How Startup Founders Can Better Manage Their Time

By Michael Whitehouse

 Photo credit:  huffpost.com

Photo credit: huffpost.com

As we tell our founders at 1000 Angels, the private investor network that connects startups with investors, time management is an important component of any business, but when it comes to launching a startup it is even more critical. Excitement and passion alone won't fuel your project – you need structure to determine how and when to achieve a goal. Without that, your startup is a rudderless ship from the outset. When time is of the essence for a new initiative to establish itself, a flawed or absent approach to time management can prove to be fatal.
 

Manage Your Time, Solve Your Problems

Time management isn't just about being “on time”; it's about directing yourself and your employees towards solving issues for your business in a systematic and organized way. If your startup is still a one-person show, your time management skills are going to be focused on what you alone can achieve, what problems need to be addressed, and how long it will take you to do so. If you have employees or are part of a team, then you will be incorporating time management techniques into delegating tasks and charting a course for your business. For some, you'll be doing both.

There are many different approaches to time management, but we're going to focus on a six-step plan to get your startup on track. It could be that you are naturally well organized and that your business already runs efficiently, but there are always improvements to be made. Stagnancy and complacency are precursors to failure, especially at this early stage. Alternatively, you could be big on passion and ideas but lack appreciation of time as a valuable resource. In this case, time management is even more critical to you.

Whatever your situation, the six steps explored below are sure to increase your business’ or project's efficiency, help you meet your goals quicker, and contribute to maintaining healthy growth throughout your organization. Most importantly, they'll help you launch your product or service as quickly and effectively as possible.
 

Step 1: Be Honest

Throughout this entire process you will need to be honest. This involves being completely clear about three things:

  • What your habits are and what you are capable of.

  • What your team’s strengths are.

  • What is achievable in a given time-frame.

By knowing what your habits are you can work within them to increase your efficiency. Perhaps you work better at night, or your schedule dictates a need for getting the most important tasks out of the way in the first few hours of the morning – you can use this awareness to maximize your time, focusing on when you are most productive. There is one caveat here: if you perceive a habit as a genuinely negative trait, like being easily distracted from work, then that is something of which you must be mindful and remove from your routine. Also, be honest about your capabilities. If it will benefit the business to delegate or outsource a task to someone else, then do not be afraid to do so. Learning new skills and pushing yourself is a positive pursuit, but when time is of the essence, know where your own capabilities are best employed.

What are your team’s strengths? There is little point in delegating a task to a staff member whose talents are better suited elsewhere within your startup – in fact, it’s counterproductive. Try to assess the individual strengths of each team member, and then delegate those tasks to them. This will speed things up markedly.

The last point here is an essential one: what can be achieved in a given time-frame? Unreasonable targets for you or your staff are a sure way to undermine your startup. Miscalculating this or being overly optimistic can seriously impede your schedule when things start running substantially over. Optimism and ambition is important in driving performance and persistence, but be honest and realistic with yourself about how long a task will take and you can better prepare and schedule other goals around it.
 

Step 2: Weekly Agenda

Your startup should already have a business plan outlining major commercial objectives, but what it also needs is a weekly battle-plan to supplement it. An agenda which is revised every seven days mapping out the short term issues faced by your company, how they will be tackled, and a reasonable time-frame for doing so is valuable. A great approach is to set aside 30 minutes to an hour every Friday or weekend to go over what needs to be achieved within the next seven days.

It is important to keep in mind that these shorter, 7 day plans take you and your startup closer to the big picture – your end goal. Whether it is to establish your product in a specific market, engage with a new demographic, or just launch your product or service; your weekly agenda should always be set with the bigger picture in mind. Break this larger goal into smaller ones so it seems more manageable, and you can more effectively navigate the process. This brings us to prioritizing your agenda.
 

