Very good - I like the Star Wars reference! Well you certainly seem to know your stuff, and I’m after people like yourself, who can design and built the software side of this. If there’s anyone you’d recommend to do this, please let me know. Or if you change your mind, please come and find me - I may have a good paycheque waiting for you.
Heh! Do be careful not to get into the habit of promising work before you secure funding, however - unless you are self-funding, attracting investment is really hard.
Good point, but i have had one offer of investment already. And as one engineer told me, the VC s he knows will calculate what to invest based on the profiles of the engineers involved: ie they want to see a good team in place first, which is why im pushing to recruit people now.
Granted anyone i take on must be paid, but it is a bit of chicken and egg problem. Without investment, there can t be a paid team: but without a team in place it will be hard to get investment.
One engineer who s worked freelance (and for Google i think among others), says im better off starting with volunteers. It s true from seeing my family s projects in other industries, that a good team of volunteers can build up a professional operation, given time and resources.
The challenge is: how would i do this with software engineers like yourselves, when as you say, you need to be paid?
(Ps im going to add the Google Drive links to my.original message so you can view the spreadsheets.)
Hmm, not sure I agree with this. Perhaps he/she meant co-founders? It is quite possible to attract a developer working free of charge on the basis of shares or future ownership, but “volunteer” sounds like developers are happy to work for no (future) reward at all. It is possible that, for a junior, they would welcome the work experience, but I imagine there is only value for them if there is a (more) senior engineer to guide them.
You probably need two things:
- An offer of future shares, co-ownership or profit, drawn up as a contract
- A persuasive case that your project has a market and a chance of succeeding. For example, would a bank lend you money against your current business plan?
If you do get to talk to developers who are willing to work on a future-shares basis, expect them to interview you thoroughly about your business and the vision you have for it.
Now you mention it, I think the engineer meant get volunteers in first to build the structure and brig innovations etc, and then hire engineers like him.
It’s true about the business plan. My business coach today told me, that having a clear plan will be a good selling point for a lot of people. As this project is a work in progress, it’ll mean a bit of trial and error before I can come up with a clear plan. I know what I want the app/website to do, but how to get there I’ll need to figure out. Will also need to approach a few potential business partners who can get the right volunteers in and build the structure for the business first.
Future shares and profit is probably the best option right now. As long as there’s more or less an equal amount of the business shared between its founders, then that should work.
I’ve seen how Wix offers almost a free website service, so might use something like that to set up the shell for the application. As my business coach said, the universities are more likely to respond to something that’s set up and ready to go, so tat’s the next step.
In the meantime, is there anyone you know (or on this page) who’d be interested in joining the engineers, to build it?
Ps, here’s the Google Drive link I was talking about: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BxBc5hecrgEfTFJDQm11STM3TVE#
It’s not for me, sorry. I wish you all the luck in the world, but I am not persuaded of the business case - it may just be there is something I am not seeing. Anyway, I am spending a lot of my free time building my own stuff, so am probably not open to any co-founder opportunities presently.
You can get a perfectly serviceable virtual server for a few GBP/USD per month, so there’s no need to choose something just because it is free. Hosting is so cheap these days.
I agree, but remember a
volunteer co-founder will see things the same way: if they do 300 hours of tech work to get you started, what 300 hours will you do to match it? Your future partner will want to see solid value from you just as you want to see value from them.
This nails the issue with attempting to find (good) people who will work for free.
Good developers who are happy to work for free fall, IMO, into one or all of the following categories
- They’ve made something that they had equity in, it’s been sold, and they don’t need to work - and they find Project X compelling
- They earn enough in a part-time/contract role to have time on their hands, and they find Project X compelling
- They have savings and find Project X compelling
Which points to the need for a rock-solid business case for Project X with a clear and reasonably likely/credible path to cash (or some other sense of significant reward) at some point in the medium term. And, furthermore, it needs to be more compelling than any of the many personal projects that developers usually have at the back of their mind. (Certainly, if I didn’t have to work, I’d spend my techie time noodling away on ML and AI for the interest).
Inexperienced developers with time to spare may be more persuaded, but - especially if there is no clear sight of a goal they believe in - as soon as someone offers them a paying gig, they’re likely to follow the money and leave.
It’s probably easier to find the money* to pay developers than it is to find [good] developers who will commit to working on your project for equity.
* And - from experience - finding the money for a startup from external sources requires a solid, researched, market-validated plan, be it a loan, a grant or investment. Am going a bit Lean Startup here, but there are ways to firm up your idea and test the concept without needing to build very much, if anything at all. Affirming research, feedback and data is compelling.
While the execution of any idea is more important than the idea in itself, rushing to execute ‘to work the business side out as you go’ stacks the odds against a startup.
