Posts Tagged ‘Customer needs’

The pointbreak of a live demo & product launch

October 5, 2009

There’s been much talk of demo’s and launches over the last  month with TechCrunch50 and DEMOfall09. It’s also been at the fore front of our minds with our startups launch and live demo at FOWA, London. I’ve posted about the pro’s and con’s launching at startup conferences. Launching at an event is an emotional roller coaster of a ride with the preparation effort required, pre-event expectations and then the post launch reality. Looking  back the launch peak is a brief moment in time after a long development  journey and before the journey to acquire real customers begins.

Killer WaveKiller Wave (Source: Telegraph ‘Beautiful but deadly’ )

Great  advice on  live demo and launch for startups includes: RRW and Jason Calacanis – Part 1 and Part 2.

Sean Power: “It may be the single biggest traffic spike you’ll ever experience.”, “After the bump, you’ll feel a tremendous rush of adrenaline, then deep, soul-sucking disillusionment as your traffic dwindles back to its former levels.”

There is so much effort needed to build and develop a product in preparation for a five minute launch demo (forgive me for my reminiscing links to many of my past posts):

  1. Finding the team - Getting a great team together is not easy but it’s key to a successful startup.
  2. Identifying the opportunity – Finding a killer idea first of is near-on-impossible or at least improbable.
  3. Getting the investment – Making the money last long enough to build a working saleable product is a ‘Scrooge’ like challenge.
  4. Building the app – Staying on target and not veering off on another exciting project is tricky.
  5. Polishing the app - This takes time and you don’t have much of it. The devil is unfortunately in the detail.
  6. Making it scalable – To prepare to scale or not to scale is a difficult question. No one knows the traffic and usage you will get.
  7. Preparing a memorable demoIn summary Jason Calacanis says: show the product quickly; give a succinct presentation; temp the audiences; talk about accomplishments rather than roadmaps and show understanding of the competition.

Wow, what a journey!! This is why many startups fail to ever get a product  finailsed and launched. The decisions made during each of the above stages directly affects the outcome of the final 5 minute demo. However  this onstage  peak is only a brief  moment in time and a pause before the start of  a new journey.

After the curtains have closed at the conference its when the real hard work starts. You now have to convince customers and investors. The good news is that your startup will be taken a little more seriously because you’ve got a product. However, doubt will remain and very few really believe you have a good idea that will succeed because you have no customers. You now need to be flexible,  customer centric and have  a renewed determination to succeed.

The live demo launch is yet another emotionally intense thrill ride for startup founders. It is a deadline which gets things done and moves your startup towards the all important goal of getting customers.  “Buckel up because Kansas is going bye, bye.” – For the  5 minute demo anyway and then it’s back to reality ;)

The Never Ending SaaS/Web App development Story

July 31, 2009

The development of a new SaaS /Web app often takes longer than you want or expect. The problem is the devil is in the detail. And it takes time to get the small things right. Unfortunately most bootstrapped startups have very little time to get customer traction and revenues before the money runs out.

The main causes of website/ Web app  development delays are an unrealistic  project scope, not enough time for the finishing touches and late engagement with potential customers. From our startup experiences of building a website monitoring SaaS/web app keeping focused and realistic can go along way in saving time.

Neverending-Story_l

Developing  the dream (The Never Ending Story movie)

The five main reasons for SaaS/Web development delays:

  1. Lack of resources – Obvious I know. After a lack of paying customers this is the biggest problem for most bootstrapping startups. Insufficient resources combined with an overly optimist project scope result in development delays. Startups need to be realistic  and minimal with their first version.
  2. Feature creep – Developing software is dangerous. Its so easy to dream of what it could do. ‘Would’nt it be nice/cool’ features just keep being added into the work list once started. The downstream  effect can be very painful: constant delays in releasing, a half baked/unfinished app being released or the app never sees the light of day. Keep it simple!
  3. Bug, bug & more bugs – Despite the tedious nature of regression testing and bug fixing it has to be done. As Paul Graham says,  “Users hate bugs, but they don’t seem to mind a minimal version 1, if there’s more coming soon.” We’ve found that fixing immediate code problems in-flow is the most effective way to to minimise bug fixing time in the long run.
  4. Those little things - They take much more time than you think. Ryan Carson referred to them as Teaspoons: You know when you are doing the washing up and you think you have done everything but then get to the bottom of the bowl and find 15 little teaspoons hanging around, and they take ages to finish! That’s us… lots of niggly little fixes, tweaks, minor design improvements.” Startups must allow the time to finish the job.
  5. Customer engagement - Rather than adding in features you like or think would be useful get the app out with potential customers. Let them lead the way. Beta testers and potential customers will show you new unidentified needs. This way time is not wasted on unneeded features. Remember Release early and release often.

Towards the end of developing a new SaaS/web app it sometimes feels like you are taking one step forward  and then two back. Finishing a product is not simple. It’s time consuming and requires a big final push of effort and resources.

Once an app is out it’s only the start of the development story. An app is never really finished. It can always be improved, refined and optimised. It’s a continuous process. Enhancements, new minor and major features  will be needed to keep customers satisfied and to stay ahead of the competition. Its a Never End Story!

5 reasons to pick a fight with your biggest competitors

June 30, 2009

It sounds like suicide picking a fight with a much larger and established competitor (niche or mainstream). How can you possibly expect to win when they’ve more resources, customers and a mature product? You can’t, easily or quickly!

rocky4Rocky IV up against a much bigger and stronger competitor

However there are some good reasons to be compared and associated with the market leaders:

  1. Customer knowledge – Customers have a clear understanding of what an existing product does. They can therefore easily pigeon hole your product into the same or similar category. “oh, your like ACME’s product”. In this way a sale is easier because less explaining is  necessary.
  2. Free-riding education – You can ride on the competitors market education. Educating customers is very, very, very expensive and time consuming. Why not take advantage of someone else’s hard work and cash..
  3. Price comparison – Customers will always want a price comparison. Competition is a good thing. Its good for suppliers because it grows the overall market. It also reassures potential new customers. ‘If this supplier is no good I can always switch to another one.’
  4. Defecting customers - Unhappy or dissatisfied customers will need an alternative. Put yourself in that position and you will catch them. The crumbs from the competitors table maybe healthy loaves to your startup.
  5. Out innovate – Find the weaknesses in the competitors offering and improve it with your own. Many a market leader has been toppled by a much smaller innovative company. Startups are better at innovating than the big market leaders.

A word of warning this strategy may also get you a bloody nose. The competitor has the lions marketshare and so you have to make alot of noise to be heard.  If you do get noticed by the competitor move quickly to establish a position of strength because if they attack it may be a killer blow. You may also start a price war which is ultimately no good for anyone except the customer in the short run.

Competition is a good thing. It demonstrates there is a need in the market for a product or service. Rarely is there an new opportunity without competition. If there is no competitors you have to ask yourself is there really ‘a market in this gap?’ As a small startup you have to out-compete your much larger rivals.

Battling against competitors really requires the Art of War. Strong knowledge, great tactics and an outstanding strategy is needed. Its not easy. Often startups have no choice. The odds are not on your side but that does not mean you won’t be successful. Startups are more agile than established bigger suppliers.


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