Step 3: Prioritize

There is no point in having a haphazard approach to your weekly agenda. This can result in slower progress from a lack of focus. Even worse, it could mean that you complete a task out of order without taking into consideration how each task might benefit the one which succeeds it. Take your agenda and rank the items from least important to most important. Then order this list in terms of which tasks would be better solved first to make way for subsequent ones. Perhaps it's more important to have a business logo designed before progressing with funding drives, for example. This should give your agenda a great balance between importance and practicality, allowing you to work through the problems in a systematic, effective way.
 

Step 4: Find Your Time Vampires

Time management isn't just about organization, it's also about identification – figuring out the elements of your business which are hindering progress. This could be something as simple as a  scheduling conflict, or something more serious like a manufacturing issue. In many instances it will be how tasks are undertaken, and how much time is given to administration.

How long do you spend answering emails or engaging on social media with potential customers and investors? Could this be streamlined? Are members of your staff unable to complete tasks quickly because of the software they are using? In some extreme circumstances you might find entire aspects of your startup's workday which need outright removal. No matter what facet of your business is taking time away from your agenda, there will always be a way to increase efficiency.

Be wary of organizational processes which are unimportant and take up too much time. In order to identify the time vampires in your routine or organizational setup, keep a log of activities for a week and see how long tasks are taking. If a task seems to be taking unreasonably long, then it probably is. You might also identify tasks or habits which take up too much time and are entirely unnecessary.
 

Step 5: Innovate

We mentioned software issues in the last step, and it's a salient point here – always innovate. This doesn't mean you need to constantly upgrade software or implement the next organizational tool like Trello if your startup doesn't need it; but you should always be on the lookout for new ways of doing things. Perhaps an upgraded software package will allow you or your staff to complete tasks faster, or implementing cloud technology into your projects could help team members work more closely. Maybe you will find a new time management technique which doubles productivity on a given task – whatever the innovation, always be aware that innovation is the lifeblood of sustainability. Furthermore, your competitors could be making use of something you have never even heard of, so it is important to try and stay ahead of the curve to remain competitive.
 

Step 6: Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is one of many time management approaches out there. When used it can exponentially increase productivity by keeping you and your staff alert, while allowing you to break larger tasks into smaller ones. Named after an Italian kitchen timer, the Pomodoro Technique simply involves working for a set period, usually 25 minutes, followed by a 5 minute break. Repeat 4 times then take a 20 minute break. This approach is used by freelancers and businesspeople around the world to get the most out of their working time. First of all, the Pomodoro Technique makes larger tasks seem less daunting by allowing you and your staff to tackle them one 25-minute session at a time. Secondly, you are never far away from a break, even if it is just 5 minutes, and is enough to seriously energize you while keeping the task from becoming stale.

There are plenty of free pomodoro timers available for PC, MAC, iOS, and Android. This is a time management technique which has been used throughout the world since the 1980s, and it has endured for one simple reason – it works.
 

Time Management is Essential

Time management is a skill in of itself, and one which needs constant amendment and dedication. What's certain is that implementing the steps mentioned above, along with other time management approaches, can significantly increase what you, your team, and your startup can achieve in a short space of time.

Combine your passion and business acumen with time management, and your company will have a much better chance of success.


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6 Things That All Entrepreneurs Should Stop Worrying About

By Philip Acuna

 Photo credit:  robbasso.com

Photo credit: robbasso.com

Something that we see at 1000 Angels, the private investor network that connects startups with investors, are entrepreneurs dealing with what it is well considered a stressful endeavor. Being the entrepreneur behind a newly launched startup is even more stressful, since it means constantly having to balance on the fine line between failure and success. Many of the concerns that one has during this time period are warranted, particularly when it comes to budget, client retention, and simply surviving the competitive startup ecosystem. Other concerns, however, are irrational and can take away from the precious energy needed to successfully run a business.

We spoke with six startup founders at different stages in their careers, and asked them what one thing was that all entrepreneurs should stop worrying about.
 

1. Competitors

"Keep an eye on them for sure, but don't let what they do dictate what you do too much. Focus on doing what you do best and innovate. If you're watching your competitors too closely, you'll be playing a constant game of catch up that won't do you much good."

