Startups: 3 Ways of Development - Agile Blog - Riter

Startups: 3 Ways of Development

"Nothing works better than just improving your product" Joel Spolsky once said. And this rule works for most good projects. Everybody has to start somewhere. Just staying patient and making your product a little better every day gives you a good chance of success. However, not every idea deserves the right to exist and develop. And even with a promising concept, without clear understanding the direction of further development, market needs, the growth rate, having a good team and many other factors, the project is doomed to failure. According to the recent research, about 90% of new startups fail. At what point should we understand that something is going wrong?

Startups growth

As a rule, after a sudden insight into the idea of a New Genius Application, there is a depressing stage of searching the Internet for existing solutions. At this stage, 90% of all enthusiasm is dying, because the overwhelming majority of such ideas have already come to someone's else head. And there may be three possible cases of evolving situation:

  1. Such an application exists and it's quite successful and popular. In this case it's often concluded that existing giants are too hard to surpass, so any attempts are worthless. And not that such a conclusion is groundless. Huge competition requires considerable efforts, the product will need something greater than "a more user-friendly interface" or "integration of many different features from other services". You should look beyond the standard approaches to problem solving. Try to keep your eye on the future - how will your product improve the field of application in 5-10 years?

    At the same time, the presence of strong rivals is not necessarily bad. First, it confirms the existence of demand, which should be satisfied. Secondly, you can learn from other teams' mistakes and experiences. Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of competitors, understand what the customers lack. Interact with potential users: for example, when Microsoft asked their users what they wanted added to Office, they found that 90% of the requested features were already there. Even large companies make mistakes - use them. You already have a huge target audience - you just need to understand how to entice it into your project.

    Among young startups, it's popular the mistaken statement of the lack of competition in their scope. However, any software must solve some existing and obvious problem, and if such a problem exists, people have to deal with it right now. For example, talking about field of project management, we can easily remember dozens of tools such as Jira, Wrike, Trello and others. But even when none of them existed, teams had already used paper and a pen to schedule tasks. And the competition in the face of these simple tools has survived until now. To survive, our (and any other) project management software had to offer something new and useful to the public. Therefore, if your genius startup idea has no competitors, it is worthwhile to suspect that something is wrong. This brings us to the next case.

  2. Similar applications exist, but all of them are extremely inconvenient, abandoned or obsolete. In this case, the developers also despair, since someone else has already come up with the same idea and even implemented it, but for certain reasons it was underestimated. "So it will not work for me, and the idea itself is bad," they think then. Maybe they are right. But for a final conclusion it's necessary to evaluate the market. Why did your predecessors fail? How much have the conditions changed since then? What can you offer that they did not have? Perhaps the answer to these questions will give you a disappointing confirmation of the initial guess - the idea is unpromising or untenable. But the ability to ask the right questions and get to the bottom can be exactly the advantage that your failed competitors lacked before.

    "The main thing to do if you want to start a startup is look at what happens to those 9 out 10 ones that don’t make it. Really become a connoisseur of that.” - Paul Graham, paraphrased.

    If the problem is still in the idea itself, and not in your strategy of development, don't hold onto it. Often, asking an author of a startup about the essence of the project, you can hear something like "It will do this and that..." instead of "It will solve the problem of..." or "We're going to improve...". The lack of a real need for a project, its non-viability is the most frequent cause of startups failures. If you recognize yourself in this situation, do not think that the advice of J. Spolsky will somehow solve your problem and revive a horse.

    Dead horse theory
  3. There is no such an application at all. This is the result expected by all startup enthusiasts, because it's believed that only if there is no strong competition, you have a chance to get the tidbit for various startup applications. Considering the above, it would be worthwhile to suspect that the niche is free because of a lack of demand, inefficiency of the idea or impossibility of realization. But, in fairness, it's worth noting that your idea can be truly innovative. A rare case when your project can offer a new look at the development of the industry. The customer is not always right: while people think they need faster horses, you offer them a car.

    But the fail may happen at this stage as well. Can you implement the project as you see it? Much depends on your ability to organize a team, attract investors, convince the audience of the value of your product. And competitors that you did not have 5 minutes ago, won't keep you waiting: once your idea appears, it no longer belongs to you. Dozens of similar startups will appear in a matter of seconds, and your success in the "arms race" will determine the winner.

    "Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships." - Michael Jordan

So, every stage of startups is a challenge which can cause you to fail. The ability to cope with problems, critical thinking, understanding of the direction of development are necessary, but far from sufficient conditions for success.

Riter development team