Archive for the ‘Business’ Category« Older Entries |
Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
There are two categories of people looking to start a business: those who have an idea and want to build it, and those who want to build something but haven’t found the right idea yet.
Each category has different challenges, but in this post I will focus on the latter. Where can you find a good idea? From my personal experience, good ideas are the result of good observation. We are often too busy working or doing something else to take a step back and look at how we execute the things that we do. If you take the time to try to observe yourself from the outside, you will probably find many inefficiencies in your execution. You will also notice that most of those inefficiencies come from the tools that you use.
Offline shopping, for instance, is very inefficient. You have to drive to a store, walk through the isles, choose from a limited-by-space amount of products, stand in line at the cashier and then drive back home. Looking at shopping from an efficiency point of view, it’s easy to see how Amazon (like other e-commerce sites) are a great idea.
SyncPad itself was born this way. Since expressing design changes over the phone or Skype was challenging, and emailing drafts and changes back and forth was a waste of time, I came up with a tool that could solve these inefficiencies. With SyncPad, I can now quickly share a sketch or an image while I’m on the phone, and the other person can work on it in real-time.
Of course isolating an inefficiency is only the beginning. Once you focus on a problem, the second factor you need to analyze is its potential market and value. Is this a problem that only you and a few others have, or is it common to billions of people? Dropbox is a great example of a product that solves a very common inefficiency: the need to easily access your data and documents from different places. Your need for a better tool to catalog your collection of Coke cans may not be as common. The size of the market itself is meaningless if it’s not associated with the value of your solution. If you can charge hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for your product, it’s ok if your market size is in the four digit range.
So start looking around for inefficiencies. Once you find one, try to understand how big the possible market would be for a solution to that inefficiency. Lastly, start talking to your potential customers to get an idea of the value of that solution.
Thursday, July 12th, 2012
One thing I’ve noticed from talking with people entering the mobile application market is that many of them start with unrealistic expectations.
We are bombarded every day by overnight success stories. We read about them in the newspapers. We hear about them on TV. What we often don’t hear is the years of trials, failings and pivots behind those stories. When the media celebrates the “overnight” success of Angry Birds, they don’t tell you that Rovio, the company behind the popular game, was founded in 2003 and released 51 games before their big hit in 2009. And that by then they were on the verge of bankruptcy. That’s a 6-years-long overnight success.
I’m not saying that you will have to wait that long before you’ll be successful with your idea, but that things aren’t as easy as they look. While you may think you have the greatest idea on the planet, there are plenty of things that could make your application not as successful as you are expecting. Including the possibility that it’s not that great of an idea. I’m sure some of the 51 games made by Rovio were awesome and some were awful, but I’m also sure they learned something from each of them.
One thing I often tell 39’s clients is that they most likely won’t recover their investment. It’s part of the game. Just like an investor, it would be pretentious to expect 100% success rate on your investments. It’s part of the game. Of course, there are many things that can be done to increase your chance of success and decrease the possible loss, such as talking to your future clients and focusing on a few core features.
That’s why it is very important to set the right expectations when entering the app business. That doesn’t mean starting with a negative mentality, but knowing that there’s a lot of work ahead in order to make it into a success. It’s also important to define the concept of success for your application. For some applications success will be having millions of downloads and generating 0 revenue, while for others success will be selling a few copies but generating tens of thousands of dollars each month or it may even be enough to simply generate enough to pay a few bills.
Working with clear expectations will help you make better decisions, focus on the important stuff and ultimately increase your chances of success.
Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
Almost every potential client who contacts me asks me to sign an NDA before disclosing their idea or project. Let me tell you what I think about it: it’s bullshit.
I do respect their wishes, and I sign them reluctantly. But when it comes to my own ideas, I’m the biggest mouth on earth. Seriously, I can’t stop talking about my ideas to other people. I’m eager to get their feedback.