Mark Volkmann, Massagebook

 

2. Success

"Worrying about success is the best way to not succeed. Too much focus on outcomes rather than on getting the job done well is very detrimental. It’s easy to get impatient if you're thinking about results all the time. Even failed experiments teach you so much."

Niraj Rout, Mailflo

 

3. Micro-Managing

"Stop sticking your nose into every company project. Delegation is a pathway for entrepreneurial success and personal sanity maintenance. Once you get to a certain size you have to trust that your team will execute and implement tasks, ideas and strategies successfully. If not, you will only slow the company’s progress, overall success and productivity."

Tim Nichols, ExactDrive

 

4. The Perfect Product

"Stop worrying about getting your product out there as quickly as possible. There are a lot of teachings encouraging new entrepreneurs to fail and fail quickly. But that doesn't mean that you should rush to bring something to market. There is something to be said about taking your time to build a good product. Develop your product in stages and design KPI's (key performance indicators) around each chunk to measure your success. Validating your ideas before you bring your product to the mass market is the best thing you can do if you want to build a sustainable business."

Zoey McKenzie, OMNI

 

5. Criticism

"Every entrepreneur should stop worrying about haters. I see a lot of business owners who are getting hung up on negative reviews and are totally convinced that this is a sign of them doing something wrong. Yes, it might be, and it makes perfect sense to analyse those reviews and make improvements based on any feedback. But entrepreneurs should also keep in mind that no matter how careful they are, there will be haters anyway. Invest in quality product, put emphasis on customer support and positive reviews will outbid the negative ones."

Ksenia Rostova, inSelly

 

6. Time

"I would suggest that the time is one area where entrepreneurs worry there is never enough! However, with correct task priority and scheduling, time is something which we should all stop worrying about. At the end of the day, there is only a certain amount of hours - efficient use is the only way to meet time constraints head on."

Robert Sturt, MPLS Network Specialist
 


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Why the Startup Ecosystem Needs a Shift Towards Gender Diversity

By Ehsan Khademi

For us at 1000 Angels, the private investor network that connects startups with investors, this is a very important topic. The sex-bias trial against Venture Capital pioneer Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers is just opening up a controversial discussion on whether the startup ecosystem encourages gender diversity.

While the VC and startup scenes have been subjects to wide criticism regarding the gender inequality, this case will be the first gathering such public attention due to the fact that it’s held in court.

In this particular case, a former female employee of KPCB alleges that she was discriminated and harassed while working for the company. According to her, the company failed to promote her, paid her less than to her male colleagues and excluded her from certain client events.

Stanford University’s professor on gender equality, Deborah Rhode, labelled the case to be a wake-up call and commented, “The case has sparked a much-needed debate about gender inequality regardless of its merit.”

Even though the trial has still to show if the allegations have merit or is purely a revenge of a disgruntled employee, the more important question, as pointed out by Rhode, is why addressing gender equality is still a big issue on an industry-wide level.
 

Gender (In-)Equality at the Big Players

Looking back, several other companies had to deal with similar issues in the past. Silicon Valley especially tends to show a huge gender imbalance. Facebook Inc. earned much criticism and managed only to appoint a woman to its Board of Directors after its IPO. This took place only after some negative buzz shattered through social media.

When Twitter went public in 2013, the same problem attracted wider attention. The absence of women in c-suite positions was one of the first things CEO Dick Costolo was asked about during the IPO day while standing on the trading floor of the NYSE. He responded that Twitter is aware of that and just promoted a woman as a general counsel.

Well, he failed to mention that the promotion took place 5 weeks before the IPO, which seems more like a publicity stunt than active promotions of women to management positions. It seems that Silicon Valley took a page from Wall Street with regard to its male-dominated culture.

Another revelation came when major tech companies released their payroll details for the first time last year. Only 30% of all employees were females, while the majority of technical jobs were occupied by male employees.
 

