Founders looking to dive into the world of tech are likely to find themselves up against a world of new obstacles to tackle before their big idea comes to fruition. As an agency working with ambitious founders on a daily basis, Unfold has condensed some of the key elements tech founders should consider to make life easier when starting out.
First and foremost, get advice from those who have done it before.
When it comes to launching a new business, one of the very first steps you should take is to get advice from other entrepreneurs and experts in your field. This will save you valuable time and resources down the line and with some luck will help you avoid many (and there are, *many*) of the common startup pitfalls. Speak to as many people as you can – use your network, a startup incubator/accelerator or seek the advice of a professional agency. You don’t have to listen to everyone (and to be honest, you shouldn’t) but the more opinions you can gather to help guide your direction, the better.
Speaking to people in your niche – you’ll want to ascertain;
- Feedback on your proposition/idea,
- Routes to market,
- Gaps in the market,
- Learnings and mistakes from their experience,
- Any further contacts or business support networks who might be able to help.
Whether you’ve got an existing product in the market, or you’re looking to create a new venture. Continual market and user research is paramount for success:
Identify your target market
Not only will this help you discover if there is an opportunity, but it will also help you understand where your current market is not having their needs met, or if there are a group of potential customers who aren’t yet catered for.
- What are your potential customers biggest pain points?
- How does your product/service help solve those problems?
- Can you identify any trends in customers’ buying habits?
- Where do they spend time?
- What do they value from a service? Ease of service? High quality? Value for money?
This is an essential step for anyone who wants to save time and money in the long run, as well as making their platform a conversion-driving machine.
We’d recommend a few main methods of user research in the discovery phase of launch:
- Seasonality discovery using Google trends – this will help you ascertain whether your offering has only seasonal interest or is year-round which can help you anticipate peaks and troughs in operations.
- 1-1 discovery calls – setting these up with members of your target audience in the early stages before you’ve developed anything will allow you to gauge a response from real audience members and take away a lot of the guesswork and assumptions.
- Focus groups – these will help you gauge in person what your target audience hopes to get from your product. This is a great opportunity for people to discuss the product and their needs together, and the conversation can help draw out a consensus on what’s needed and should be prioritised.
We’ve written a whole piece about user research and testing over on our website, complete with a full list of questions we use to get insights from customers.
You need to plan out what and how you’ll deliver the technology for your business. You’ll need to consider a range of things from budget, deadlines and what’s most valuable to include from the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) stage.
We highly recommend the use of the MVP model of product development, which involves launching the platform quickly, with the minimum features required to bring value to your customers and get the business started. From here you would build out new features iteratively on the back of further user research and testing, saving you wasted time and money spent building out features which your users don’t love and don’t increase sales. You can read more on how to approach prototyping and creating MVPs here.
You also need to future-proof your tech. Choosing the right technologies to work with now and in the future is vital. This will allow you to ensure you avoid costly rebuilds later, as well as more practical things like ensuring there’s a plentiful pool of talent who are familiar with your codebase to hire from.
If you’re not tech-savvy yourself, it’s probably better to employ someone with experience in this field to help at this point. With a whole range of options available with varying benefits and draw-backs it’s important to get the tech right for your needs and the business’ future scalability.
This is important to think about from the beginning, particularly so if you’re looking to make a bid for funding or investor finance in the future. Building relationships with investors early on will help pave the way to a good relationship and increase the chances of their investment further down the road.
You’ll also want to plan financially by way of budgeting for things like build costs, new hires, outsourcing etc. It’s easy to forget there are a number of ongoing costs even once you’ve launched – how much will it cost to maintain your technology for instance, or how many customer support team members will you need to facilitate your growing customer base? It’s important to factor these into your growth plans to ensure you know when you’ll need to raise more cash.
Setting the correct objectives and KPIs is one of the most crucial tasks of launching which is so often overlooked. Particularly if you are looking to gain investor finance in the future, you’ll want to nail down the right metrics to ensure you can show the progress you’re making.
When it comes to decision making, don’t be distracted by vanity metrics (numbers, such as website visitors, which make you look good but are ultimately meaningless if they’re not leading to more conversions). Be sure to stay focussed on the metrics which will impact your businesses performance – conversions, sales and basket size for example.
You’ll also need to consider your unit economics to consider how your business will be profitable on a per-unit basis. Whilst your unit economics will likely look poor initially without economies of scale, you need to be able to demonstrate that your business will be profitable in the long run once it grows.
For any founder looking to launch their business in the fast-growing tech market there are hurdles to overcome. Keeping the issues raised above in the front of your mind, should mean you’re equipped with a solid foundation for your future business operations. If you’re a founder with any questions or would like more information about how we can help kick your business off to a roaring start, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Harry Cobbold is Managing Director at Unfold, a Bristol-based UX and digital development agency. Harry has lead numerous award-winning teams, delivering digital experiences that bring businesses closer to their users and drive better results. At Unfold he helps ambitious start-ups and scale-ups accelerate their business by simplifying their user experience and creating marketing-leading digital platforms.
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