7 Lessons We Learned Building an Innovative Product

As 2016 rolls in, here at Join The Players, we decided to look back and recap on what has happened over the last year. We faced multiple challenges in different projects and spheres as well as had our triumphs and failures. However, the decisions made and time spent would be in vain, if it does not bring any learnings back to the team.

In our vivid yearly meeting there were multiple ideas and suggestions which all narrowed down to the following 7 things we learned while building an innovative product from scratch.

1. Be Flexible

We started off using Go-Pro cameras as part of our product package. It was evident, that we needed to have our own camera case and hardware, if we were to build a strong product and brand.

As soon as we had the initial version of our camera we placed it out on the field. We had considered lots of factors that might have interfered with the quality, but that was only done theoretically. We had to try it out in action. All the benefits of that were evident in just two weeks. There were issues with the size, angle and vision, which required immediate action to be fixed. We did a few more test runs with different modifications until we found the perfect one.

Product Development Stages — Camera Case

The lesson:

Get your product out on the “field”. You will see humongous benefits through real time testing and save a lot of time on the drawing board.

2. Be Competent

Surround yourself with individuals who are experienced enough or willing enough to learn and progress in the field. Find the right people for the right task and create an ecosystem that helps them thrive.

Startups don’t really have a very detailed job characteristic. The people around you should be experienced in working on a variety of tasks in different directions. However, make sure that you don’t only hire for skill, but for character. The really passionate individuals are the ones who are willing to go all the way to get things done. Human motivation thrives in such cases and this is far more important.

Luckily, we realized this quickly and managed to create teams of people with complementary skills. Effectiveness has drastically increased since and even better, we managed to shorten the pipelines for most of our projects.

From left to right: Georgi, Nickolay, Anton, Neven and Misho (behind the camera: Dobrin,Dian and Hristo)

The lesson:

Build a team of people with complementary and defined skills who, more importantly, possess the right character to fit the company culture.

3. Be Consistent

Whether it’s sales or marketing, be relentless, be bold in your efforts and fight for what you believe.

People in both industries will agree that persistence and consistency are two of the most important traits to have. If it’s chasing after that special client or creating your next big campaign, always remember to stay true to yourself, or in this case, how you want to be perceived and accepted.

Treat your customers with respect and integrity and be respectful of their decisions. They will be reciprocal, as this in an intrinsic part of human nature. Just think about how you feel about a situation where this has happened to you.

We had some really rough patches as we were building both our sales and marketing strategies. User engagement was low and establishing new leads was proving to be quite hard. Constant changes took place until we found “our way”.

The lesson:

Be consistent in your actions and stay true to your brand, but be vigilant of potential bad practices.

4. Acknowledge Your Mistakes

Don’t fall to the escalation bias and blindly follow something, which is obviously detrimental to your business. We went through multiple iterations while developing the product, as we went through what had failed. Some mistakes were made due to lack of expertise and for others, it just wasn’t the right time. In the end, however, it turned out that those setbacks actually turned beneficial, as we focused our attention towards them and assessed them.

One of the projects, we were most excited about was Join The Players Competitions. This was an initiative, where players could make short highlights of their best goals and saves and submit them for the chance to become the goal and respectively save of the month. We considered everything, or so we thought. It turned out people had a hard time using the tool, as well as submitting the video. The rating system, where users could vote for their favorite, also turned out to be quite confusing.

After holding 3 months of Competitions, engagement fell to an all time minimum. We asked ourselves multiple questions: Was this something that people were just not interested in? Were the prizes to small?

Turns out that it was both the usability of the tool and prize pool, but it took us 3 months to realized this. After discussing this, we decided that the idea is actually great, but the execution was poor, so we put the project on a temporary hold and focused on more urgent matters.

The lesson:

Don’t spend too much time or money over projects, which are proving non-beneficial. Acknowledge your mistake and move forward.

5. Manage, Track and Evaluate

Analyse the market, the competition, your efforts, tasks and progress. Learn from it and act accordingly. Be reasonable in your decisions and don’t let emotions get in the way. Data can help you confirm what is working or disapprove bad practices.

Make sure to put deadlines on projects and assign responsibilities, which are clear to each team member. A well organized company will run smoothly, as everybody is aligned on what is important and a priority at the moment. Luckily, we also got Nick, who is amazing at planning, managing and setting up meetings and projects.

For team and project management reasons, we hold weekly 1-hour meetings every Monday, as well as a 5 minute catch-up daily meeting. Any questions are discussed after the meeting, as we follow a strict agenda.

On the product and marketing side, we are closely following the reports and metrics from the different metric tracking tools. We evaluate the results and make conclusions over them.

A few common tools we use are JIRA, Confluence, Google Docs and Dropbox. We plan on trying HipChat for team communication on top of the already well established company email.

The lesson:

Have faith in your actions, but trust metrics. Carefully analyse everything and make constructive conclusions and adjustments.

6. Push Your Limits

What is possible is only a matter of perception — with enough commitment and effort anything can be done. This is more of a personal advice than a team one, but whether you are working in a startup or in an already established business, give 110% of yourself. At the end of each day, I’ve felt much better, when I had the sense of achievement and completion. It’s not about how action-packed a certain day is, but more of the general amount and importance of work that has been done. One of our greatest achievements this year was sponsoring the European Amateur Mini Football Championship. We were effortlessly working towards this goal for quite some time and the satisfaction after the event had passed was just grand.

A lot of you will say: “Well, what if my work is really boring and repetitive?”, to which I will respond: “You are either undervaluing yourself and your work or this is not the right place for you.”.

The lesson:

We are going to quote Colin Powell on this one

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

7. Have Integrity

Nothing matters as much to investors, clients and employees as being honest and transparent with them.

Admit your mistakes and be open about them. However, don’t fall into the category of the “Lost Sheep” and be really apologetic. Nobody likes a crybaby. Show that you have learned from your mistakes and are willing to make amends. A good company can make the best out of a transgression by really showing character and willingness to change. But don’t forget that:

“Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”

The lesson:

Honesty is the best policy.

Do you agree with us? What lessons have you learned last year?

Share your opinion in the comment section below.