Our startup in 7 steps
A digital nomad’s approach
Pieter Levels is a digital nomad. He is a self-taught app developer and founder of seven on-line businesses. He lives in different parts of the world. Pieter created Nomad List (for location flexible workers) as part of his goal to launch 12 startups in 12 months. There are seven steps he uses to develop his businesses.
The process starts with an idea to address an unresolved problem that we care about. Our ideal target users should include ourselves - “scratch our own itch”. This way, we know at least one person has the problem and we can assess the effectiveness of our solution. We need a way to engage our target users, ideally face to face. We shouldn’t fall into the trap of building something then trying to find a problem for it to address. The How I Generate App Ideas post explains how I try to gain insights to unmet needs of potential users.
Make something people want. - Paul Graham
2. 🛠 Build
If possible, we should use design and programming skills we already have to build our solution and avoid spending months learning new things. Often when I get stuck a well crafted Google search unearths answers on an as needed basis. For an insight on the tools and languages I use, see Inside My AppDev Toolbox. Pieter Level’s shares his toolbox in How I Build My Minimum Viable Products.
At first, we should identify and build core functionality - see How Less Makes Us Creative.
3. 🚀 Launch
If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late. - Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn founder)
The first version of our product should do something useful, but not be a complete, polished solution. Pieter advises launching to Product Hunt, Hacker News, The Next Web, Reddit and Forbes. Additionally, we should engage on-line and/or in person with our target users. Our approach needs to be friendly and engaging, e.g. “Here’s something which may solve your problem”. How I Generate App Ideas provides further suggestions on how to engage users.
4. 🌱 Grow
A product that meets a real need will attract others and grow organically. There is no need to spend money on advertising. Pieter advises against hiring people, particularly early on when there is insufficient revenue to offset the extra cost. My User Growth post considers how to establish, grow and sustain a user base.
5. 💰 Monetise
Monetisation is one of the hardest things to get right. However, if we are open, honest and offer value then users will be happy to pay. Don’t dilute a product’s integrity by using ads or selling user’s data. My App Monetisation post explores different ways to make money.
6. 🤖 Automate
Paul Graham wrote the essay Do Things That Don’t Scale which suggests gaining customer insights in a very hands on way. Once we have developed, tested and iterated our product to a point where we have Product/Market Fit, we’ll want to automate aspects of the operational process. We should write programs to automate things which we repeat often and are worth the one-off investment. For things beyond our capabilities, we can outsource to contractors.
7. 🚪 Exit
Pieter advises letting potential buyers approach us, rather than putting our business up for sale. We should keep the bargaining power on our side, pitch a high price and get paid in cash without onerous conditions.
Scarper in 7 steps
💡 Idea: Candy Crush with a gravitational twist and cheeky tiles.
🛠 Build: I built the first version, called Conxy, for iPhone/iPad during my daily train commute on a laptop. Sound effects and music were provided by Will Davies. I’m now building Scarper using Apple’s Swift programming language.
🚀 Launch: I launched Conxy on Apple’s AppStore. I setup and run Incygames Ltd which owns Scarper.
🌱 Grow: Conxy had 4000 downloads, established an enthusiastic set of players and had good reviews.
💰 Monetise: In-app purchases for digital assets, e.g. tile colour schemes and scarper sequences.
🤖 Automate: Scarper is data driven. Users will make new grids, share with friends and the best will become part of the main game.
🚪 Exit: Too early to say, but I may sell to an interested party.
Story of Pieter Levels by Stories of Scale
Turning Side Projects into Profitable Startups talk by Pieter Levels
How Technology is Shaping Our Future talk by Pieter Levels
This post examines the seven steps that Pieter Levels uses to develop his online businesses. Until next Sunday, consider if there is something you do to scratch your own itch that could be turned into a business. If so you already have one happy user.
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