Time to take note because what I write here is from what I did when it was decided that my startup will invest in building a robust tech platform in-house and we set out to do so. In 2017 December we decided to move ahead with this plan and fast forward 700 days (2018-2019) we had spent a crore, slowed our growth by 2 years, gained tons of challenges in regards to handling tech resources and ended with a platform that now sits at the backend with no use.
Today we are a 100% virtual platform on WordPress, which is set up and maintained with zero investments and is done in-house by the founder himself. So, if this is enough reason to believe the things that I write here on what not to do when you set out to invest and build a tech platform for your startup, then go ahead, enjoy the read, remember the points and don’t repeat it yourself again, whoever says otherwise, at least let all the troubles that I went through mean something good for you.
- Don’t get into the jargons of technology
There is a lot out there you don’t understand, the more you want to go deep into the programming and understanding it, the more you will confuse yourself and the more you are confused, the more you will feel it is an impossible task. The moment that thought takes root in your mind, you will start looking at ways to recruit some of the best in the industry because you will believe that what you want to be done cannot be done by someone new and that is doomsday for you, even before you start out. Look at the basic applications around, look at templates that will support your requirement, talk to less complicated techies around and most importantly, look at applications that will cost you less and you can deliver what you are offering to your end-users.
- Don’t jump into hiring resources before you know what you want
Most of us as founders are so close to our own idea that we are not clear on what we want from the platform that we are planning to build. Even if it takes you a few months, take your advisors support and understand what in actual are you expecting from your platform to offer to your users. If you have to double click on each of the features a few times more to get it right, do it. This is the time, you have to have your GTM and TG clear as crystal as it is for them that you are building this platform.
- Don’t pick examples of the mammoth platforms for your startup
One of the worst things you can do is pick examples like LinkedIn, Facebook for community applications, for social networking applications examples like Tinder, for shared economy ideas don’t go looking at Airbnb & Uber. By doing so, all you see is what they are now and the reason they have all reached the place they are in is that for years they have done their set of mistakes, have had their set of setbacks and have invested hundreds of crores to reach here and just because a super excited and driven techie tells you that he/she can build something similar, you as founder and business head cannot take the leap of faith, here is where you choose “Informed Decisions” and the information here YOU ARE JUST STARTING OUT. Period.
- Don’t try to bring all the features in one go
Perfection is what all technically driven minds look for. That is what drives them but for a business mind, progress is what we look for and that is what you must be focussed towards. Never forget, you are the person on the driving seat, the moment you let the side seat driving happen, a crash is for sure. So, set a technical road map which has the basic features roll out and have a smooth and strong plan to bring out other features. Your line of sight must be what your end users look for and will pay for.
- Don’t underestimate the costs
One of the key personality trait of founders is being Optimistic / Positive but this is one time, you need to be more pessimistic and be very sure that whatever the budgets are given by your technical advisor or the team, you will spend another 50% of it more by the time you get 25% of the estimated outcomes. So, you be prepared with what you are going to spend. The only one who will suffer is you, if you run with the budgets put together by the tech team or expert.
- Don’t forget your customer’s needs from the platform
When you start out, you start with a problem statement that the masses have, then when you design the solution, you design it looking at what will the masses pay for and by the time you have reached to building your technology, the balance is lost and it comes to what you think the features must be for the idea you are working on. Do not get on that slippery slope, always keep one thing straight and clear, you are not your customer, your end users are and what suits them best is what you will have to build
- Don’t start before you have a clear budget & timeline strictly put
Research, Enquire, Research, Plan, Budget, Research, Enquire, Re-plan, Re-work the budgets and then come to timelines. Timelines is a very tricky thing, every techie says, that there will always be delays, I don’t believe so, if we keep timelines after consultation with them, it is their responsibility to stick by timelines, so be very stern about timelines and even after doing so, you keep a buffer month or so before you plan your business outcomes from the platform. But for you as a founder, sticking to budgets and timelines must be a “no compromise” thing.
- Don’t bring tech-cofounders without investments into your startup
Most commonly done mistakes by many of us out here. If you feel someone has the expertise to come on board and build a strong platform for your solution, then he/she must also believe that and if they can do build, they must not be shying away from investing a small chunk into the business that they will so play a big part in making successful. There must be skin in the game for everyone, no one gets to expect great returns without having to have something that may be lost. Yes, Time & Skillsets matter but for many of us, that is not something tangible we loose so giving up on it is much easier than giving up on your investments. So, even if it is hard to find someone like this, do not give up and look for someone with skillsets and monies to join you.
- Don’t pivot on plans when the development has been initiated
One of the things I did repeatedly when my team was building the platform. As business focus founder, I would always look at fast pivots for greater results and as I would do that and try to implement it on the platform, one of the two things would surely happen, either you will lose all the work done till then on the platform that results in loss of time and monies or your platform will be in a different look & feel and your offering will be something completely different. So, if you are building your platform, then once the features are put down, do not pivot, so ensure you do a good amount of MR and understanding of your model before you roll out the tech plan.
- Don’t distract from the core business offering for your tech development
Please understand, building a platform that will help you scale is important but even more important for any business/startup to exist is sales and execution and do not take your focus away from these two just because you are working on your platform. You need to ensure that all your time and resources are well planned out between all aspects of the startup. a 360 degrees eagle’s eye is what a founder must-have.
Based out of all the experiences we have got, we are hosting a workshop to teach non-techies on building a tech platform for your startups, you can register for the same HERE