The typical challenges that any startup software product company faces vary from uncertain product road map to lack of technology expertise, inability to cope with the emerging technologies, too much time to build the product resulting in delayed time to market, improper planning of the product development cycle, need to accommodate the changing demands of the market, competition and customer dynamics, and limited or inelastic budget.
There are certain challenges that startups can overcome with band-aids, duct tape and bailing wire. But one aspect that startups cannot gloss over is the product. It all starts with the product!
Some of the basics that startups overlook at the point of product development are as follows:
- Looking forward to building the best product, rather than the right product
- Under-investing in the product with the assumption that the existing product is good enough
- Failing to accommodate the changing demands that result from market, competition and customer dynamics
- Not having an org structure that creates a constructive tension between the product management and product engineering sides
Before we look at the best practices software startups companies need to follow, let’s take a look at some facts about some of the big players in their respective industries.
Fact 1: The first version of the iPhone did not have the copy-and-paste feature, although the WinMob did; and the classic Mac OS had it many many years ago.
Fact 2: A study in Dec 2008 conducted by “PRS for Music,” a non-profit agency, found that of the 13 million songs for sale online, more than 10 million never got a single buyer. Moreover, 80 percent of all revenues came from about 52,000 songs. That’s less than one percent of all the songs that were made available.
What do these seemingly straightforward facts have to tell us about building software products successfully? They illustrate the importance of:
- Defining the absolutely required features in a product, and building only those features
- Scoping a Version 1.0
- Going to market early, understanding end users better, failing fast and iterating again and again
That’s easier said than done because many startup owners/founders still believe that, if they build it, customers will come. But in order for the products to be successful in the market, startup companies need to avoid the “build and they will come” trap. This can be done by developing a Minimum Viable Product that includes those “just enough” features that (a) make the software functional, (b) enable early adopters to sign up and pay and (c) help bring real feedback from the market.
In this way, startups not only will burn less cash by scoping right, but they will increase their chances of success by being able to take their products to actual customers and trying various options.
Bindhu Charles is an associate marketing manager at Aspire Systems, a global technology services firm serving some of the world’s most innovative enterprises and independent software vendors, helping them leverage technology and outsourcing in specific areas of expertise. She heads the marketing team for software product development services. She is an experienced sales and marketing professional, with more than nine years of international sales, marketing and business development success. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.