After staying aside for a few years I have finally found something that I’m interested to build. The feeling is exquisite. Building is the most exciting activity for a tech founder. The orgasm of creating a startup is when you are working with a completely new idea and you are not sure whether it will work or not. When you are free from the politics of engaging with the users and investors. When stuff is popping up left, right and centre.
We are currently working on a tool to help African businesses to run a self-assessment of whether they are investment-ready or not. I’m not sure about the market or business model but my gut feeling tells me the solution is needed especially for startups and SMEs operating in an environment where it’s difficult to access BDS. Am I afraid it might fail? not at all because that is the definition of a startup. A business operating in an untested market with an unproven business model and a potential to scale exponentially. The reason I’m writing this article is to share some of the steps I usually adopt when working on a new product idea. I’m not an expert but you might get a thing or two if you are a tech founder and currently working to build your product.
This is the first step I usually adopt, I want to spend more time understanding the needs of my potential users. Adopting Empathy Map, helps me to understand my Customer Empathy, it helps me to better define and understand my customer; her pains and gains. It is a good tool for mapping your solution based on the needs and the nature of your potential user. Helps in moving from confusion to clarity. In the end, you will be able to understand who you are building for and why? I like to do this activity alone before working in a group with users. It helps me to better reflect and question my assumption.
Before working on a new product I like to visualize how the product will look like. I like to be able to think about different designs and ways a user will be able to engage with my product. The goal is to find the right UX/UI for the product. I also know I’m obsessed with some colours and design practices. I’m a minimalist, I can be overwhelmingly minimalist sometimes. The paper prototype helps me to try and test my ideas with my team and potential users. It is the best way to validate your idea before the actual coding starts. It is the most cost-effective way for non-technical founders to validate some of their assumptions. Draw or print the prototype on a piece of paper and ask for feedback from your users.
Build — Learn — Measure
Don’t rush to build. Talk to at least 50/100 people or more to gather insights about your paper prototype what to add or remove. Make sure you consider issues you found out during the mapping exercise of customer empathy. The idea is to improve the product as you learn. It is important to find people defined by your customer empathy map as your primary users. This shouldn’t constrain you from just focusing on them you can gather the perspective of other people too. Starting building while you gather insights. Adopt the insights but don’t be limited with them. Sometimes even your customers don’t know what they want don’t trust them too much. Keep building, testing and learning to improve the product. Do this in multiple circles.
Learn From Others But Be Original
It is always good to look for similar solutions or product aiming at solving the problem you are trying to address. It is good to be a disruptive and the first principal thinker. There is nothing “realistic” about building startups. The more real you are the more you are losing the opportunity to come up with a disruptive solution. Keep imagining, keep disrupting. Continue to test and build the product until you find the Product Market Fit (PMF).
Focus on What Matters
Spend more time with your customers to understand some of the challenges they face. Constantly, respond to those needs and keep improving your product. You don’t need to call your solution innovative. Customers will judge that. Innovative solutions are the most perfect solutions to the existing problem. Focus on making your solution the most relevant.
These are just some of the things you can do in the very early days of building your startup. Post startup you need to build a business. You will need to do a lot outside this. These are some of the basics. I would like to hear some of the things you do in building new products. Let’s chat on Twitter @Afruturist
I’m also currently testing my personal website feel free to drop me some comments afruturist.africa