I'm going to try to keep this one short because my sister is waiting for me to be ready to go out! :) I'm visiting her in London currently, and I went to a nice entrepreneur meetup discussion group with some interesting people. Here are some key things that I took away from it and want to remember.
Use The Lean Canvas to Formulate Your Business Model
I'm a huge fan of Steve Blank, Eries Ries, and the whole Lean Startup mentality. One of the things the organizer asked me was if I had used the lean canvas to plan out the different pieces that make up my business plan for the Cypher app, and honestly I hadn't. Faran and I had been thinking about it from the point of view as just code, as just a website, not so much as a business. He mentioned this intereactive site that helps you fill out a learn canvas: https://canvanizer.com/
As a refresher, here's what the lean canvas looks like:
Your Software Provides Some Value to Users, But It Provides a Different Values to Investors
I alluded to this above. We had been thinking about the application from the point of view of the users, and that's fine. However, if you want to build a business out of your software product and get funding then you can't think only in terms of the users. You must also think in terms of the investors, and investors will often care about quite different things. Sometimes the desires of investors and users are completely opposing each other (think video ads in youtube). Ultimately, you need to have a balance, and you need to satisfy both parties.
It's Tough to Be a CEO Focused on Both Development and Marketing / Relationships / Distribution
It's true. It's quite easy to spread yourself too thin when you are trying to do everything. I read an excellent book (I think the title of it was Traktion) that said building a successful software company is 50% about development and 50% about distribution. I am primarily a coder, a programmer, so it's difficult for me to switch gears sometimes and think in terms of the distribution. One might even consider bringing in a "marketing CEO" while you be the primary "tech and internal operations CEO". Just a thought.
Think About Where You Want to Be 5 Years Down the Road
The organizer of the group kept asking this question to each entrepreneur, and it's a good one. It forces you to verbalize what your actual goals are. Then from that you deduce whether you are on the right track, if you need to steer the course of the ship a bit, or if you're completely missing something important. It helps make you aware if you are wasting time on unimportant things and brings your focus back to the big picture. It also gets you thinking long-term and pushes you to try to develop a sustainable business model.
There's a Lot of Value in Data Mining Your Users' Content and Behaviors
Our app is similar to the likes of Snapchat, Twitter, or Facebook, and the interesting thing about these companies is that when they first started out the really didn't even have much of a business model. How then did they get such humongous multi-million (sometimes even billion!) dollar valuations? It all comes down to the userbase and the data. I am very much against exploiting people and infringing on their privacy, but in today's world of free stuff advertising in where the money's at, and the people paying for the ads to be run want to know that they will be seen by the right people. This is why collecting data about your users and things like their behaviors in the app can be quite valuable.
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