A lot of people ask me for advice about their entrepreneurial product ideas. They usually get hold of me from personal recommendations as I know how to build mobile applications/websites, which almost every new idea is (or at least needs) these days, and I have a commercial knowledge of technology.
Unfortunately, these propositions tend to not be that well thought out, and sometimes even lack a business case. I thought I would post a few common queries people often ask me about to help people formulate their business ideas more clearly.
The most common first question is “how much does an app cost?”
Like the answer to most things – it depends. Angry Birds cost a lot more to make than Jump Duck. I need more details about what the app will include. A bullet-point list of features is a good start and then we can go into discussing how you think these should work too. Also whether you have a good budget for this. You can get things built cheaply in eastern Europe or Asia, but it won’t be as good technically as if you were to build it in London with a major development agency and you will not encounter problems with language barriers.
Should you need it, then I can definitely give advice on how I think your application should work. Having completed a few software projects now, and having a good understanding of a lot of the products in the market, I can help to steer your idea in to what I believe to be the right direction. But always remember that things evolve over time. Design decisions might make sense now but in the future things might need to be different; remember to factor in this extensibility which is a lot easier to do if you build the technology well in the first place. Seeking advice from multiple sources helps you to get to something better as you weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of each design decision.
A few people have asked me to sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), which means I agree not to tell anyone about the idea or steal it for my own use. I don’t mind signing these but I don’t actually know how valuable they are.
Some great advice I was given at the Cambridge University Entrepreneurs Society was to share your ideas. It will make you get rid of the bad ones, evolve the better ones and nurture the great ones. People are unlikely to steal your ideas. We are all too busy with our own lives. In general, the population aren’t just sitting there waiting for new ideas to come in to implement them before you have a chance.
Other people aren’t going to make your dream become a reality for them; they are much more likely to work with you. Especially if you are passionate about it – that is what actually makes ideas become success. Drive.
A common issue is that the inventor is married to their idea; they think any changes would cause a complete failure in their objective. You need to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. The most successful people make the biggest mistakes along the way. They have to. No one is perfect. Have some self-doubt – it’s good for you!
Ideas tend to come from someone wanting something, but not having it in their life, followed by thinking “other people must be in a similar position” so let’s solve their problems and make a load of money in the process like those guys we read about! Suddenly the dream of being a millionaire destroys all hope of humbleness, which is not good.
(If you watch the UK Apprentice, Neil, one of the strongest candidates, was fired in the final interview round because he wouldn’t take into account the feedback given by several experienced business men!)
Research. There is a common issue whereby people just haven’t Google’d their own idea thoroughly enough. They haven’t searched to solve their problem – which is really what they wanted in the first place. Sometimes I spend 30 seconds searching and find a complete solution to their original problem.
Be realistic. People believe that technology can solve all of the problems in the universe for them all in one go. Thinking that there is a black box somewhere that is really easy to build that “surely can just do everything“.
Technology is limited to logical building blocks. Yes some statistics can be thrown in there but remember that the best things in life tend to be the simplest. Also complicated systems cost a LOT of money; so if your idea is new, KISS (keep it simple, stupid).
My job is developing ideas for people (well companies usually), and giving them specific advice on the technical aspects of their projects. The clients who matter (i.e. the one’s that pay) tend to know exactly what they want to achieve, with a solid business case for it. There might be unknowns about how the finer details will work but there is this drive of wanting to solve the problem for people.
Making a success of anything takes a serious amount of time and effort. Remember to factor this in when committing to a project. It takes time – like everything worth doing – and it isn’t easy!
And we haven’t even talked about marketing, but one step at a time, right?!