Ideate ⇛ Prototype ↣ Test ⇝
Repeat ➰

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At any given moment, you have tons of ideas bouncing around your head. Some of them, if executed correctly, could make a difference in the way we work and live. Whether it’s an innovative solution for your community’s waste program or a better material purchasing process for your industry, there’s no shortage of possibilities.

Still, you’re a sane person with limited resources. You know you can’t pursue them all. So, how do you know which ideas are worth pursuing and which are just whimsical daydreams?

Planning to develop custom software is like planning your perfect home.

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As I look back on almost fifteen years of helping business leaders develop custom software, I can see how much my thinking has evolved. I used to avoid the “building software is like building a house” analogy because there are places where it breaks down.

Today, Mindbox has evolved our approach to resemble the roles of general contractors and architects in construction. It’s helped us help our clients succeed, both as software startups and corporate implementors. As new home builders, it’s easy for new software owners to make expensive mistakes. …

A Startup Redding Podcast

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Ep. 18 with Lauren Jerome and Kirk Wayman

Listen on Spotify, iTunes, or straight from the source.

Full Audio Transcript

Kirk Wayman 0:07
This is the Startup Redding podcast created by a group of founders, funders and entrepreneurs who believe you can have a thriving startup ecosystem in any city in the world. So they created one in theirs; Redding, California.

Hi, it’s Kirk. Today we’re going to talk to Lauren Jerome, co-founder of Mindbox Studios. She came down to Redding to be a mentor at our last Startup Weekend, and we got a chance to talk about innovation. She had recently presented a keynote at a conference on this subject, and I wanted to share that conversation with you. …

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All photos by Robert Scherle

A Look Inside Our Recent Event in Eugene, Oregon

“54 hours is plenty of time to get my startup off the ground,” said no one ever.

This weekend entrepreneurs, creatives, developers, and industry experts gathered at 942 Olive in downtown Eugene for Techstars Startup Weekend, a fun and interactive event aimed at doing just that.

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Determining a pricing strategy for custom service agencies is as much of a science as it is a complex math equation. Where most service-based business models are built on predictability, the custom service team requires flexibility and agility.

When the end customer wants to know how much it will cost them, what’s the best approach?

Should you iron out as much of the detail as possible up front to reduce risk? Should you accept the risk in favor of your time and account for the unknown? Either approach will work in the right scenario.

Regardless of your approach to the project planning, your team can plan ahead to avoid three common pitfalls when it comes to finalizing the sell price. …

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The art of estimating often means choosing efficiency over precision.

For every organization that offers custom services, there’s a business leader wondering if they are charging enough money. This is a multi-faceted question. It often begins with making sure enough detail has been put into the project specifications and, ultimately, relies heavily on experience.

But, how can you tell?

Estimation is a common organizational pain point, especially where creative services or innovation are involved. Expecting a client to accurately communicate 100% of their needs up front is as unrealistic as expecting project team members to anticipate every hiccup.

While senior-level estimators rely on years of experience to ensure that estimates are comprehensive, is the comprehensive estimate always the best approach? Shouldn’t the new estimate be at least partially informed by how the team recently performed and what they have learned? Who on the team is responsible for studying the trends and comparing estimated to actual costs? Aside from top-tier organizations with robust, expensive internal software systems, business leaders are often left wondering and guessing at how to adapt their costs over time. …

Three ways your team can leverage software to get ahead.

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Custom service teams from manufacturing to software development face similar challenges when it comes to growth. Scaling an operation is a bit more challenging when the delivery is a bit different with each project. While business leaders look for a balance between keeping operations lean and investing in the future, it can be challenging to decide where to invest to make the biggest impact.

As custom project teams position themselves to scale, the processes and tools in use should be based on a strong foundation and a few next level strategies. If your team is spending a lot of time in meetings, missing milestones, or complaining about tools and spreadsheets being out of sync, it might be time to look into improving the solutions. …

Building software effectively requires both skill sets.

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Who is going to ask the key questions on your software build-out?

Thanks to recent trends like the popularity of the open source movement and e-learning, people who never considered themselves innovative are bringing new products to market. These natural problem-solvers tend to start by asking questions like “just out of curiosity, how much would it cost to build something like [Netflix, AirBnB, or Kickstarter]”. Or they’ve created a long wishlist of desired functionality for this dream solution.

Once they start talking about this idea with friends and colleagues, the verbal validation starts coming in and the solution starts to seem more and more obvious…

So, what’s next?

Building a prototype can help facilitate getting as much useful feedback as possible. This process can reduce uncertainty and overall cost to develop. …

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Hint: It’s more guts than glory

If you’ve ever considered starting a business or working for yourself, you’ve probably given some thought the familiar models you could put to work.

Not to be confused with a business plan, an organization’s business model describes, at its essence, how it makes money. For the risk-averse businessperson looking for a quick return on investment, franchising can be appealing, especially if it fulfills a local need.

While opening a microbrewery or an online e-commerce marketplace certainly takes financial risk, both business models are fairly well established, allowing businesses to scale or fail quickly. …

…while you’re still discovering what you need

A software program can range from a few lines of code to a few million, but if you’re thinking about hiring a software team you are probably wondering how much it will cost.

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Even if your business is well established, there’s a good chance you have a budgetary constraint, so you keep this in mind:

  1. You don’t need everything you think you do.
  2. Software is never really “finished”.

Understanding this is important to a software owner’s success as well as building a healthy relationship with the development team.


Lauren Jerome

Entrepreneur | Engineer & Technologist | Software Product Developer | Digital Strategist | Enterprise Consultant | Community Advocate | Philosophy Enthusiast

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