Gender Bias - A Disturbing Trend

It can be assumed that Big Players don’t exactly serve as role models. If, on one hand, established former startups like Google, Facebook or Twitter and, on the other hand, elite VCs fail to address this problem in an adequate manner, it’s no wonder that there is a lack of awareness of this particular issue on a large scale. In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s not a question of gender preferences but rather a strong case for corporate mismanagement. It wouldn’t be in the best interest of a company to employ women just to fulfill a certain quota, instead of looking for the most deserving person to fulfill the position.

Nevertheless, there seems to be a certain trend emphasizing a bias against women when it comes to startup entrepreneurship. A quick look at startups seeking funds reveals a devastating image of the industry. As a matter of fact, most female-led startups are less likely to get funding by a VC in comparison to their male counterparts, indicating a strong case for gender bias.

A research study by Professor Candida Brush from the Babson College gives further evidence to these disturbing developments. According to the study, 97% of venture-backed companies in the U.S. have male CEOs. In addition to that, less than 10% of all VC firms analyzed in the study had at least one female partner.

This leads to the question of whether there’s a reasonable economic explanation for this kind of imbalance or if it’s based purely on personal preferences. Sadly, it appears that, most likely, the later is true.
 

Is Gender Diversity Beneficial? Yes, It Is.

In matters of business, it is better to put emotions aside and judge based on facts and figures. In 2010, female entrepreneur Cindy Padnos published a research paper called “High-Performance Entrepreneurs: Women in High Tech”. Among the findings are several interesting clues that suggest a strong case for the positive influence of female employees and entrepreneurs on startup companies. High-tech companies founded by women are more capital-efficient, and venture-backed firms with women on the board have had more successful exits.

Furthermore, women-owned firms are the fastest growing sector of new venture creation in the U.S. Finally, companies that are the most inclusive of women in top management achieve 35% higher ROE and 34% better total return to shareholders versus their peers. (Source: http://www.illuminate.com/whitepaper/)

In a 2011 interview with Inc Magazine, Padnos stated that there are actually three ways startups benefit from gender diversity:

 

Padnos's research points to three statistics that suggest that a mixed-gender company is better-positioned for success. They are: 

Women are better at bootstrapping: Research from the Kauffman Institute shows that women-led tech start-ups launch with about half as much capital. Why? "I think part of it is that it's perceived by women that it's harder to raise large amounts of capital, so they frequently start with less capital, because it's an easier thing to do," says Padnos. In other words, women seem to be capable of doing more with less.

Women fail less often: According to the 2005 Report on Women and Entrepreneurship, the percentages of entrepreneurs who expect growth for their businesses "is somewhat higher for female entrepreneurs than male entrepreneurs." According to a separate study by Babson College and the London School of Economics, women-led start-ups experienced "fewer failures in moving from early to growth-stage companies than men."

Gender diversity improves long-term returns: Research from the University of Michigan and Cornell University found that companies with more gender diversity delivered better results from IPOs, by as much as 30 percent on average.

(Source: http://www.inc.com/articles/201109/how-to-combat-the-all-male-startup.html)

These findings not only suggest that it’s highly beneficial to have women on board of a startup company, they also imply that it is an economic disadvantage to neglect to either employ female employees or invest in companies led or founded by female entrepreneurs.
 

Why It Is Necessary To Change The Status Quo

At the moment, it looks like most of the established startup companies, as well as the major VCs, are comfortable with the current situation and hesitate to put change in motion. Going forward, this will turn out to be a mistake, considering the ever-increasing battle for talent and innovation. The main goal should be getting the best minds (to add to the value, innovation, progress and success) regardless of the gender.  

Whats more important is that upcoming startups feel the need to initiate a change of paradigm. Innovation and progress are certainly the characteristics of the startup culture and this attitude shouldn’t stop at the corporate level when speaking of gender diversity.

On a final thought, everybody can imagine what would happen if your female customer base chooses to pass on the services or products you offer because of certain hiring practices. And why shouldn’t they? Let’s hope that this kind of customer behavior isn’t necessary in order to raise awareness of a much needed shift in the corporate startup culture.


