Visuality is constantly working with startups since 2007. Throughout that time we’ve encountered beginner entrepreneurs from multiple environments, countries, with diverse ideas how to change and conquer the market. Some of them came to us prepared, with a well-written business plan, goals and this admirable confidence and faith. In practice, the majority of them were not that well organized, a little bit chaotic, but really hardworking and willing to learn. In this article, we would like to give some advice to all the beginning entrepreneurs willing to start building their applications. The following steps will help in the preparation stage when the idea is converted into a concept and further into a solid plan.
1. Idea vs concept
Sitting in a coffee shop, listening to your favorite tune and thinking about the future you finally realize - „This is it, Eureka!”. It’s an idea, a mental construct that is an inkling about something you’d like to accomplish. It is spontaneous, unstructured and often emotional. You have to understand that this idea needs polishing, documenting and brainstorming. When all is done, you can say you have a concept, a plan. It’s easier to share this concept with people. They will treat you more seriously, they will see that you have thought this through. And I’m not speaking about your friends or family, I’m speaking about your potential investors and partners. When our clients come to us they often mistake an idea for a business with an actual business plan. Why is that? It’s simple. When creating a concept you need to research the market, check the legal and technological barriers, see how complex will your app be, how much time do you have to create it and - most importantly - you need to know what kind of budget you have or how much money you need to raise.
2. Let the research begin
We strongly recommend a simple exercise that will help you start planning the whole endeavor. Prepare a list of questions that you will answer in your own head or in a written form.
- What kind of problem is my app going to solve?
Check if it’s a problem that you’re familiar with or maybe just the one you’ve only heard of. If it’s the latter - research it more. Never make assumptions and take things for granted.
- Why do I want to do this? Am I doing this for myself or for others?
It's crucial to know what is the source of the motivation. Whatever drives you, think about it now - you'll need to hold on to it in the future:)
- Do my potential clients realize they have this problem?
Sometimes you discover that people are unaware of the things that cause them pain or trouble - check if it’s the case. Because if they do not see the problem themselves it will be your job to make them aware.
- What do I want to achieve?
You need to have some goals, like the number of active users or purchased subscriptions. Setting orientational dates for each milestone is a good exercise that will help you plan your future.
- Do I want to do this on my own?
Often startups begin with a single product owner - that’s perfectly fine and admirable, but sometimes when things get bigger, you may realize that you have no time to run the project on your own, and it’s harder to introduce a new person in the middle of the project.
- What about the funding?
Check your financial capability - savings, loan possibilities or seed investment. Luckily in current times, you have plenty of possibilities to choose from.
3. Will somebody use it?
The answer to this question is pretty easy - just ask your potential future clients. If it’s a universal app, start with asking your friends and family, ask them to be objective - but never limit yourself to this circle. If your product is related to your current professional area, ask your coworkers and even your superiors. Who knows, maybe they will become your first clients. Remember - if there is no such product on the market it doesn’t have to mean that nobody will use it. Remember Sony’s Walkman? They introduced something completely new. Before walkman you had to listen to the music chosen by the radio DJs, now thanks to pioneers from Sony, we listen to Spotify. Maybe you could be such pioneer? Of course, if products like yours exist, it is easier to verify the feasibility and check what your competition is doing to sell their product.
Become a secret operative and research the market. Start with Google and make a list of all the keywords you used to find products similar to yours. Don’t forget about free tools like Google trends. If you want to be more precise check SpyFu, Alexa, Compete, Capterra or others. Another thing you can do is calling your competition to ask them some general questions and see what language they use, how they treat you and what's their approach towards clients and their problems. Check what are their strengths and weaknesses and see what you can do better. Don’t forget about checking out their Facebook, Twitter, VK or other social profiles. Finally, if you can, try out the products of your future competitors. It is always good to have a benchmark.
When you accomplished all previous steps you can start working on your brief - which is the written form of your concept. A good brief should be simple and transparent, yet full of content that will help your partners or investors understand what your app is about. Remember to write it in simple language. There is no need for flamboyancy or poetry. Believe me - people who will read it will appreciate a straightforward approach.
Start with general information:
- Your background,
- Expected budget and source of financing,
- Name of the app,
- What do you want to sell? Is it know-how? Is it a service? Or is it a downloadable product?
- What are the problems and the solutions you will offer?
- List the competitors and describe them briefly.
- Why will you be better than your rivals?
- Who is your target? Describe a typical client. You can describe him in a story form.
- Is it a web app, a mobile app or both?
- How secure should it be? Will you store any sensitive data?
- Legal or technical barriers in your country (like VOIP blockade in UAE).
- Will you gather statistics?
Functions - if you are not experienced just write what your clients will do, describe the flow. If you know already the desired function don’t forget about those:
- Login/Sign up (how many steps?),
- Modular build,
- 3rd party software integrations,
- Payments/subscription model/currency,
- Search functions,
- Booking system/schedules,
- Chat/messaging in app,
- OCR solutions,
- Data import/export,
I hope I didn’t blow your mind. But hey, now things will be easier. You have a concept and a plan that you can show to many people, spark their interest, raise money and of course start working with a software house. Most likely you will need a workshop or a backlog meeting, but you are well prepared and nothing will surprise you now.
To watch a presentation about the same topic, that I used in my webinar, please go to (https://www.slideshare.net/visualitypl/from-idea-to-concept-webinar-by-micha-krochecki)
Thanks for reading! If you want to learn more about what you should do in your first steps on the startup path please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org