No one is going to steal my ideas, because my ideas are worth nothing. You could have an amazing idea, but if you don’t execute it, it will always be worth zero. Nada. Niente. People are too busy with their own things to stop what they are doing to execute your idea, and if they have the time to do it, believe me, they won’t do it.
Even if they want to steal your idea, there are many things they won’t be able to steal. They can’t steal your passion, your domain expertise, or the time you’ve spent thinking about it at all day and night. And those are the things that, coupled with a great execution, generate a successful business.
On the other hand, if you share your idea, you may receive unexpected feedback, ideas, and insights. While having company advisors may cost you money or equity, you can have most of the same benefit for free simply by sharing your ideas. And remember, you can always share your ideas without necessarily spilling your secret sauce.
Friday, February 24th, 2012
Monday, December 5th, 2011
One of the first questions people ask me when I talk about SyncPad is “did you guys raise money?” Now, while I’m not against raising money at the right time if needed, I find it sad that there’s a constant association between building a startup and raising VC/angel money. The beauty of today’s technologies is that you can build a profitable product with very little money. Thanks to things like cloud computing, low bandwidth costs, tons of freely available knowledge, people can build businesses investing just time and few thousands dollars. You don’t even have to quit your job to start a business if you don’t have savings/credit and you are really passionate about what your are building.
I found this video on the Kauffman Foundation website, and I found it very interesting. I highly recommend watching it.
Friday, November 25th, 2011
This is a very rare footage of Steve Jobs during the early days of NeXT. What I find very fascinating is to see Jobs dealing with the same problems we startup entrepreneurs struggle every day. It is comforting to see that even what his considered to be the greatest entrepreneur of our age is hustling in order to meet impossible deadlines and pinch and scrape in order to lower their burn rate just like every other startup.
Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
About a week ago we launched SyncPad, the very first iPad whiteboard app for remote collaboration. This was the first time we released a ten-dollar application, and things were different than usual. Here are a few of the things I learned:
- They will e-mail you: For most of our previous applications, most of the feedback we received was via reviews on the App Store, but when it comes to a business-oriented application that cost $9.99, expect to receive e-mails. Luckily for us, most of them were very nice e-mails with positive comments and a lot of suggestions on how to improve our product.
- Users love great human support: It may sound like an obvious thing, but it’s not. A lot of companies still don’t understand the value of great support. Good support solves problems. Great support creates evangelists and enthusiasts. Here are two examples:
Thanks for the email, I know you guys are busy, taking the time to send an email was enough for me to buy your software. I’ll let you know how it goes. Try to keep the human touch as a simple email went a long way.
That is great to hear.
I also want to let you know I appreciate your feed back and will be sure to mention that in a positive way when I rate the app on iTunes.
I know it is not much, but so few developers reply it is great to find one that does!
Try to reply to all the customers within 3-4 hours; they will love it!
- Be yourself: If you are not a corporation, don’t reply to your customers like one. If your users see that on the other side of the e-mail there is a person who cares, their attitude will immediately change, and they will start caring more about your product. They will feel as if they are supporting you instead of feeling as if they just bought a product from Walmart.
- Learn from your users: When we came up with the idea for SyncPad, I mostly envisioned how I would use it myself. Well, apparently that’s not how our users want to use it, and we couldn’t ignore that. Most of the people who contacted us are using, or planning to use, SyncPad more for presentations than actual collaboration sessions, and they had a specific set of features to improve the app.
It’s important to know how to say “no” to your customers, because you can’t add every requested feature, but at the same time you need to know when you just have to follow their lead. In our case, we took those features we thought would make SyncPad a much better product, and you will see them in version 1.1.
Being on the front-line of support really connects you with your users. I’d recommend that anyone with a startup or a product try it for at least one week, and I assure you that you will learn more in that week of dialoging with your users than in months of researching.
Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
I must admit, some of the heads are kinda creepy, but overall this is a great collection of quotes for entrepreneurs. More at http://StartupQuote.com →