Securities offered through WealthForge, LLC. Member FINRA/SIPC Onevest Corporation ("Onevest") is not a registered broker-dealer and does not give investment advice with respect to any securities. All the startup offerings listed are offered by the applicable Issuer. Onevest has not taken any steps to verify the accuracy of the information provided on the offerings that are listed. Onevest takes no part in the negotiation of the transaction and no securities are executed through Onevest's platform. Onevest receives no compensation in connection with the purchase or sale of securities.

Hyperlinks to sites outside of our domain do not constitute an approval or endorsement of content on the visited site.

 

Co-Founders of CloserIQ Match Up to Help Startups Find Sales Talent

The job market for startups is viciously competitive, and early-stage companies are doing everything they can to recruit (and retain) top talent. Ping-pong tables, mandatory vacation, beer on tap and other perks have been on the rise to help compensate for the lack of funds available to match potential salaries from giant tech companies. Most startup founders and hiring directors would agree that the company mission and culture are the two biggest driving factors that recruit talented employees, more so than yoga classes or catered lunch. There are so many great companies pursuing a valuable mission, yet the job market is so massive that many companies struggle finding the ideal combination of talent and fit. Several startups have focused on addressing this problem, and NYC-based CloserIQ is one of them. We asked Jordan to talk about his experience in building his team.

Jordan Wan, Co-founder and CEO, spoke to several potential candidates on CoFoundersLab before meeting Dan Zhou, Co-founder and CTO. Jordan explained that “the profiles made it easy to find the person I was looking for.” After matching up, Jordan and Dan agreed to focus in on the hiring dilemma faced by startups, with a unique emphasis on sales jobs (because no matter how great your product is, you need people to sell it). Here is Jordan’s pitch for CloserIQ:

CloserIQ is a recruiting platform for startups to meet sales talent. We provide informative candidate profiles with audio introductions and previous sales experience to help startups skip bad phone screens.
 Jordan Wan, Co-founder and CEO

Jordan Wan, Co-founder and CEO

 Dan Zhou, Co-founder and CTO

Dan Zhou, Co-founder and CTO

Since their official launch in April of 2014, Jordan and Dan have led the CloserIQ team (now at 6 people) in gaining traction from some big clients including Justworks, Trello and Trustpilot. Even more impressive, Jordan reported that Oscar Insurance “made 17 sales hires in 3 months on CloserIQ leveraging a combination of intuitive software and attentive service.” They have also been creating original content about sales jobs on their blog.

We asked Jordan for his advice on finding a co-founder, and he emphasized the importance of patience and alignment of mission and passion:

"Take your time when looking for a co-founder. Get to know one another's core values and strengths & weaknesses. Let the relationship develop organically and see if you can share a common mission and passion for building a company together. When you realize that the other person is just as committed as you are to the idea and business, have an open discussion about the type of company and various scenarios together."

You can follow CloserIQ’s progress by visiting their site here, or following them on Facebook and Twitter.


Securities offered through WealthForge, LLC. Member FINRA/SIPC Onevest Corporation ("Onevest") is not a registered broker-dealer and does not give investment advice with respect to any securities. All the startup offerings listed are offered by the applicable Issuer. Onevest has not taken any steps to verify the accuracy of the information provided on the offerings that are listed. Onevest takes no part in the negotiation of the transaction and no securities are executed through Onevest's platform. Onevest receives no compensation in connection with the purchase or sale of securities.

Testimonials may not be representative of the experience of all clients. Testimonials are not a guarantee of future performance or success.

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Thoughts On Hustling: Why Some Founders Win and Others Don't

By Aston Reynolds

 Photo Credit- Flickr/  keithpersallphotographer.com

Photo Credit- Flickr/keithpersallphotographer.com

If you watch the ABC show Shark Tank, you'll notice the sharks ask a lot of questions about revenue. It doesn't matter how good an idea seems on the surface. If there's no revenue, they usually aren't interested.

This begs an important question. Imagine you're a founder with a really great idea. How do you turn that idea into revenue? An idea for a product is one thing. Making money selling your product is something else entirely. It's often the difference between a product and a business This is something that we see repeatedly at 1000 Angels, the private investor network that connects startups with investors.

