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Creating a product with non-technical founders

Creating a software product is a complex procedure and requires a mixture of skills to ensure smooth processes. One of them is the technical process. The goal of this post is to help non-technical founders along this path with questions that from my experience could help others when they want to build a product. Some of them failed but others were very successful.

 

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How deep is your understanding of technology?

As a non-technical business owner, your main goal is not to learn how to code, but you must understand some basic technology: If you are developing a mobile app for iPhone and Android, you must at least have a smartphone (this may sound ridiculous but It is not).


Try to review examples and learn the concepts that comprise your product, if it is Mobile + Web or something else you do not need to know the programming language but the concept will allow you to understand your technology partner and also the feedback they can give you.

This is especially true for whether you want to develop natively (iOS, Android) or use the shortcuts of cross-platform frameworks. There is a cost/benefit calculation that is case-by-case dependent and you need to match the technological advantages/limitations to your economic and customer realities.

Is the idea validated?

This is a simple matter and it happens to everyone. You might think that your idea is the best and that no one else has it and that can lead you to the following points:

  • There may not be a market for the concept.
  • Why has no one else tried it? Who has already tried it?
  • Who is your customer and how will they use it exactly?
  • How will you make money from this?
  • What features will make your product an MVP in your customer's lives?

Do you understand the development process?

I think this is the key ingredient to creating a software product. You may have a great idea or a great development partner but if the result is a disaster it is because it is not clear how development will take place.

 Do you want to be involved in the process?

If you really want to get involved, you should follow a procedure. It does not matter if it is agile, Scrum or Rup ... you must do it or it will be a disorderly development and you will get a low quality product or you will cause your development partner to leave. Be careful, they may have an A-team for development but they will leave if they do not have an order or process, even if the idea is great. 

... Or do you just want the deliverables and the final product?

If you do not have the time or energy to understand the process, at least try to understand the stages, for example: prototyping, visual design and development; if not, you can create a mess for everyone.

From my experience, it is better to be involved in the whole process because you can see how the product evolves and obtain feedback at each stage of the process and change it in time if necessary.

Better done than perfect?

Non-technical founders sometimes focus more on perfecting the product than on launching it. I have seen several good companies with good products go bankrupt for this. The idea of perfection is great but like everything in life, if you try to be perfect you'll never finish and that means you're never going to take off and you're going to (be sure) to run out of funds or potential clients will leave because nobody will wait for you.

This happened to a former client, they wanted to have everything done and we explained that the idea was to launch, and get feedback FAST. In this case, they tried to have all the mobile functionality and perfect web ... in that process we spent 12 months (again, this was a brilliant idea) but at the end of this period they had spent all their funds, they reworked the design 3 times.

I want to be clear that this is NOT releasing a version that has a lot of bugs; that is unacceptable. I speak more about a version that doesn't have all the features.

I know that it is difficult to ask to release something that is not perfect but is worse not to release anything. The idea of the MVP is to launch something and obtain continuous feedback. And remember: if you have a technology partner, use it!

Who gives you feedback and how are you collecting it?

Feedback is the most important part of product development (how could you improve without it?), Here are some things to keep in mind for feedback:

  • The technical or non-technical founders, most of the times are not the best to give feedback.
  • You should ask for feedback from the people who use the product and add that feedback to the next sprint / phase / stage / version / after selecting the priority features.
  • Not all feedback is important, you should be willing to understand what it is required by everyone and what it is required only by a couple of people.
  • Do not worry if the feedback is not as you expect.
  • Be careful with the public that uses your product, the kids in high school are not the same as the kids between 8 and 13 years (I have a lot of experience with that error of when we developed some mobile games)
  • You can collect feedback with surveys, interviews, recording reactions, there are many ways to do that and you can get feedback from early stages with the visual design and wireframes.

How to select a good technology partner?

Selecting a technology partner is not a matter of how they are or what portfolio they have. For me, selecting a technology partner includes the following aspects:

  • How do they work? What are their processes? Are there any guidelines?
  • Do they have a checklist based on technology and product development phase?
  • Do they have similar experiences?
  • Did they provide you feedback once you explain them the idea?
  • Can you tell if they care about the project?

This are just a couple of items but the main one is trust! If you don't trust them you better change.

The product never will be done so Start Selling

If you wait until the product is done, you will lose valuable time because getting customers takes time. This means that after a couple of months of development (if you're lucky) you'll have to wait weeks or months to get prospects. That's why you have to get wireframes or a power point and start selling using your strengths to reach customers, development will never end because a product is an entity that will live as long as you have customers.

I remember that once we sold a product after sending a mobile mockup (done in 5 hours) to a prospect, they liked it and bought it. Then it took us three months to deliver it, so do not waste time!

Development is Done?

You must assume that development is an ongoing process even when you have all the main features ready. Technology improves, changes and evolves; Here are some concepts that can help you on this journey:

  • Mobile Apps change a lot: Apple releases new phones and new operating systems all time,  Android does almost the same thing.
  • Android has a lot of devices (Samsung, LG, Google, etc.; remember to select your target list of devices) you must grow the list of target devices as your product and audience grow.
  • Something as simple as new browsers updates must be in your backlog to improve your product.
  • Feedback will always come to you, so you need to add it to the next version of your product.

Hope this helps!

 

Kenneth Lopez

Tekton Labs CEO

Topics: Entrepreneurship, Startup, Software, Development, Software Development