We live in exciting times because there are so many problems to solve in the world!
I’ve always loved software, because it’s a great way to solve problems and do some good in the world at the same time. It gets better when you combine software and business — you then have an opportunity to scale both the business and the impact.
Having spent many years working with founders with great software ideas, there are some common themes which are worth thinking about early on.
If you have a great software idea, one of the first things to understand is that you are not building software, you’re building a business. This means it could take 10+ years to achieve the level of impact you are looking for.
While you’ll spend some of this time continuously investing in building and improving your software product, you’ll also recognise that growing a successful SaaS business is so much more than just building software.
Your product team are responsible for designing, building and operating your software — but a good product team will do so much more. A well balanced product team includes:
A key factor that will contribute to your success is how well you can build a team. This team will need to achieve an extremely high level of productivity so you can execute on each stage of your business. Jezz talks about some common mistakes when it comes to building a product — these include assuming you can just tell a developer what you want and you’ll get it, and assuming if you build something great then people will buy it.
You’ll also need to balance the fact that you are limited in who you can hire — not just by funding, but by who is available in the market at the time you need them.
“Its really easy to build the wrong thing, really well”
How we solve this problem
EndGame was founded based on our experience in building startups. We recognised that there must be a better way to get through the first few stages of growth. Our “Virtual Product Teams” are teams of 10+ people that have a breadth of skills and experience. These people have already bonded as a team, with great oversight, coaching and governance.
If you’re a non-technical founder, one of our virtual product teams can help you hit the ground running. This allows you to leverage everything we’ve learned in the other SaaS products we’ve worked on over the last 10 years. Plus, by using a virtual product team you can choose your pace (i.e. you might use 10% or 50% of the team’s capacity and only pay for what you use). This means you can ramp up and down as you need to.
When you’re building a business, you’ll go through several funding cycles. Regardless of whether you’re self-funding or working with investors, it’s important to understand what stage you are in and what goals you need to achieve to move into the next stage. The stages are fairly consistent and look like:
When looking for a software developer, you have some clear choices to hire or outsource. It’s important to understand the difference between hiring/outsourcing your development and hiring/outsourcing a full product team.
If you’re thinking about working with a software partner, then here are some questions that may help you decide what you are looking for:
Our product discovery process helps you look at the full business opportunity, then focus on the next steps.
Some activities that we typically do include:
The Lean Canvas is a one-page business plan which helps to understand the big picture and to identify risks/assumptions. Working through this together is a great way to give our team a good understanding of your vision and business plan.
This 90-minute workshop covers: target customers, early adopters, problem, revenue streams, solution, alternatives, UVP, channels, key metrics, costs, and unfair advantage.
Story Mapping is a common agile approach to brainstorm your vision by turning it into goals and user actions. During this process, we think big and use post-it notes to record ideas. We then arrange them to get visibility of key release milestones, such as BETA and MVP.
Over a two hour workshop, we will complete a story mapping exercise. This will result in a prioritised list of user tasks, organised by release milestones.
Based on the workshops and discussions with our UX designers, we will do user interface design for 2–3 key screens. This helps flesh out the style and level of complexity required and gives you something to show potential investors.
We’ll prepare a system architecture for your platform. This shows how the cloud services will be provided and how they will be consumed by users and devices. These diagrams will help identify the apps/components required, and give you more material to show investors.
We’ll break the development down into various streams and provide a set of goals and objectives that are required to achieve each release milestone. Within each objective, we will provide a list of user stories (title only) to identify key pieces of work.
Based on the roadmap, we will recommend a pace for the development, which would be based on fortnightly sprints. This will be based on sprint pricing, which allows for a fixed amount of resource per 2-week sprint and this resource is then spread as required over a squad.
“ Our entrepreneurial founders need a business partner as much as a software developer.”
We love talking about software and business, so if you’d like to explore your idea, please do get in touch.