The Names Have Been Changed To Protect The Innocent
A young founder named Billy approached me after a conference panel and told me that he liked what I had to say. He hadn’t built his MVP yet, but he wanted me to review it once it was ready.
“I was troubled by something very fundamental…”
“Ok, sure,” I said. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. After all, founders present MVPs to users, investors and advisors for review all the time, right?
Well, 9 months later, Billy hired me to review his MVP.
I listened in horror as he told me about the mobile app he had built to make his vision real. Billy’s app allowed users to capture and share media with other users – but, not regularly like Spotify or Instagram – only once in awhile. And, the media his app was sharing was stuff that was readily found online, not pictures or videos captured on phone.
I was troubled by something very fundamental. There was no out-of-app experience. New users had to download the app before knowing if they cared about what was being shared.
Why does this matter?
“The problem with people that build software… is that they are trained to build software – not build businesses”
As a five time founder, I can tell you that user acquisition is pretty much the most important aspect of any business. When I asked Billy if he was more likely to click on a link to view a random website or download a random app, his response was: “Uh oh…”
His out-of-app experience mattered more for attracting new users than his in-app experience. In fact, he didn’t need an in-app experience at all. The app would eventually be a nice-to-have for his power users… but the need for that was 2, maybe 3, years down the road.
He needed links to a website embedded in social media, highly visible and easy to play with and navigate to with a browser.
The problem with people that build software (firms, developers, architects and product managers) – is that they are trained to build software – not build businesses.
“Some people are just out for a buck – the rest just don’t know any better”
I designed a new MVP for Billy, one that didn’t rely on an app – and only cost him $2,000 to have built by a new team of developers I helped him find.
As an independent party who didn’t stand to make money building the solutions I recommended, I wasn’t biased towards any specific direction. I simply showed him the best path, one entrepreneur to another.
Frankly, I don’t know if the firm Billy hired deliberately wasted his time and money. Some people are just out for a buck – the rest just don’t know any better.
The point is that Billy was out 9 months and $80,000 because the people designing his product were the same people building it.
It’s Really, Really, Hard To Know Who To Trust And Where To Spend Money When You Aren’t An Expert In A Domain
Today, Billy has a thriving startup. But how much more could he have accomplished if he hadn’t been duped by his agency in the first place?
I know first hand how important independent coaches and consultants are, and I will never go back to the days when I didn’t work with them. A couple hundred bucks saves me months of work and tens of thousands of dollars.
In fact, even this site (TipsForTechTeams.com) wasn’t originally my idea. Read the whole story of how I worked with coaches to build this blog.