So, you have an idea for a software development business. You've toyed with the concept in your mind, and the more you think about it, the more convinced you are that it's going to work. But is an idea, no matter how great, enough to guarantee success? What are the most important things to know before you start your software business? This article shares seven vital tips for building a successful software startup.
Building a Successful Software Startup – 7 Vital Tips
Assume you will fail the first time
To some extent, there’s a lot of idealism involved in starting a software business (or any other business for that matter). Somehow, you feel that your product or service will sweep the world off its feet, especially if your idea is unique and unprecedented. There's a false sense of confidence, and in your mind's eye, you can picture people falling all over themselves to get a hold of your product. We hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but in reality, it hardly ever turns out that way. The fact is that most businesses fail, or worse – they never even see the light of day.
Yet, everyone feels that theirs will be the exception. It’s great to be optimistic and positive-minded, but it’s also necessary to be realistic and prepare yourself for a possible failure. It’s a good idea to consider what you will do if your startup fails. This is more crucial if you’ve quit your job or taken other significant steps to starting your own business.
You should give yourself two to three years to monitor your startup. If you find yourself running out of money and the business is still not taking off, find another job and spend the time reinventing your strategy.
Swallow your pride and start over if you have to
It’s been several months since you quit your job and announced to everyone that you were starting a software company. After all the hard work and investments, your efforts don’t seem to be paying off. To make things worse, everyone around you thinks you’re crazy and that you should give up. Faced with such a situation, it's tempting to keep going just to prove them wrong. If you yield to this temptation, you'll find yourself forcing things that simply aren't working.
In the end, you'll be more discouraged and frustrated. What helps is to remember why you decided to start a software business in the first place. Was it so that you could show the world that you're smart? We doubt it. It's more likely that you wanted to provide a service or meet a need, so keep that in mind.
When it becomes clear that your startup isn’t working, you need to take the humbling path of admitting to yourself that your first attempt has failed. Without acknowledging this, you will not be able to move on. However, if you take a slice of some humble pie, you can quickly move on and objectively assess where you went wrong.
Find a customer first, then build the product
Most times, people venture into business because they had a sudden lightbulb moment. The next thing is, they jump right off the wagon and begin to develop the product design they imagined. But what happens if, after building the product, you discover that no one seems to be interested in it? What if everyone who claimed to be interested isn't willing to put their money where their mouth is? That’s several months of time and resources flushed down the drain.
Thankfully, there’s a better approach. You should first determine if there are people who want to buy what you're offering. Once you can confirm this, go ahead and develop the product. What happens if you discover that your product isn't something people are willing to pay for? Don't despair; you can always come up with a new idea.
You can try talking to different groups of professionals and businesses to find out what software needs they have and whether it's in line with your ideology. If you come across any good prospects, you can even go a step further to ask them what particular features they’d like to see.
Concentrate on value, not features
Many software development startups think that having a hoard of fancy features is what will draw clients. They feel that clients choose a particular product because of its features. There's some truth in that, but it's a tiny percentage. The underlying reason why a client would choose a particular product is that it meets a specific need or provides a useful service. Put yourself in the client’s shoes and think about it for a moment – would you buy something that has cool features even if you don’t need the product itself? Probably not.
Instead of getting obsessed over features and trying to compete with similar products, you should stay focused on the value you’re providing to your clients. Always ask yourself what problem you’re trying to solve and why users should care about your product. Is your product meeting a particular need? Is it making your clients’ lives better or easier in any way? The answers to these questions are what your marketing campaign needs to focus on.
At the core of it all, clients will purchase a product if they can see how it will be useful to them, and not merely because it has feature A or feature B. You can go on to add more features after your product has found a solid footing on the market, but in the beginning, that should not be your focus.
Keep things simple
One thing to keep in mind as you start a software business is that user experience is more important than anything else. If your product is inconvenient and difficult to use, your startup will not be successful even if you apply all the other tips. It would be best if you aimed to build a product that is self-explanatory, clean, intuitive, and straightforward. To achieve this, you must have the user's needs at the back of your mind as you work. Which niche are you targeting? Where and when will they use your product?
Your software should be so easy to operate that users don't think twice about it; it should be a seamless part of their lives. Furthermore, it would help if you designed your software so that it integrates easily with other tools and software. Why is this important? The average business uses multiple tools for various aspects of their work.
For instance, there are communication tools, calendar tools, accounting, and finance software, etc. People aren’t going to abandon their tools and software just because you’ve arrived on the scene with a new product.
No matter how great your product is, you’re not going to be successful unless you can show clients that they can continue to use their beloved software alongside your new product. Simply put, keep your APIs open. The simpler it is for clients to integrate your software with other software, the higher the chances that they’ll stick with you.
Test, analyze, measure, and improve
By now, you've probably discovered that the technology and software industry is averse to stagnation. There's always a new skill to learn or a new technology to try out. This is probably a reflection of human nature and our constant desire for change. To survive as a software startup, you need to stay on top of your software project management and be ready to adapt to clients’ ever-changing needs.
Develop a routine practice of testing and analyzing your product to discover ways you can improve it. Also, it’s essential to stay in tune with the software industry so that you can recognize when things are changing. Then you can adapt your product to respond to the change.
Make it easy for people to join in
As a startup, you need to think about strategies to get your first few clients onboard. People aren’t sitting around waiting for the next opportunity to spend some money and time on new software. It would help if you made the bar for entry so low that people don't feel like they're investing too much money and time into an unpredictable venture.
For example, you can offer free access for SaaS, but with limited functionality or usage volume. You can also offer free upgrades or incentives for users who get their friends on board. Another solution is to offer various subscription plans to cover the needs of different user groups.
Starting a software business is undoubtedly one of the most challenging projects to undertake. You'll be faced with challenges, failures and may even have to change your original vision. Sometimes, you'll wonder if it's worth it and if you're ever going to be successful. It won't all be smooth sailing, but if you follow the tips in this article and keep hope alive, you'll soon find your software startup standing on its own two feet.
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We hope you found this article useful. Here at Cloud Employee, we assist companies looking to hire dedicated offshore developers across many technologies. Talk to us, learn more how Cloud Employee works, or see our Developer Pricing Guide.
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