Why is getting over the line so difficult? When developing software and someone asks you how are you getting on, you always inevitably hear “it’s nearly done, just this, this and this” to do. Next week “this, this and this” are the exact same things. Your first thought is then to say “do we really need these things done before we launch/release?” Surely if they’re not essentially then you just release? The problem is, this will boil down to how you define “essential”.
For example, I have a really hard time with the concept of a MVP (minimum viable product). Maybe I’m just not the customer for someone launching an MVP as I would abandon it in minutes if it was (A) difficult to do what I wanted it to do, and (B) bug ridden. The thing is, I can’t honestly understand why anyone would tolerate an app with these shortcomings. Is it just the case that a product has to be 10% better to convince some to buy/switch? That seems low to me. I’d say in my case it’d need to be at least 50% better to motivate me to switch. (Those we made up numbers!)
In reality, I think I’d be more encouraging of MVP+ – basically MVP that does something but I’m not expected to deal and workaround shitty bugs all day, and you wouldn’t be embarrassed if you asked someone to pay for it. I don’t see a meaningful B2B product as something that you can do throw together in 2 weeks.
Having said all this, I think it’s important as a founder to realise when you need to show what you have created – what is the point in doing it otherwise. I’m one of the guilty ones when it comes to holding off for an MVP++! There comes a day when you need to get off your arse and take a risk – but just minimise it and don’t turn customers off for good by releasing crap.
So in summary, if your product is good enough that you’d feel happy charging money for it (assuming you have a reasonable moral compass) then it’s definitely time to let the world see it, otherwise I’d think twice.
PS. 50% better than others and I’d happily take money for it www.neonburn.com. Haha.
One of the main concerns that you have as a single founder is forcing yourself to meet goals on a week to week (or daily) basis. Obviously the easiest way to achieve your goals (assuming you have taken the right step and set some) is to have customers pushing and pressing you for action. On the other hand, as a customer I wouldn’t be too happy having to micro-manage a startup on a daily basis. With co-founders this tasks becomes easier, as peer pressure kicks in and accountability becomes easier to manage.
One way to mitigate this problem is by using your blog to force a level of accountability. Given this, it’s with great pleasure (or more importantly as I said I would do in my last blog post!) I’d like to introduce my very-soon-to-be-live product Neonburn.
So what is Neonburn? Well it’s an online web app that allows you to easily create and design an interactive digital sign for display on an Android tablet or mobile device. The main benefits of using Neonburn:
- Easy to create and design without any specialist knowledge or design skills.
- The signs are interactive so you can control what happens when someone taps certain objects on the screen.
- Signs remotely update when changed via the online app – ideal if you have new promotions that you want to advertise and don’t want to have to manually change each individual tablet, or maybe you don’t even have physical access to the devices at all.
- No other apps on the device can be accessed once the app is deployed, and the device always boots to your sign, i.e. customers can’t interact with the device in ways that you don’t want them to.
The application is going to be of interest to you if you manage a retail store or public house and want to make your customers aware of your current promotions, while multi-site organisations will find the ability to remotely change signs in multiple locations simultaneously (without the need for a physical presence) invaluable. The interactive aspect of the signs are ideal for improving customer engagement in situations such as trade shows, or to create interactive displays at museums and galleries. It could also be used by retail stores looking to give customers an interactive tour of their products – without the need to directly involve sales staff. Finally it just makes for a very cool looking signs in your workplace – especially if you have
propaganda a set of values or metrics that you want to ensure everyone knows about.
If you would like to be one of the first to try this out (or you want this product right now!!) then please sign up for the pre-launch newsletter on the www.neonburn.com website.
By next week the plan is to have the web app open to those looking to create some great looking signs and then by the end of next week to have the app on the beta channel of the Google Play Store. Obviously, anyone who’s keen to be involved in the process at this early stage can count on getting a discount before we open to the big wide world! Go on.
So it’s been a while now since my last post and also since I decided to go solo and start out on business for myself. I’m not 100% sure that the former is due to the latter but it most definitely has had an impact. Writing posts is actually a good healthy habit that I have somehow managed to remove from my diet, and to be honest, has probably been to the detriment of creating my own business overall. The fall-off was mainly to do with the fear of writing about stuff that either A) Seems obvious or B) that no one wants to read about. I’ve now got myself over this by simply thinking who cares!
Given the above it’s with great pleasure that I present “The fuckwits guide to starting your own business“. This will probably turn into a more what-not-to-do set of posts given my success rate but it’s a case of you’ll get what you get.
First up. Going solo. That is, being a solo founder.
If anyone has not read the stuff by Paul Graham and so the idea has not been force fed that this is kind-of seen as a bad idea then let me tell you it is. Never do it if you have the option of getting someone on board with you, and this is as close as I can bring myself to say don’t bother starting up unless you have a co-founder – yes it’s that important. Unless you have the complete and total discipline to avoid getting sucked down the tar pit of either A) working too hard on the product development or B) working too hard to customer development, then it’s important to have the perspective granted by having more than one founder. I’d imagine that most developers with suffer from (A) more so than (B), and I’ve known that I’m suffering from (A) for quite some time and yet I continue to sink in the tar pit – I’m almost hoping that vocalising it jolts me into action (it didn’t with my last blog post about the very same thing though).
It was hard for me to even suggest that starting a business without a co-founder just shouldn’t be done, as invariably it’s never that straightforward and, in my heart (not head), I think it’s better to start something than nothing. Before deciding to go solo I had been down the rabbit hole of attempting to start a business with others but it always failed to materialise. 99% of the time the reason it failed to even get out the starting blocks was that the other folk were often not willing to take the risk that was involved of possibly having no meaningful income (by which I mean closely matched to their current income) for an extended period of time – possibly more a British (Scottish?) problem.
OK negativity aside what can you do to make it work? Obviously I don’t know or I wouldn’t be failing so miserably at it. However, here are the steps that I’m about to take moving forward:
- Be more accountable. I’m currently pretty disciplined on the number of hours I work – I use a timer to ensure that I do enough hours in a day. However a fellow startup founder Lee from icmobilelab.com suggested an accountability buddy! This struck me as a good idea but I felt I had to take it a step further and use this blog to make my accountability a bit more public rather than depending on a single person.
- Segment time better. Be more specific about how I spend my time during the day. So something like 8am-10am software development, 10:15am-11:15am write blog post, 11:30-13:30 customer development, and so on. I’ve tried this in the past and if memory serves me correctly it works well – this blog post is sort of evidence of that! Obviously there are days where this becomes harder to organise but it should be the exception rather than the rule.
- Get out and speak to people. Potential customers here are the obvious choice but it’s worth meeting other founders or investors even just to catch up. I want to prevent myself from going dark for extended periods of time as it’s never a good idea.
- Blog. People like hearing about what other folk are doing so I should do it more – many Scottish people have a curious trait of enjoying seeing others failing, so there’s always an audience! Also developers love telling people how their way of doing stuff is WRONG, so again, even with technical articles, always an audience.
Anyway, shit, over my allocated segmented time for this. Don’t worry going to pencil in another hour for Monday! Maybe more details of what I’ve actually created. Over and out.