Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

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False assumptions on the minimum viable product

In Architecture,Business,Marketing,Product Development,Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 by petrem66

If you use Geoffrey Moore’s book ‘Crossing the Chasm’ as a general guideline on how to tap into a profitable market niche on the long run, the Lean Startup concept must be strongly refined. True, that the aim is still to lower the waste to the minimum during startup, but one has to admit that conducting market research with screenshots, mockups, or partially working prototypes is also a form of waste. Who is going to take you seriously and allocate precious time with you talking about screenshots?. Friends, colleagues, relatives, people who are not busy running real businesses. I’ve talked to people in my social network and it is hard to convince them to even consider introducing me to really busy people. Do I have a case to push for that? No, not yet. I know that the path to the ‘chasm’ is a different one though

I think that the absolute minimum to get to playing the market fit game is to have a functioning core product which is easy to customize at the front end (that is UI) to allow for testing market hypothesis as they’ll come. Only after that is done I can afford to do proceed with testing – learning – realigning or extending, and when possible get paid for any service I will provide to customers my product will manage to get

What is the functioning core product?

Generally speaking the core product consists of independent functionality, a minimum set of building blocks absolutely needed to use in any ‘solutions’ to solve in the problem domain. In all startups a common building block is the payment functionality. The building blocks must help lower the cost of putting together the minimum viable product so that when testing a market hypothesis you can charge for service should you find a real customer. Only by making a revenue you know for sure that your solution solves a real problem and hope for a solid market traction

If after a long struggle to find customers and problems to solve, you’ve got a customer but cannot charge for your service that’s bad. A business is about selling goods and services, not volunteer work. Signup for membership is also part of the core functionality

In my case, the document engine is also a core building block since my problem domain with www.documentclick.com is all about documents

What core product is not?

Although there are aspects in it that are part of the core functionality, the user interface in general must not be listed for the core product. It will be refined over and over for better SEO, appeal for customers, usability, etc. Adapters to third party platforms (such as integration with salesforce.com, zoho.com, or google apps) may come later as you discover a market niche for them.  SEO is not yet a concern.

Building generic frameworks to assemble building blocks in never a good idea. There are at least a few dozen excellent frameworks out there (including CMS/DMS) that can be ‘customized’ with minimum cost to include your building blocks and specific UI for a minimum viable product

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My goals for the first release

In Business on April 19, 2010 by petrem66

As my first full work day on the project, I want to review my goals with this posting. Yes, the overall goal is to get a ball so that I can be in the game. I think that I will have a shot with the online business only if I’d be able to learn fast and adopt easy to the feedback from the market. I guess all the struggle for a good product, interesting offer, and SEO fit will not be enough to make an impression except for the case when I will realize the positioning to a market niche that is profitable. At this stage of the project, I want to not be concerned with marketing yet.No matter what I think about my potential customers, there is no way yet to prove or disprove my points with palpable evidence. Since reading ‘the Black Swan’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb I learned to be an empiricist. All my assumptions may be flawed, but how would I know without testing my theories?. At this stage, there is no much to present to the public, and it takes quite an effort to enhance the product

Once launched on the market (I aim at August 2010), I will do whatever it takes to expose it to the largest audience I can and to collect as much analytic to analyze. At that point it should take lesser effort to outsource parts of the new development, and also to put any enhancement in production.

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Two birds in the forest

In Business on April 4, 2010 by petrem66 Tagged:

Is the old saying ‘A bird in the hand is worth more than two in the woods’ true? This dilemma is especially painful when one has to choose between extending his contract for software consulting services with a large car manufacturing company for another year, or to go and build his own business. I’ve managed to sort out the dilemma by giving up on consulting for a while. Let me explain why.
My understanding is that consulting the way I currently do is not scalable, meaning that I am expected to allocate the bulk of my active time for one client at a time to earn an income from my trade. Also , when providing consulting services I am not expected and cannot become a Linchpin (as per Seth Godin see http://www.squidoo.com/linchpin) therefore the value proposition from me to the client and back are limited to the best and easy to replace. Not that it happened to me so far (never been fired in 25 years since working), but the potential is real with any client. I have never been in a position where my services could produce measurable value to the companies, and there’s nothing wrong with that except the fact that I cannot climb that corporate ladder, nor earn millions by consulting. I know there are better ways to utilize my time, skills and knowledge (see Paul Graham on wealth). An you know, better is the worst enemy of good, as they say
I want to be in a situation in which my participation to the market can scale. That is when I will provide service for many clients at the same time through a web based application (that is what I know best). But first, I need to build such a business.
In theory, building a business part time is possible. A Bob Walsh puts it in his excellent book ‘The Web Startup Success Guide’ about the By-the-Bootstraps startup ‘Try this experiment: Put a pair of boots and find a stairway heading up. At the foot of the stairs grab the back of each boot with a hand; then in that position, jump to the first step. If you can make it, jump to the next step, still holding your bootstraps’. That was my initial plan, but realized that it would take years and a lot of neurons to burn to jump to the next step.
A better approach is to give up on consulting for at least 5 month. My estimate for building version 1.0 of my web application is for that long. The benefit is that I can utilize 800 hours of work of the best coder/designer/architect/pm I can afford without getting into a deep hole of depth or the need to chase VC or AI for funding at this stage yet. In September, after v 1.0 release I will return to consulting at least until my online and scalable business takes off
Yes, foolish me, I am giving up the bird in my hand for two in the forest