Demystifying the Tech Startup Experience

Demystifying the Tech Startup Experience
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Steps you can follow to ensure startup success

Recently, I co-founded a startup, Critiq, with two other people. For the past one year, I have been engineering, marketing, and managing, and I have learned a lot. Here is what I have to tell you. 

The Idea

The moment when you realize an idea is critical. Whatever it may be, your thoughts could be the key to a better future for yourself and others. Have you ever thought of an idea you think would truly change the world? Maybe in the shower or while you are doing your homework. What should you do when you come across an idea? 

At most, write down your idea on a piece of paper or an online document. Preserve it for whenever you want to look into it again. You may also want to research your topic further to understand the market and audience better. All these steps will help you really know what you are trying to achieve and plan for the future.

If you have just started working on a new product, figure out if you have a market for your business. It is painful when you work so hard to create your product and then find out that nobody wants to use it. A good way to avoid this predicament is to take a look at your product’s core values. Is it valuable? Do people need this? How easy is it to scale? These are just a couple of the questions you should be asking yourself. 

If you have a good answer to each of these questions, you are good to go; otherwise, you will need to come up with some solid answers or rethink your product strategy.

After researching, you should have a more concrete understanding of what your product will accomplish for users and what technicalities you will have to work out while designing. At the designing phase, you should make several different diagrams to understand the levels of your product. 

The first design should be a high-level product. How are the user and the product interacting? Draw a diagram with boxes, arrows, and other geometric shapes to exemplify flow. Each element should be distinct and integrate directly with other parts of your system.

High-level system design by ThunderSnatch CTF

Next, you need to create a more in-depth diagram. With this new design, you should preserve the same high-level points made in the first diagram but elaborate more on them. What features are going to be existing on your system? How do these features integrate with the bare-bones product? Using this diagram, you will understand where you need to invest your energy and time. 

For each of the 2nd diagram features, you should further elaborate in an extremely detailed step-by-step procedure to how a user would go about interacting with it. This will help you manage your entire system by splitting it into ‘bite-sized’ pieces.

Take time to elaborate on your product and research it. Come up with a thoughtful design that represents the natural flow of actions between a user and the product. The next part of the startup experience is execution. Here you will start working on your product and spreading the word about it.

Execution

Once you have figured out your plan of action, there are three main parts to running a successful business: engineering, marketing, and management. Nail these three aspects down, and you are off to a great start. Each of these three facets needs to work together to thrive. 

Git diagram by Sauvik Dolui

When you are engineering, you are building features and products based on your marketing data. Without any customer input, you are flying blind. Data will allow you to see what areas of your product need growth and how you can engineer features to cover all bases. When you are engineering, it is also important to peer review your code with a fellow employee. This will help you eliminate any mistakes in your codebase and increase reliability. A great way to accomplish this is to use the git versioning tool. Git will help you manage your versions of code as well as increase peer-to-peer coding support.

While you may think that marketing is a waste of money and resources, it can actually give an impression of your product to future customers. You may not see the effect of marketing immediately, but it certainly will provide an uptick in your users. Marketing your product also helps build character and identity, which will help you express what your product stands for. This may be in the form of simplicity or a streamlined interface. Marketing your business as a whole also will help you keep your product in the minds of a future customer. Maintaining a presence in a client’s mind is a sure way to get their support.

Management is one of the most critical aspects of a successful business. You need to manage a multitude of things for your company: people, finances, meetings, schedules, etc. If you don’t keep these factors in check, they could run down your entire operation. Something we did at Critiq was to meet everyday for discussing everyday business news, as well as announcements concerning our monthly and yearly projects. This includes managing our company finances such as billing, setting tasks for our next meeting, and scheduling marketing meetings.

Github Projects by Github

The three pillars of a successful startup also require the right set of tools to carry out your mission. I’m not talking about anything fancy like an Asana subscription but more like a chat system that your team can reliably work on or a Google Suite subscription to keep your documents in a safe location. Our team used Discord for communications and meetings and Github Projects to manage our tasks and bugs. Using software that can help you manage your business and make sure that your product is delivered to customers on time. 

Advice

Dividing roles up between team members probably seems obvious, but I cannot tell you how many times I have not seen a distinction between jobs. When we started Critiq, our team was similar. We all were working on the same code simultaneously, minimizing our efficiency and locking up our ability to work on projects that suited our skills. By far, the best way to divide up roles is to assess your team members’ abilities individually and then assign them to a role they would like to work on. Remember, you don’t want to give them a project that they don’t like working on!

Have you ever used a whiteboard or piece of paper to prototype a product design? Prototyping is one of the best things you can do before creating a new product or feature. At Critiq, when we are starting to work on a new feature, we will always set up a meeting and discuss possible designs in Microsoft Paint. Using this process has helped us solve problems early on so that we don’t have to alter the code significantly. To recap, prototype your designs before you starting creating them.

Conclusion

Taking your idea and turning it into a reality is not easy. You will need to focus on what your product really is going to do for people around the world. How are you going to take up the task of actually creating your product? Hopefully, this article helped you answer some of these critical questions. 

If you liked this article, you may like some of my other articles:

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