A Software Start-up: Where to Start?
It is often hard for new entrepreneurs in the software sphere to understand what it takes to be in the same arena as large international players like Microsoft and Oracle. Nevertheless, multinational corporations were not built in one day; they all started somewhere. Knowing what you need to get started can make or break your start-up’s future as a successful business. After all, as Behance creator Scott Belsky says, “It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.”
So what does an early stage start-up need to focus on to make those ideas happen?
1. Conduct Market Research.
Market research is the first thing any business should undertake. Analyzing the market you’re entering to identify your major competitors and your target audience’s needs and preferences is critical to a successful start. Many start-ups’ failures are not the results of failed products but rather of oversaturated markets. If users are fully satisfied with the solutions that are already on the market, especially if they can use similar services at low or no cost, they may be not very willing to look for alternatives.
So, when you’re starting out, focus not on the software and its specific features but rather on your potential customers. Make sure that you are going to create a product that people actually want to buy and that the software you are developing solves at least one of the major pain points for your target market.
2. Work on a Business Plan
Having an idea is one thing, but having a comprehensive business plan is another story. The business plan will provide you with an outline of your business’s strategy, purpose, product, target audience, competitors, financial needs, and anticipated time to market.
A comprehensive business plan will also help to prove the potential of your start-up to investors or banks that you might be approaching to request the funds.
3. Start with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product).
Prior to moving forward with launching a sophisticated platform, validate your idea with an MVP — or a minimum viable product — first. An MVP is a piece of software that is developed just enough to enter the market for testing. Users test it, provide their feedback, and decide whether they would opt to use it in the future.
It may be rather tricky to identify what functionality actually needs to be in the MVP and which features may be introduced in further releases. As you make those decisions, stay focused on the value you’re providing to your users. What problem are you trying to solve? In what way are you making their lives easier or better? Make sure your software’s MVP achieves those goals, and don’t worry about too many additional bells and whistles right off the bat. You can always add more features later on once you’ve established a solid cash flow.
At Syberry, we always suggest running a discovery phase prior to beginning development. Discovery is the process of defining and approving all business and technical requirements and translating them into engineering tasks. The goal is to reduce uncertainty and minimize surprises by making decisions regarding every minor feature and component of the system prior to committing to the main development phase. This advance work will help you determine exactly which features will go into the minimum viable product and which can be added later.
During this phase, we ask our business analyst and a system architect to outline the product requirements in maximum detail, including all the accurate numbers and timelines and a clear understanding of the project to create a big picture for our clients. But even when you’re building software for yourself and not a client, this exercise will help you get organized, saving time and money in the long run.
The result of the discovery phase is a set of industry-standard documentation and an interactive wireframe allowing key players to navigate through the system and clearly see the business logic.
Learn more about the importance of discovery in our white paper.
Launching a start-up company is not easy, but the steps above will help you build a solid foundation for your new business. First, you need to determine whether your idea is worth turning into a business through market analysis, and then create a comprehensive business plan. These steps may not be glamourous, but without proper analysis and financial planning, your start-up doesn’t stand a chance.
Once you know the market and your target audience and have the business plan in hand, move forward with a prototype. Software prototyping allows you to get an idea of how the final product will look like before investing a lot of time and all the money finishing it.
And last but not least, if you know that your product will genuinely make a difference in the lives of a target group of users, don’t give up. You may have to change directions or take a path you weren’t originally expecting to, but with proper planning, research, and step-by-step progress, you may find success is closer than you think.