There’s a new trend hitting small business circles which I find both exciting, and troubling.
And it’s a direct result of the way technology has saturated, and improved, our lives.
I meet at least one person a week who is launching a “new thing”. They have tried to look for something, or do something specific, found the current technology lacking, and decided to take matters into their own hands. They’ve seen this “opportunity”, and they’re going to change the world.
And how hard can it be?
Don’t get me wrong. A lot of times, these ideas are great! In fact, a few times I’ve gotten so excited about them, that I got caught up in the “idea”. A few of them even became clients of mine.
And a few of them just bombed.
I’m extremely grateful for these experience. For the exciting new projects I got to work on. For those people with the entrepreneurial spirit to go into unchartered territory, make a call, and stick it out.
But as we all know, ideas are a dime a dozen. And it takes more than just “hustle” to get these ideas off the ground.
Anyway, back to the topic. This trend.
There are people,
who see a specific problem,
so they start tech businesses,
with no tech knowledge.
(Then there are tech people who start businesses, build elaborate tools, with no market knowledge, but I’ll write about them in another post).
Most of my clients last year fell into this category. In fact, most leads (which I had to turn away) were like this too. The problems they faced, and the journey they were on, was pretty much the same.
I’ll stop here, because sometimes this is the point when they reach out to me. Other times, they find an agency, it screws them over, takes their money, and THEN they reach out to me…
Anyway, the rest of the plan looks something like this.
For most of the leads coming in who I turned down, they stuffed up at point #6. Just because “other people” have a problem with something, doesn’t actually mean there’s an opportunity.
Eg. Just because you can’t find where all the 24 hour pharmacies are (this is a problem I’ve personally had, and I briefly considered doing something about it) doesn’t mean pharmacies will pay to be listed in an online directory specifically for 24 hour pharmacies (now this article is going to rank for pharmacies… dammit!)
It’s a great idea… it’s a terribly business idea.
The questions you need to answer are:
Notice the second question is more than just “list the benefits of your idea”. There’s an innate frustration with having to change your routines and pay for something new.
Most of the people I did end up working with (who had a validated idea), usually stuffed up at point #8 and #9.
You see, they don’t know what they don’t know.
One client had hired an agency to build a custom development, meaning any tiny change in UX or adding basic analytics needed a developer, wait days, make sure there’s nothing lost in translation, and hundreds of dollars to do.
Two clients had hired a web designer(!) to build database driven websites, so they looked BEAUTIFUL, but couldn’t perform for shit.
Like a Lamborghini with a little put-put motor inside.
One client had spend SIX figures on a website which should have been on the lower side of four figures… (with these guys, once I came on board, we found a developer and re-did the whole site for under $3K).
One client… jeez.. he had an agency working on an app, fired them, outsourced it overseas, fired them, brought it back to Australia, and then was using one of those free tools online to try and build it himself before packaging it into an app. That one didn’t last long…
You get the point.
From my point of view, the problem was two-fold.
The first and major problem is they didn’t factor the sheer dominance of technology in business. Not only were they building tech startups, they were launching into a tech saturated marketplace, and need continual tech to market and track their progress.
This tech changes, it grows, it crashes. It’s a part of your marketing, admin, accounting, reporting. You need to factor it in.
… and how much pivoting relies on startups.
The nature of startups is that they pivot. They try something, it doesn’t work, they change course, it doesn’t work, they try something else, BOOM, it works, let’s do more of that until it stops working. Then rinse and repeat.
Most of the time, each of these changes require tech changes to setup, monitor, measure and pivot.
If I’m lucky enough to work with someone during the planning and talking to developer stage (#8 and #9 above), we map out all these requirements BEFORE doing any work on the site itself. So then we can build, or at least have the capacity to use the functionality when we need it.
This is an actual quote from someone I’ve worked with.
First, it’s not a matter of being smart or stupid. Being technically knowledgeable is a specific skill, and is different to what we generally refer to as being “tech savvy”.
My basic test is “do you understand how database tables connect to each other, and how that data is called to the front end of a website?”
No? Get a someone with tech smarts on your team.