In 2002, I designed my first user interface while studying Systems Engineering. Since then, I have been OBSESSED with designing technology for people. After college, I set out on a mission to be successful in Silicon Valley & the startup world. Even with epic persistence and a graduate degree from UC Berkeley, I felt I was unable to succeed. Everyone around me was building tech for tech’s sake. I hoped people’s care for other people in designing the future would increase; instead, we’re still following advice from an industry that accepts a 90% failure rate. In the past 15 years, I “leaned in.” I confronted difficult & challenging situations until I secured my seat at the table. I was lucky to rely heavily on my engineering degree, but I know there are brilliant innovators out there that do not have the same luxury. To you, I offer a well-engineered practical guide to the impact only you can achieve.
I'm just going to come out and say it. I don't like either of these two guys' responses. You cannot build a Minimal Viable Product without The Real MVP: the Most Valuable Problem. This is the problem that is so painful your target customers will PAY YOU to solve it.
95% of your startup business can be started, tested and figured out before a software developer is involved.
For example, a woman comes on Shark Tank to pitch her chocolate pretzel business. She's gotten her products into stores like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Saks. She now has a HUGE order to fill for the holiday season but she doesn't have the capital to fulfill the order. So she raises money from the investors to pay for manufacturing because the business is there. She's proven it.
It's possible to do the same with building a software product, too! You can get investors to pay for the development work because your success/business is all but guaranteed.
Another example: My client is not technical at all. She has a serviced based business hosting events for like-minded singles in LA & NYC. She's going on 4 years. Now, she wants to build something scalable so she decides she needs an app...but she's not sure of all the features. Through our work together, in 3 months time, I had her prototyping the business assumptions of her new venture using only her Squarespace site...no developers needed.
I'd be happy to talk to you here or you can schedule a call on my website. Best, xx
100% before you can do anything else any of these other experts mention: You have to know exactly who your customer is and the problem you're solving for them. Do not go build a product without knowing these two things. Always know your customer first; that audience you are so passionate about you want to always find products to make their lives better.
I'm guest lecturing this evening and wanted to share the event in select groups on Facebook that are based in my city. I adapted each message slightly to make sure I was speaking to the right audience. Then, I posted the event to about 8 groups...without getting blocked.
Shaun Nestor is correct though: You have to be authentic and you have to contribute to the conversation. Facebook may block you or the group administrators may block you.
The Facebook groups in which I post are also groups in which I semi-regularly participate.
There's no replacement for building real relationships and strong ties within your network. They will be the best source for your professional, personal and business development.
This is a great question and is often asked around the startup community. At a recent event, the three main ingredients the panelists concluded for fundraising are: 1) have a good story, 2) be prepared and 3) build relationships
You can start talking to investors now to build those relationships. Don't start by pitching to them, start by asking for advice. Be genuine.
A big milestone you want to get to BEFORE actually pitching is having a very tangible dollar amount that you need to get to the next milestone for your business. I call it the "rock-solid plan" when your financials line up with your marketing plans, product roadmap, and hiring plan.
Investors that do believe in you will want to know that the money they give you will get you to milestones like: Early Revenue, Product Market Fit, Cash Flow positive, etc.
Great question! It's awesome that you already have some "customers" and validation on the type of content that will work well.
My advice is to form a Customer Advisory Board with a few of the members. Do some exploratory research with them to find out how they'd like to see the community evolve. Do they have unmet needs that you could be serving?
I put this in another question but "Find products for your customers, not customers for your product." (Seth Godin)
There are so many options available to you! You could keep the community as-is, on Facebook, and start recruiting new members for a monthly fee. You could also move to an email list & charge partners for sponsored-content. And, you can also build out the website and try to push traffic to the site, making money off of Ad-Words.
It really depends on what you feel comfortable doing AND what your customers want from you, how you can continue to build value for them.
My philosophy is that you can take the guesswork out of building a business by doing research & asking your customers.
I have to ask: Did you already develop your product? The best advice, which I love, is from Seth Godin. He said something along the lines of "Don't find customers for your product, find products for your customers."
Always start with a customer you want to be in service to, and look to solve their problems.
Take an example like TaskRabbit. Using Jeff's suggestion that you start manually, I would suggest:
1) Start providing the services yourself by advertising your ability.
2) Grow the business to a point where it makes sense to have a technology solution as an intermediary because it's getting too hard to manage yourself.
Not only do you validate the need with the customer, but you've figured out how to make money in the process.