How NorthOut Turns an Idea Man Into a Startup Founder

Innovation Offense by NorthOut
4 min readJul 17, 2016


Everyone thinks they have a great idea for an app. A small percentage of that group actually has the perseverance and/or finances to pursue a development effort. And an even smaller subset of that group understands what it means to be a startup CEO.

A lot of startup CEOs learn by doing. That can work, but a lot of mistakes are made along the way resulting in wasted time and money.

When NorthOut begins the process of creating an MVP for a client, we don’t just build an app. We build a person who has the knowledge and skills to build a successful company around their app. It’s a 3 step process and it starts with…

A New Point of View

A fair amount of our clients come to us with an idea they’ve been thinking about for a long time. The longer they have been thinking about it, the more sure they are it’s a brilliant idea.

Selection bias has taken over — they have seen specific examples of how their app will help people, but they’ve failed to recognize every other waking moment of their lives in which their app hasn’t been validated.

The idea sounds good when they pitch it, but they don’t have any research to back up their claims.

They want to know if we can build it. We want to know if we should build it.

If you want to hook a potential development shop/CTO/investor. Drop some data early on in your pitch. Show that you have done some real research and that there is demand for your idea.

If no research has been done, don’t freak out!

But that’s going to be the first thing we work on together. We are going to turn to the ol’Google to see if a similar product exists, how technically feasible your idea is, how many people are really in your target audience and how we can build something they will adopt. And we will ask you to do the same.

As the potential founder and CEO of a new startup, it is important you learn to look at your product as objectively as possible. Discovery of potential roadblocks early on may ruin the romantic image you have of the startup world, but your response to these deterrents will help you (and us) decide how serious you are about your idea.

Be Specific and Listen

Once the research has validated the idea and the founder has learned that objectivity will be crucial, we have to have one more conversation before we lay out specs.

And it usually begins with the questions “what is the problem we are solving?” and “what are the minimum features we need to build to prove this app can solve that problem?”

It’s important for us to be as specific as possible at this stage. Your grand vision may include processing payments, collecting social data and integrating a bunch of third party APIs, but is all that really important right now? Is it enough to first build a button that superimposes face tattoos on all your selfies so we can get it in people’s hands to see if they will actually use it? (Free idea, btw).

Getting objective users to try your product early is crucial. They are going to be the ones that validate your idea and tell you what it needs. Not everyone who agrees to try your first build is going to be in your target audience, but you take what you can get in this phase and you listen to what they have to say.

If the app is shit, it’s better to find out early and users with no skin in the game will be the first to tell you the app is shit.

All Together Now

Once we have decided on what we are actually going to build, we set to work together. At NorthOut, we don’t believe at list of requirements should be the last thing we hear from a client until delivery. We believe it is important for the idea guy to learn how the product is built, how to work with engineers and how to iterate, iterate, iterate.

If a client is going to become a successful startup CEO, he/she needs to know what software version control is and what Amazon Cloud Services are and why three staging environments are necessary…. and what a staging environment is.

Being involved in the development of your app is the surest way to build a successful foundation for your company.



Innovation Offense by NorthOut

Powering Innovation for leadings brands and building killer digital experiences —