able to do and see? What does this function need to do?

Marketing

How people perceive and understand your product is critical. Unsplash

You may be building a great product, but you also need a great brand as the face of your product. The perceptions that people have about your brand play a key role in whether they’re likely to consider using your product or not.

As you go through the stages of building a product, you need to consider a few key Marketing activities that may help you gather some initial interest.

— Do you have a brand name and logo? — What is your marketing plan around the product’s launch? — Do you have a website live to collect interest before you launch? — Have you considered what your key Marketing messages are? — Are presentation decks done and ready to go? — Do you have a content strategy to help build your brand reputation? — Have you considered what pricing strategy you will follow?

There are a lot of marketing activities to be done — even more could be added to the above list. Some may not be as significant as others, but collectively they all play important roles. My favourite thought is — if people can see it, it needs to be thought about very carefully.

Business Development

Having a product is one thing, but getting people to use it and pay for it is another.

Reaching out to prospects, organising meetings, preparing presentations and closing deals takes times and effort. These activities are key for a startup as this is what brings in the revenue.

Talking with prospects also helps a startup learn what features are critical to their monetisation strategy. This helps teams better prioritise work to ensure roadmaps remain indicative of what are the most “in demand” features.

Taking the time to build relationships can give a product plenty of opportunities they might otherwise not get. Sitting in and focusing on building your product won’t expose you to these relationships that could propel a product’s growth rapidly.

So, next time you’re focusing on the tech, be sure to ask yourself — am I too focused on the tech?

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