Gene Marks reports from in the trenches on Main St.
Esther Kuperman’s New York startup recently rolled out its first product called Sociidot, an app that aims to help other startups break down the process of creating a company into actionable steps using roadmaps.
Are you thinking of building your own app and striking gold? I asked Esther what the experience was like, and here is what she said:
This was not my first attempt to build a "tech" product. In other attempts I had worked with all types of developers, running the gamut of locales and types of coders. Bottom line: They were all unreliable and could not produce. I never got the product I wanted and spent countless months of frustration trying to communicate and pushing people to get me the code on time.
I knew I could produce a compelling design and market the app. My weak area, the part I couldn’t do myself, was the coding. So I put together very sloppy wireframes and a bare-bones design. I started interviewing developers and put them through a rigorous screening process. They first had to include specific details I requested in my job listing in their response, so I could see if they’d actually read it and could follow directions. Then the ones who passed this first test were interviewed by my Project Manager, and we put a number of trick questions into these interviews. After this stage, I only spoke with the teams that seemed to have vision, innovative viewpoints, and top coding skills.
The four teams that made it through that process unfortunately gave me quotes for my awful wireframes and designs and said they could build exactly that. That’s not what I wanted to hear!
Finally one developer came back to me and said, “I don't think you can develop yet. You need to work on your concept and really narrow it down to something that is ready to be developed, and then narrow it down further to only ten screens for your core concept. Past that, you are looking at a significant amount of money and time to develop it.” He then said he could consult with me over the phone a few times to help me narrow down my concept and get the app ready to start development. I knew this was a team I could work with.
While the development was going on, I went out and found a number of people who had built and marketed apps successfully and I had consultations with these people on different areas - development, user interface and marketing. These consultations helped me significantly. I had a number of smart, experienced people commenting on what I was trying to build. Now I regularly trade tips on what works with my "ad hoc advisory board."
So what did Esther learn?
1. Always work with a team, not an individual. Everyone has an area they are great at and other things they’re not so great at, so it’s much better to have a team to cover every aspect of your project.
2. Get top developers and UI people involved from day one. You don't have to top developers or experts to develop your product, but they can consult or serve as a sounding board.
3. Follow your instincts. If top people are telling you something you feel is wrong, your instincts are usually right. If you want to build an amazing product, you need to work with amazing people. Don’t stop until you find them.
Gene Marks owns the Marks Group PC, a ten person sales and marketing technology consulting firm outside of Philadelphia that serves more than 600 small and medium companies around the country.