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We're not "doing a startup", Topconf

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We're not "doing a startup", Topconf

  1. 1. We’re not “doing a startup” How to cut through the hype and build your side project into a profitable business. Rachel Andrew, Topconf 2016
  2. 2. G.K. Chesterton “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”
  3. 3. This is a marathon, not a 5K.
  4. 4. It’s not about the money (until it is)
  5. 5. Getting started Choosing the perfect product to bootstrap as a side-project. https://www.flickr.com/photos/joeshlabotnik/7276841268
  6. 6. Walt Disney “The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing.”
  7. 7. • for your own community • that you can ship quickly • that solves a problem people will pay to have solved • that does not need a lot of traction to be useful • that has existing competition A product ...
  8. 8. A product for your own community https://www.flickr.com/photos/drewm
  9. 9. Amy Hoy “Are you a Ruby developer? Then serve Ruby developers. Are you a UX designer? Serve UX designers.”
  10. 10. The worst that could have happened with Perch? No-one would want it but we’d have a useful tool for our business.
  11. 11. With a track record in a community you will already have trust.
  12. 12. A product you can ship quickly http://freekvanarkel.nl
  13. 13. John Radoff “The goal of a startup is to find the sweet-spot where minimum product and viable product meet – get people to fall in love with you.”
  14. 14. To launch with a small product, you need to find a problem that can be solved with a small product.
  15. 15. Perch v.1 • A simple content editor • No way to add new pages • No API • Images could be uploaded - but not resized
  16. 16. The Problem Client requests that an already developed static site be made editable via a CMS.
  17. 17. The Solution A simple CMS that turned static pages into editable pages by way of dropping in a couple of PHP tags.
  18. 18. A product that solves a problem that people will pay to have solved https://www.flickr.com/photos/futureshape/
  19. 19. If you can save a business time they will see the value in paying for your product.
  20. 20. Bootstrapped With Kids, Episode 31 “We think their workflow sucks, but they like it…”
  21. 21. Our target market for Perch was designers and agencies. We aimed to save them time on smaller projects.
  22. 22. Feedback from paying customers trumps feedback from free users. Every time.
  23. 23. A product that does not need a lot of users to be useful https://www.flickr.com/photos/22746515@N02/
  24. 24. “Social” or “community” products need a large user base to succeed.
  25. 25. Choose a product that is as useful to customer #1 as customer #1000
  26. 26. A product that has competition
  27. 27. Perch competitors at launch • WordPress • ExpressionEngine • CushyCMS • PageLime • Joomla • Drupal
  28. 28. What problem is your competition NOT solving? Build it.
  29. 29. New concepts will require you to educate potential customers as to why they even need your product.
  30. 30. Finding the time How to make time for 
 side-projects. https://www.flickr.com/photos/mybigtrip/6111406
  31. 31. Malcolm S. Forbes “One worthwhile task carried to a successful conclusion is worth half-a-hundred half-finished tasks.”
  32. 32. Sir John Lubbock “In truth, people can generally make time for what they choose to do; it is not really the time but the will that is lacking.”
  33. 33. Get set up to be able to pick up and work on your side-project quickly - whenever the time is available.
  34. 34. Your product must be a first-class citizen alongside your other work.
  35. 35. Set aside time and plan in advance what you will do with it
  36. 36. Diana Scharf Hunt “Goals are dreams with deadlines”
  37. 37. There is power in setting a goal, writing it down, putting a date on it
  38. 38. How to get started • Choose your goal • Define what it is you are going to create • Put a date on it.
  39. 39. Brian Casel http://casjam.com/the-cascading-to-do-list-or-how-to-get-big-things-done/ “In a nutshell, the idea is to start with the end- goal in mind, then divide it into smaller and smaller increments.  Plan all of the actions in detail beforehand, then get to work.”
  40. 40. Be realistic about how much you can achieve. Feeling as if you are falling behind can demotivate you.