 

How Ideas Become Businesses

Many founders are tempted to start raising money as soon as possible. They often plan to use that money to hire marketing and sales staff. But raising money without revenue is hard. And producing revenue without money is hard. Sometimes it seems like there's a "catch 22" built into the system.   

There's no "catch 22," but there is a catch. The catch is founders have to hustle in order to turn a product into something that begins to resemble a business. Hustle is related to grit. Grit is related to gumption. It is incredibly difficult, some would even say impossible, to build a business without these attributes.

 

What is Hustle?

The dictionary gives us 21 different definitions for the word "hustle," but none of them accurately conveys what it means in terms of growing a start-up.

We also have the pejorative "hustledork" to work from, but that definition is not likely to be useful, either. It's a fairly common refrain that start-ups in the early stages need a "hustler and a hacker" to get off the ground. In lieu of an accurate definition, have a look at the following poster by Joey Roth:

Charlatan, Martyr, Hustler

 

From the chart, we can tell that a hustler is equal parts charlatan and martyr. Charlatans talk a lot, and they're easy enough to find in the marketer ranks. Martyrs work a lot, and they're easy to find among developers and designers. It's also plain to see that a hustler who doesn't work is a fraud, a charlatan.

What charlatans and martyrs both lack is the ability to work and then talk about their work vigorously and persuasively.

But we still haven't defined what it really means to hustle. To really define it, let's go back to a 2012 article by Greg Kumparak published in PandoDaily:

"To truly hustle is to do whatever it takes to make that next dollar, no matter how crazy or ridiculous."

In the early stages, hustlers are important because the work of building the business and the work of promoting and operating the business must be done by as few people as possible. Ideally everyone involved in the start-up has some of those precious hustle genes in their DNA. 

Start-up reality often dictates the developer has to extend his or her day running errands or taking care of customers by answering emails and returning phone calls. The sales pro might need to know something about development and design to be truly useful, especially when there are just two people on the team. The team's ability to wear not just many hats but all of the hats is often what separates a mere idea from a burgeoning business, at least in the beginning.

 

An Example

As Tom Harari, CEO of NYC-based Cleanly demonstrates, this is true even after a start-up secures seed funding:

"[After leaving San Francisco via the red-eye to NYC, Harari's] back on the street, putting Cleanly door tags on apartment buildings and working the room at meetups and cocktail parties as he looks for potential customers. When the company’s drivers get overwhelmed, Harari and cofounders, Itay Forer and Chen Atlas, handle the deliveries themselves."

(Fast Company, February 2015)

Although Cleanly relies on their drivers, they know not to push them too hard. And they also know that bringing on extra, or even temporary, drivers will not only speed their burn rate, it may also compromise the service their first customers receive. When the business gets hectic, they take on the extra responsibilities themselves. They know how to hustle. 

 

Can Hustle Be Taught?

We're not sure, but we know hustle is infectious in the same way enthusiasm and leadership are infectious. Having the right person on the team may inspire the rest of the team to do whatever it takes to get or retain the next customer. It seems to work out best when everyone brings their own unique hustle to the table starting from day one.

Some developers and designers pull 36-hour marathon sessions in front of their machines only to crash on a couch, all based on an unsubstantiated hunch originating in another founder's inbox. Others won't last more than ten hours. The difference comes down to hustle. In business, the difference between success and failure often comes down to doing what other people are not willing to do.

 

Why It Matters

Investors watch for founders who hustle. It's not good enough to convince them your idea is good. You have to show them your idea is good using the best evidence you can have, usually numbers. When it comes to business, revenue is the king of numbers. Where there is revenue, there is often a good idea backing it up. The revenue often matters more than the idea when you want, or need, other people's money to help you start or grow your business. The only way to get there for most founders is to do things other people are not willing or even capable of doing.

You're going to have to show investors the money. You have to show them something so compelling that they feel stupid walking away from it. Investors cut checks when you can show them your company's profitability is as certain as death and taxes. There are no checks for founders who come up short, either from investors or the marketplace. Before you can explain it to them, you have to be able to explain, and prove, it to yourself. The best way to do that is to hustle. 

