When it comes to entrepreneurship, the media world is saturated with advice. And that's great by the way, as having access to best advice anywhere and anytime is what makes starting-up easier than ever before.
However, there's a good, bad, relevant and irrelevant advice out there. Having helped over 100 entrepreneurs build and launch apps, there're some mistakes and patterns I notice consistently. So without wasting your time, here's distilled advice that comes from my experience.
1. Keep it Simple
Many entrepreneurs try to build a feature-rich first version of their app. In some cases they hope it will lead to a broader appeal, in other it's just a fear of launching a simple product.
For a new product to succeed, it has to be simple and focus on solving just one customer pain. It's value proposition has to be straight-forward. Otherwise, people will have a hard time to adopt it.
Big, established brands can afford to launch a complex product. But a small unknown startup will have a hard time winning customer trust. Users, just don't stick around unless you hook them fast. And the best way to do it, is to deliver a concentrated dose of value right away.
2. Don't Try to Build an App for Everyone
He who tries to please everybody pleases nobody. This piece of advice goes hand in hand with with keeping it simple. If you find a narrow demographic, it will be much easier to please them.
Facebook initially focused on University students, PayPal on eBay users, and Tesla on environmentally conscious, wealthy tech lovers. If you can find a group of people who share the same customer pain, the one that only you can solve the best, your app will not only get users easily but likely spread virally.
3. Seek and Use Customer Feedback
In his book, Innovator's Dilemma, Clay Christensen explains how targeting early adopters first, is the best way to disrupt established markets. Early adopters are forgiving in a sense that they care more about novelty than bugs.
This allows disruptive startups fine-tune their product for the mainstream customers who don't respond to bugs well and lose trust easily. However, if you don't actively seek the customer feedback, you won't be able to improve on it.
Or as Bill Gates pointed out, "They may not tell you what you should build but they can surely tell what's wrong."
4. Start Marketing Early
Why spend months and fortune building a product without any real proof of customer demand if you can find out today. Put up a landing page and start building a waiting list. Those first people you get, will not only provide a degree of validation but help you build a better product too.
5. Sign a Founders' Agreement
A lot of startups are started by co-founders. In many cases they're friends, but it's not unusual that a startup team is formed by a two or more people who met on some co-founder dating event. Becoming an entrepreneur can be quite extreme. Just because you got along when the times were good, it doesn't mean it will stay that way.
The experience shows that some people deliver, and others don't. Likewise, vision and priorities change. In any case, make sure you've signed a vesting agreement determined how are you going to resolve issues that may arise.
6. Focus on Finding a Product/Market Fit
According to Marc Andreessen, it's "the only thing that matters." Product/Market Fit means you're in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.
Best apps are pain-killers, they solve some customer problem. It might be boredom (Angry Birds), communication (Whatsapp), getting a reliable taxi (Uber) or travel accomodation (Airbnb).
Coming up with a concept to solve a problem is relatively easy compared to making it work for the customer. It requires tons of customer feedback and adjustments to create something they'll love using. And if you achieve that, you've got the product/market fit.
According to growth hacker Sean Ellis, you can measure your product by asking users the following question:
How would you feel if you could no longer use [product]?
- Very disappointed
- Somewhat disappointed
- Not disappointed (it isn’t really that useful)
- N/A – I no longer use [product]
If at least 40% score 'very disappointed' it's very likely you've reached it. If you score below 40%, find out why and, well, keep working
7. Ignore the Competition
I'll cut this short. If you spend all your time looking at your competition, your product will end up looking like your competition's ass. So focus on the user and ignore the rest.