I agree with @stevejalim and @halfer, getting people to work with you are paying them is hard enough. Many devs have their own side projects they’d prefer to work on, rather than someone’s else project.
I’d suggest reading the lean startup and something on customer development like the mom test book. Then I’d focus on validating your idea in a way that you can either do yourself or afford to pay someone to do. In my view using something like Wix, Wordpress.com or LaunchRock to build a site to explain the product would be way to go.
I think you need to work on really clear messaging about what the product is, what problem is and who the customers are, probably using a business model canvas and/or getting pitch-deck together. Also you need to be able to explain the product in a sentence or two.
@James1 And, while it might sound dispiriting to hear some of us say that time spent on business planning + validation is needed, it’s definitely not time wasted – even if you ultimately end up changing your mind about Project X when you start getting feedback, they’re really handy skills and experience to accrue, regardless.
I’ll have to check out the ‘mom test book’, it sounds useful. I’d never suggest reading ‘The Lean Startup’ in isolation - it can be positively dangerous, despite being a very good book. I recommend accompanying it with ‘Traction: How any startup can achieve explosive customer growth’. If the site allows, I’ve written a short article about these two books on my blog - The Lean Startup Myth.
However, it’s not a ‘how do you make a product’ book - it’s more’what you do once you have your product’ but food for thought at both stages
Thanks everyone for the feedback.
Jon - good idea about the virtual user. Someone else suggested that. I ll give it a go. Thing is i do not have any funding available at the moment for a monthly service, so it will have to be a free website set up for now.
While you may not be persuaded by my business case this time round, i know from what business people and graduates have said that the demand is there: even with the online searches and start up support businesses have access to. I was hoping to get statistics to prove this but there s not an exact.record of theses requested from universities, that would indicate the number of innovations used/not used. I ll get this info another way.
Rythie - thanks for your info. I ll have a read.of those articles and see what they say. Most likely i ll need to bring in a business partner, who understands the model we need to use, so i can put together a more convincig business case for the project.
Steve - thanks for your support and it s not dispiriting at all. I expect for any project there will be set backs and disagreements. But your feedback on this page tells me what needs to be done to make this workable.
Phil and Steve - thanks also for your links. I ll take a look at them too.
Hi Steve, Rythie, Jon, Phil and everyone,
I want to share with you something one of the engineers has told me. It’s a very good suggestion and this engineer certainly seems to know his stuff. Here’s what he told me:
"The Google Cloud Datastore could be a starting point for your database (https://cloud.google.com/datastore). I think the database will be the core - the interface (web or app) is secondary to this. Different business models are possible: - based on subscriptions - based on micro-transactions - based on advertising / sponsorship’s - based on gifts - … Anyway, a data analysis, relationships, data flow model, and categorization of functionalities will be needed before prototyping can start … and not to forget: what will be the needed outputs? The chosen business model can (will) have impact on the above. "
Any thoughts on this?
It’s far too early to be deciding technical architecture IMO (and aside from that, try not to tie yourself to one provider if you can help it. Pick a database you can run anywhere).
Which I guess is another way of saying you need a business plan: “how will it work and how will it make money?”. As I said earlier in the thread, pretend you are approaching a bank for a business loan, and write it to the standard of persuasiveness they usually accept. I understand they generally ask to see a business plan and marketing plan, which sounds like a good idea to me!
Good points. It confirms what I thought. Just wanted to run this by you guys first. Yes, the business plan needs work. There is a potential BP I’ve been speaking with who has a lot of experience. and will draft up a good plan. I know the plan is integral to everything else, but need an expert on the data flow models etc. My contact should be good for this.
Shame about the cloud database. I would have thought that the datastore would be the ideal place to start, since it seems to be Google based, and this is what I want my fellow entrepreneurs to see. Ok, I’ll have a read of the other links Steve Phil and Rythie put up, and see what else we can start with.
Any suggestions for the database?
It is important. It’s just not important right now. Delaying writing the business plan while you choose the technology is like delaying writing the business plan while you spend a few days choosing the font to write the business plan in.
“a data analysis, relationships, data flow model, and categorization of functionalities will be needed before prototyping can start”
But in Lean, only of your ‘minimum viable product’, or “minimum marketable product” in some business contexts. What is the least you could do to test if your idea works? If it doesn’t, “fail fast” (cheap) and try again. Product development is a series of cyclic experiments. Build models of what you want. The first is often a sketch on a whiteboard or a big piece of paper.
MVPs work for internal markets. Your customers are better off with something than nothing. But if you go to market too early, some customers will be put off if they see an immature product. They may never come back so use MMP.
True. I want to make a very detailed plan but will need to speak to my business contact to draft one up.
In the meantime, i thought choosing the technology would be important, because this is a work in progress and we need to at least test the technology, so i can find out what chalkenges we face and then put that into the business plan.