 

Final Thoughts

Earlier we said hustle was composed of "grit" and "gumption" before going on to define hustle as doing whatever it takes to get customers, no matter how silly.

Google reveals that gumption is "shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness."

And grit is "courage and resolve; strength of character."

Resourcefulness means finding new ways of doing things. You have to be shrewd to do these things without burning through your runway. And you have to be spirited to get off the ground. And nothing takes to the air without courage, resolve, and strength of character. All of these things combine with technical and business skill to create what entrepreneurs, founders, and investors call "hustle." 


Securities offered through WealthForge, LLC. Member FINRA/SIPC Onevest Corporation ("Onevest") is not a registered broker-dealer and does not give investment advice with respect to any securities. All the startup offerings listed are offered by the applicable Issuer. Onevest has not taken any steps to verify the accuracy of the information provided on the offerings that are listed. Onevest takes no part in the negotiation of the transaction and no securities are executed through Onevest's platform. Onevest receives no compensation in connection with the purchase or sale of securities.

Hyperlinks to sites outside of our domain do not constitute an approval or endorsement of content on the visited site.

Prototype First, Build Later

You're an entrepreneur. You're out to build a strong, impactful product or service and you want to build a successful business around it. Whether you have a co-founder yet or not, you are definitely on the right path if building a team is on the top of your list. Building a team isn’t easy though, as you may have realized. A well-balanced team is one that complements each other’s expertise and skillsets, and is always aligned around the core product. How you bring about this alignment depends on how well you are able to bring this concept from your head to the table or the screen, considering how software startups are more popular today. 

A minimum viable product (MVP) or prototype is the manifestation of your product concept in the early stages. It is a crucial part of the Lean Startup tapproach, where you can build something that works and use it to get feedback from potential customers, investors and other stakeholders. Having a prototype also lends an air of credibility – it shows a potential cofounder that you are invested enough in your idea to go through the time and effort it takes to build something around it. 

Many non-technical entrepreneurs claim that the prototype stage is an obstacle, while it really shouldn’t be. Resources such as CodeAcademy can help you setup an HTML page with ease, while more mobile-oriented platforms such as Balsamiq and MarvelApp can help you build a mobile UI fairly quickly. You don’t need to spend much valuable time on a prototype, neither should app development companies make thousands of dollars off of building a product for which you don’t yet have a market.

Technical or not, one thing is for sure – you are better off investing your time and energy in business development and other efforts to grow the business, which means take the MVP acronym very literally. 

Minimum. Viable. Product.

It is the bare skeleton of your product with 2-3 working, scratchy features. 

• It should be easily deployed on any device, via a URL so you don’t waste resources on app store qualifications

• It should be low-cost, quick and powered by free web services and APIs instead of a complex backend

• It should be usable and look good, but doesn’t need the design work of a game studio

• It should allow you to make quick iterations so you can refine the product

Finally, and this does happen more than you think, you should be able to justify throwing it away and starting all over if that’s what your feedback suggests. 

Dan Bricklin, co-creator of VisiCalc and the owner of two successful iOS apps, talks about an HTML5 approach to prototyping on his blog:

“This is a great model to follow: Prototype, iterate, and even first ship, in HTML5. Once you know what you need, if necessary, take the time to do native code. This doesn't just apply to the old desktop (as it has for years). It also applies to today's polished, fluid mobile world.”

The money and time saved in the process will be much better utilized when it goes towards business development, finding a cofounder, low-cost advertising, content creation and finding that sweet, sweet Product Market Fit!

 Niket Anjaria manages  Alpha Software 's prototyping and development solutions geared towards SaaS and mobile entrepreneurs. Alpha Software is a CoFoundersLab Matchup Boston sponsor.

Niket Anjaria manages Alpha Software's prototyping and development solutions geared towards SaaS and mobile entrepreneurs. Alpha Software is a CoFoundersLab Matchup Boston sponsor.

 

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