Every entrepreneur has to start somewhere. Even the biggest overnight successes in the industry didn’t just wake up with a successful startup on their hands — they had to develop a product first. No matter the sector you’re in, your first product will likely be the bread and butter of your startup for the foreseeable future. Be sure to give it the care it deserves.
Young entrepreneurs often get ahead of themselves when it comes to business, gliding through the development process and only focusing on the future — a dangerous attitude to have. If you’re starting work on your first tech product, keep these tips in mind to ensure everything goes smoothly:
1. Identify a need.
If your future product isn’t solving a problem or satisfying a demand, every minute spent working on it is a minute wasted. Everything needs to be developed with an end consumer in mind. Figuring out who that consumer is and what he wants is the crucial first step of making any product viable.
More often than not, it’s a relatively simple process: Kids are using phones more than ever, but parents don’t want them using smartphones just yet? That’s a new market for kid phones. People need to get groceries, but can’t bother leaving the couch? A mass-market grocery delivery service is born. These kinds of needs might come intuitively to some, but market research is always a helpful tool for understanding what consumers want and how they want it. Consumers are always clamoring for something new — now’s your chance to give it to them.
When making a new product, keeping the customer in mind is a given. But who else needs to be thought of? The development process will look different for every entrepreneur. Some will bring their computing knowledge to the table, while others will come at it from a marketing perspective. While techies may be able to whip up some working prototypes on their own, collaboration is always the name of the game when making a new product.
Just because you can technically build a product without much doesn’t mean you should. Even if, say, content marketers might not be necessary to the building process, they will eventually be the ones promoting the product. The more input you get from them early on, the easier it will be for them to create content relating to your product down the line.
3. Learn from your competition.
Even if your product is an entirely new one, you’re not the first startup to go through this process. Three-quarters of all venture-backed startups fail, and you’re fortunate to learn from their mistakes without having to suffer the consequences.
Success stories offer an equal opportunity to learn as failures. Look to the giants in your industry: What did they do early on that allowed them to stay afloat long enough to hit it big? How are they sustaining growth in the long term? What about their initial product allowed to get here in the first place? These are the businesses you’re going to be disrupting, so scouting them out in advance never hurts.
4. Never stop testing.
Because your product is looking to grab consumers’ attention, the onus is on you to make sure it does so. Once you’ve tested your product to ensure its efficacy, test it to see whether people actually use and enjoy it. This doesn’t have to be a clinical process most of the time: Reach out to your friends, family, and network to see what they think of the work you’ve done.
In the early stages of development, testing the right way can make your customers a key part of the creation process. Creating a feedback loop that integrates their thoughts and opinions into later versions of your product is a surefire way to guarantee your product is one that will connect with customers far down the line.
5. Embrace failure.
The results are in: Failure is a valuable component of any startup’s path to success. Companies still in the product development phase should be particularly open to the possibility of failing — the consequences of doing so are the lowest they’ll ever be. Experiment with new and unexpected product designs. Just because one doesn’t work doesn’t the next won’t.
We know that 80 percent of entrepreneurs who start businesses strike out in the first 18 months. While that might be a terrifying statistic, it has a silver lining: Those entrepreneurs who failed will come at their next project with more knowledge and insight than they had before. Every failure is a lesson, and failing early on protects your product from failure in the future.
Every tech product is different, but each development process has a few things in common. Taking risks, focusing on the customer, and working together won’t guarantee that you’re the next Facebook or Google, but they certainly won’t hurt, either.