  41. 41. If there is not enough time ... • Either revise your end date • Or, remove elements of the project - pushing them into a post-launch phase.
  42. 42. Be ruthless in cutting features that can be added post-launch
  43. 43. The “missing” features at launch will seem far more important to you than to your customers.
  44. 44. Describe the product as it is now. Sell the solution.
  45. 45. • Start Small • Get feedback from paying customers • Improve and add to your product based on their needs balanced by your vision.
  46. 46. Minimum Viable Infrastructures
  47. 47. Own Your Own Data
  48. 48. Launch and beyond Managing a growing side-project alongside an existing job or business. https://www.flickr.com/photos/nasamarshall
  49. 49. Winston Churchill “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
  50. 50. • We launched Perch at the end of May 2009 • At launch we were still 100% booked out on client projects • Income from Perch was initially reinvested into Perch • January 2013 we made the decision to stop taking on new client work Our timeline
  51. 51. A successful side-project should be given more time as it represents a higher % of your income.
  52. 52. Not making a profit? • Are you pricing too cheaply? • Are you reliant on expensive services? • Are you attracting customers who need a lot of support?
  53. 53. The slower growth curve of bootstrapped products gives you time to fix problems before they become BIG problems.
  54. 54. Never promise a specific timeframe to customers
  55. 55. When your product is a side-project you have even more things that could cause you to push back a feature.
  56. 56. We don’t publish a roadmap • It allows us to be flexible and react to customer needs and changing trends in web design. • It means that customers are not relying on the launch of feature X in order to complete a project. • It means that we can hold back a feature until we are absolutely sure it won’t cause anyone a problem.
  57. 57. Use Cases not Feature Requests
  58. 58. Find general solutions that will benefit many customers rather than adding very specific features
  59. 59. Understanding the problem means we can help the customer now and optimize the solution later.
  60. 60. Delight customers by solving their problems and letting them know when you have done so
  61. 61. Protect the Core Use Case
  62. 62. Beware adding things just because they “make good demo”
  63. 63. Your product will benefit by being owned by someone who will say no.
  64. 64. Make Frequent Small Releases
  65. 65. Small releases • Fewer changes = fewer things to go wrong • Easier to isolate the issue if a problem does occur • Get features to customers more quickly • For our customers, less of a dramatic change that they need to communicate to their clients
  66. 66. Semantic Versioning assumes: major.minor.patch
  67. 67. Progressive versioning major.minor.progress
  68. 68. http://allinthehead.com/retro/373/ progressive-versioning
  69. 69. Don’t be led by a noisy minority
  70. 70. Seek out the opinion of those customers you never hear from. The happy majority are often silent.
  71. 71. Marketing How to tell people about your product, when you have no money to burn. https://www.flickr.com/photos/brent_nashville/5284764031/
  72. 72. Seth Godin “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”
  73. 73. You have made something that genuinely solves a problem. Go tell people about it!
  74. 74. Pre-launch of Perch • A month before we put up a landing page and email signup form • About 500 people signed up • We emailed the list on launch and those people represented enough sales on launch day to pay back all pre-launch costs.
  75. 75. Your reach will give you your initial customers. Then what?
  76. 76. Content Marketing
  77. 77. Write blog posts and articles on the things your potential customer is interested in, not about your product.
  78. 78. Sponsorship
  79. 79. Sponsoring podcasts can be inexpensive and a great way to have someone influential talk about your product for a few minutes.
  80. 80. Paid Advertising
  81. 81. If you cannot track it do not pay for it
  82. 82. Target the “long tail” keywords
  83. 83. Research smaller sites visited by your ideal customer, advertise on those less expensive sites.
  84. 84. Create your own definition of success
  85. 85. Revenue that is not worth chasing for a 60 person business can be life- changing for the solo founder.
  86. 86. Is the grass greener on the product side?
  87. 87. The work is always worth it.
  88. 88. Thank you Rachel Andrew @rachelandrew http://rachelandrew.co.uk/presentations/not-doing-a-startup