How a 23 y/o girl developed a Facial Recognition app. The harsh realities of building a technology forward app. From a outsourced developing disaster to a industry phenomenon.
TLDR: I came up with my app idea walking through a department store. I made a bunch of naive mistakes and spent the last 8 months figuring out the app game. I am now less than 30 days from launch and I have learned a couple of key factors when dealing with the technology industry and developers.
This is a post on how I did it and what I learned.
Read time: 15 minutes
Get comfortable guys — I am about to drop some knowledge
What? and Why?
I was walking around in a department store through the beauty counter aisle and I looked all around; I just did not fit in (FYI I am Chinese, German and Irish, not a frequent combo!) I did not look like the ladies working the counter. I felt gross and un-inspired. I wanted to learn but I did not want my makeup done for the world to see. This was such a pivotal moment for me because at that moment I thought of the idea: Kontouré. Yes. Kontouré like contouring (the makeup trend) but with a K and an accent mark because it was cute and I liked it. So in November of 2015 I started.
How did I get here?
It was like I was the frog in the boiling pot of water. No joke. By March of 2016 I was at a breaking point. I had (naively, once again) spent $6,000 of my own dollars for a “techy-friend” to be my “project manager” to pay a developer out of Armenia to create a facial recognition app. (This is where you can laugh at my life). As most of you had probably guessed it, that failed miserably. Days (sometimes weeks) without responses, wasted time, wasted money and the worst part? I lost control. Not of myself, but I lost control of my project. I just literally put my ideas fate into someone else’s hands. I was so stupid (there is just not a better word for it). The app was large, only made for one platform, minimal vertices and points, and it was poor quality.
The Things No One Tells You
Consider this for a minute, I started out from scratch. I had to learn to ask for help. ALL THE FREAKING TIME. If you are a prideful person and an entrepreneur. You are going to need to reevaluate, like immediately.
You absolutely have to ask for help. All the time. Being an entrepreneur typically means that you have to know about a lot of different things. You might be able to master some but not all. We can’t all be masters at everything and therefor we need help.
Even though this path was rough and organic and messy — Here is how I did it.
Step 1: Your idea. Duh. I mean where do we start right? I like to keep a little notebook with me to jot down anything creative I think about. It helps. But it is so much more than that. It is the details. The perfection. What to add, what to take away. These are your ideas. Do not let anyone else control them. If someone tells you they can’t do it, they might not be the right fit for you. If you get that answer 10 times? It is going to cost you a ton of money to get it figured out!
Step 2: Provide value. Lots and lots of value. Make your prices worth while. It is the poverty side of me that wants to make every thing affordable for all of my customers. But you have to step back and see what you are offering and the value it provides. For me, it is helping people learn to apply makeup, giving different customized options and helping them save time everyday! Also we offer products and recommendations along the way. There are so many different sources of value, our prices MUST reflect that.
Step 3: Delivery. Boys take note — Delivery is essential. When I go shopping for a product, it’s not just the product I am after! It is the experience, the delivery, the pretty packaging on wrapped all along the product. Not only does your product have to be kick ass, it needs a bow and some hipster wrapping paper too.
Step 4: Loyalty We talked about prices, but let’s talk about loyalty. Loyalty programs, incentives and memberships are all great ways to keep consumers loyal to your company. A great way to do this is giving customers bonuses for dollars spent or giving them an annual option.
Step 5: Marketing and viral media content. Want something to go viral? It is simpler than you might think. Contact the viral accounts and market with them. Paid shoutouts, retweets and more are all available in your niche category. They are not the celebrities or the larger companies, they are the funny memes Instagram pages, or the inspiration quotes twitter accounts. Other ideas that are free or inexpensive is having bloggers and you tubers with a first look opportunity, or a review in exchange for product.
A couple of ending thoughts
Technology and Outsourced Work is a tough business. It’s an expensive business. Don’t succumb to substandard work. The consumer will chew you up and spit you out. When you are looking for a developer you MUST figure out the following.
Rate hourly/one time payment? What will they charge (if any) for learning time?
Time Zone — What time do you plan to talk every week? Create a weekly call.
Availability — When can you expect communication back? Skype, Text, Phone Calls?
Revisions — How do they include revisions in their pay structure?
After — Will you be able to reach them after the project is over? Follow up?
Location — This one gets a little heated. When I outsource my developers, I take applicants from around the world. Here is the issue, it is not a language barrier or a stereo type that does not get a foreign developer hired. It’s the cultural differences. I am developing for a high-end westernized culture that lives primarily in North America. It is really difficult to explain the aesthetics and branding to someone who has never step foot in a Saks or Nordstrom.
What programs do they use?
How will you have access to the files?
If it’s more expensive, there might be a reason.
I am not telling you that a more expensive solution is the right solution. For example, Dennis (current dev) costs more hourly than the first one did. But it was worth it. I needed a good developer running the show and to pay for him was and is 100% worth it. Our facial recognition costs more than most, why? because it is very specific, they offer support, it is quick and efficient. I only give you these examples because they are great instances where you should pay for more. Here is an instances where you could easily spend too much money.
UX/UI design work is very important but only really needs to be done on a case to case basis. Agreed hours to be completed and tasks within them. This might relate to you, this might not. But the point is, there are times to spend top dollar, and times you do not. Know the difference so you don’t hurt yourself.
Insecurity is a good thing. Embrace it now peeps because if you are not even the slightest bit insecure, you are just lying to yourself. Like an artist can be scared of criticism over their artwork it is the same deal in entrepreneurship. Your business is your baby. Treat it as such and be a little insecure. It helps you realize problems before they occur, or the realities of the market in which you are about to become a very small fish in a rather large pond.
Most of all Good luck and trust your gut. I wish everyone on here all the best and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
What’s next?! Launch! January 2017 here we come! You can either watch me succeed or fall on my face!
Shameless plug www.kontoure.com