Creating a tech startup

How To Make Something People Want


'The basics of a technology startup': This is the alternate title of this chapter.


You make things that people want by knowing what people want, which you do by just asking the potential customers. You can slip up on most other things but at least get this right.


1. The most obvious way is to ask people what they want.

Obviously people want things to be cheaper first of all. See what you can do about it.


Focus on a niche and ask buyers in that niche.

Solve a problem for them.


What do they like?


Focus on developing a feature list.


Prioritize this feature list based on important (depending on how often customers will use them).

This is called finding 'use cases' - for example, Facebook's main use case is 'people sharing latest updates/pics with their friends/family')).


Focus on the important things first.


Whatever you make, make it easy to use.


Remember this rule: 'Don't make the user think.' - Steve Krug


Also ask how many would pay for a product they want. And how many would buy (%). This is called 'validation'.


Then go and make the product/service, come back and show it to customers, get inputs, improve (some call this process seeking 'product/market' fit), until you finally launch.


2. Or, you make something what you want.

Find people who also want it (they call it 'customer development'). Do your research and make it.


The story goes that AirBnB happened because (founder) Brian Chesky couldn’t pay his rent, but did have some space.


3. Some modify the question itself, 'How do you make stuff people will use?'

For example, they look at the app on their smartphones, which they now never use, and find out reasons, and then get to answer those reasons in their take on the product.


4. Make something and then sell it in such a way that make people want it.

The obligatory 'Apple' example, and how they created a status symbol out of an overpriced smartphone.


In other words, make something people love and want to use.


5. Another radical idea is to make something people need (or, the world needs).

Often people don't have an idea of what exactly they need.


People need products/services to live sustainably - things that make their lives easier and the world a better place at the same time - affordable, quality healthcare, education - lifestyle with low carbon footprint etc. Find out what people need first.


Obviously, all these ways of making stuff that people want eventually converge somewhere down the line.


A simple way to validate your startup idea: Take a piece of paper, and write out the names of 5 people that need your product.

Just 5 people.

- Justin Jackson


To find out is there is a market that is large enough to sustain a new line of business, you need to make 100 phone calls.

- Anonymous


A Simple Product Development Process


Whatever you make, or product development approach you take, the product development process will look somewhat like this:


1. Launched Product/MVP (Minimum Viable Product - 'The minimum model of product/service customers will pay you for')


2. Refined Product (after getting customers' inputs multiple times)


3. Great Product: the best products/services are simple (hiding all the complexity inside), focused, and usable (functional first).


This is how you make a website people would want to use, mobile apps people would want to use, as well as any product/service people want.


People who have done it, say, 'You don't find customers for your products. You find products for your customers.


Long term thinking is so rare anywhere, but especially in startups. This is a huge advantage if you do it.

- Sam Altman


Two more things:

1. To make money making stuff people want, you need to be in the right market, where there is demand and profit margins are better.


The perfect target market for a start-up is a small group of particular people concentrated in a group but served by few or no competitors.

- Peter Thiel


2. To be able to continue building what people want, you also need to build an organization people would want to work for.


Idea. Prototype. Product. Product-Market fit. Business .

This is an ideal flow of stages in a startup.


Idea. Build. Launch. Learn. Iterate.

This is an ideal way of doing things in a startup

- Vijay Raghavan


Great execution is at least 10 times more important and a 100 times harder than a good idea…

- Sam Altman


A Simple Guide To MVPs


1. What is MVP?

Wikipedia defines MVP (minimum viable product) as a product /service with just enough features to get users interested, bringing in feedback for further product/service development.


It also says that building MVP to get user interest and feedback is often less expensive than using a product with more features which increase costs and risk in the case where the product fails, for example due to incorrect assumptions.


The term was coined and defined by Frank Robinson.


2. How MVPs work:


Usually the first generation product has a flaw(s) versus the competition.

But, that flaw is not that important to an emerging market segment.

Your product can gain traction in the emerging segment, while...

You are making improvement in the imperfections, until...

You dominate the whole market.


Your MVP must try to be something customers use despite its flaws.


(Source:'The Innovator's Dilemma' by Clayton Christensen)


3. 'A landing page is not a minimum viable product unless you sell landing pages.'

However, you can use a landing page to start a discussion about your idea.


E.g. A survey form containing feature sets for a proposed service and getting users to vote for them.


Pivot: What to do when users don't warm up to your product


When a business changes its direction, changing its product completely, or going after a new market, depending how the customer response to its product/service has been, the 'management experts' gave it a name, pivot.


A famous example of a business having done a pivot is Groupon. When it first started, it was an online activism platform called The Point. But when it got almost no traction (usage), its founders launched a Wordpress blog and did their first coupon promotion for a pizzeria located in their building lobby.


They received only 20 coupon redemptions, but it was far better result than what their previous effort got, and in three years' time, their build a business valued in billions of dollars. Of course, couponing business is undergoing a churn nowadays, Groupon remains a prime example of a pivot.


The Hook: How to make people use your product again, and again


They call it 'hooking in' users: Facebook is good example of the 'hook' idea.


You want to look at what your friends and family are up to, so you join Facebook. That is the first hook. You joining and creating a network effect (which basically means the network is beneficial only if all join - if your friends etc aare not on Facebook anymore, it is useless to you.)


Next, Facebook keeps sending notification on your smartphone or email that so and so friend has just posted something interesting. So you click and sign in. This is the second hook.


Now, one of your friend uses a quiz application. She/he answers a quiz about old old school, and send invitation to you to take the quiz and see your scores, and compare your answers with others', and there is a leaderboard too (the reward - hooks bring rewards. When you look at pics of what your college friend is up to without that person knowing, this is also a reward. Hook work through a mix of anticipation and rewards, over and over again.). You agree. This is the third hook.


This is how you use people to use your product again and again.


What a non-technical founder of a tech startup needs to do


1. Spend time and money of learning the skills needed to do the coding job


2. Hire freelance coders to make the app

But at least learn up the basic of tech product development (the tech concepts, process, best practices etc).


Google 'web development best practices', 'web development concept', 'app development concepts' etc.


You should also know that there are free/cheaper alternatives of all scripts/software as well as server. Google 'list of free software for paid software and applications', and also 'comparison of server hosting services/cloud hosting services'.


Blog, news websites, portfolio websites, company websites etc van be freely built using Wordpress. Online stores can be freely built using. And whatever app you are making, the front-end (how it looks) can be made using the free Bootstrap framework, and back-end built using PHP programming (most common) language.


3. Get a tech co-founder in exchange for equity.

If your idea turns out to be successful, you have to control how much equity you are willing to share.


But, seeing the failure rates in the tech startup field, you don't need to worry much, this cynic thinks.


4. Focus on sales while the tech people handle coding and tech maintenance.


Apart from coding, sales and marketing (business development, or traction) is the most important job in a startup. Non-technical founders of tech startups must focus on sales and marketing.


Thank you for reading.
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