So, you have a tech idea and you’ve built out the product’s prototype. What now? While there’s no ‘user’s manual’ for an entrepreneur ready to launch a tech product, looking to those who have succeeded before us can be helpful in making sure we have all the necessary tools to make sure our company has a fighting chance.
Melody Yang knows best about what it takes to launch a truly successful tech product, having launched five apps that are all available for download in the app store. A couple of the apps include Nukon, a Japanese language learning app, and PopTag, which evaluates Instagram data to help users know when to post. Yang’s dynamic duo of machine learning and mobile engineering has enabled her to create these products, and through her experience in launching each, she’s learned what works and what doesn’t for a truly successful tech company. We sat down to talk about these ‘necessary ingredients’ – so you know exactly what to focus on when building and launching your own product.
1. Success Lies In The Team
At a certain point in growing your startup, you’re going to need a team – and Yang advises that your team should be strong and diverse. “From my experience with building Nukon, it took off because each member of the team specialized in the respective area of expertise (ie. design, iOS app development, machine learning research),” she explained. One of the main mistakes that startups can make is trying to bootstrap by wearing too many hats, which leads to being spread too thin and doing a mediocre job in each area. While team-based decisions will differ in circumstances for every startup, you’ll get further by having an expert in each main area of your business handling operations.
“We were a strong team with qualified skillset and communicated well by having trust. A great team comes first before having a good product,” Yang continued. The value of a team goes beyond just the skillsets of each individual person, though. According to the Harvard Business Review, it’s also critical to have “shared strategic vision” and “entrepreneurial passion.” Passion can’t be understated. In fact, the article also stated that even when companies have employees with high levels of experience, if they had lower levels of passion for the startup, the team was overall weaker.
2. Market Research Matters
There are many cool products that one can create. But, unless it satisfies an ardent need from a customer base, it’s not going to do well. Unfortunately, this can sometimes mean that your product is ahead of its time — which is why market research is so critical. Take the Dreamcast for example. The name probably doesn’t ring a bell because it flopped – even though it offered virtually the same experience as the Nintendo DS did only a few years later. Why? Customers didn’t want or need it, and it put the company out of business. Even if you think you’re on the cutting edge of something, it’s vital to make sure that customers agree.
Yang noted that doing market research is also a great way to find early adopters. If users enjoy your product while testing it, they’ll likely download or purchase when the time comes. “Beyond user research, also make sure to conduct user interviews and UX testing to make sure the product doesn’t have any glaring issues,” Yang said.
3. Assemble Advisors
It doesn’t matter how many opinions, skill sets, and experience levels are represented across your team — every startup needs an advisor (or multiple!). In fact, Yang says that you should ideally have an entire network of advisors who you can call on at any time. “Find a board of advisors who have experience in investing startups, entrepreneurship, and corporate development. Not only can they give advice when problem-solving, but they can be your sounding board to bounce ideas off of,” Yang recommended.
Ideally, these advisors should have experience in what you’re building, so they can see any potential blind spots that you or your company have. And, yes – an advisor is different from a mentor. Serial entrepreneur Joe Procopio explained the difference well in a Medium article. “As an advisor, I’m working with someone who represents the entire company, usually the CEO (but not always). The important thing is that there are pieces of the team to whom we can assign actions,” he explained.
“As a mentor, my focus is still on the company but completely through the lens of the person I’m mentoring…..In mentoring, the focus is on the person as a person, sometimes not even as a businessperson, but as an individual and a leader. He also noted that mentorship is done pro-bono, and he’s always compensated in some way for advising – may it be through an equity stake in the company or just with cash. Be prepared to offer at least equity in your business when approaching advisors – not just because it’s a bargaining chip and an offer of your gratitude, but because it gives the advisor real skin-in-the-game.
With a strong and diverse team, sufficient market research that validates your product’s viability, and a reliable network of advisors, you’ll be set for launching your tech product!