I’ve got a great software idea, where do I start?

Andrew Butel
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October 8, 2020

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.

You’re building a business

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.

You’ll need a product team

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 product manager: The person who sees the long-term vision, the medium term goals, and can deliver a short term plan that delivers these.
  • UX/UI designers: Critical in both understanding what jobs the user is doing, as well as designing a system that helps users achieve these jobs.
  • Developers and testers: Responsible for building software in small increments, ensuring that they are able to release quality updates frequently, and build in feedback cycles with users and the business.
  • Support & operations: Responsible for making sure everything is running smoothly and users are having a great experience.

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.

You’ll need funding

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:

  • Discovery: Take your good idea and begin market validation, explore concepts and convince investors to go on the journey with you.
  • Launch: Launch a beta product and start your feedback cycle, then iterate toward “product/market fit” — i.e. a product that solves a real problem, for a real market, that people will pay for.
  • Growth: Build out the business model and sales channels while continuing to build the product.
  • Scale: 100x your product, market and revenue

Think seriously about your development

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:

  1. Are you looking to build an internal app or website, or are you looking to build a business that sells your software (i.e. software-as-a-service)
  2. Does your software partner share your aspirations for high growth and going global?
  3. Is your software partner set up to deliver projects, or to be a long-term software partner?
  4. How will your software partner manage your product knowledge and minimise employee turnover?
  5. Will your software partner respect your industry & business knowledge? Are they open to challenging you, asking why, and pushing back where necessary to help ensure you are building the right thing?
  6. Does your software partner understand the stage that your business is at with regard to the goals you need to hit with your current level of funding?
  7. Does your software partner have the ability and experience to both see the big picture, but deliver on the next small step?

Getting started

Our product discovery process helps you look at the full business opportunity, then focus on the next steps.

  • If your next step is to raise money then our focus will be on helping you understand what the next 12–18 months will look like so you can raise successfully.
  • If you’re funded and ready to go, then our focus will be on understanding your goals and staging the product development to deliver on them.
  • Either way, our intent is to be a long-term partner and not just churn out apps.

Some activities that we typically do include:

Lean canvas

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.

Read more about the lean canvas.

Story mapping

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.

Key UI design

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.

System architecture

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.

Roadmap

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.

Read more about creating a roadmap.

Costs

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.

Read more about agile pricing.

“ 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.

Business
Software
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