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Business plans, target markets, commercial models…
Funding opportunities, software development processes…

No wonder we can all feel like newborns when it comes to launching a startup. Even when you’re highly experienced in your own field and in business, it’s a whole different game.

Fail fast, learn quick – that’s the baby way. But if you want your software startup to cruise through the early days without falling over (or soiling the carpet) then follow these steps.

1. Commit to an idea by trusting your gut instinct

What comes before taking ideas off the page and into software? Getting the idea onto the page in the first place! Technicalities and detail are very counterproductive at this stage. Sometimes you just need to let go of all the reasons why it might not work, and trust your judgement.

Children are amazing at coming up with simple ideas for one all-important reason: they insist on repeatedly asking the question, “why?” In other words, they pursue each problem in the total confidence that there must be a solution. You could do a lot worse than to regress a few years and let your creativity run riot.

One last thing: it might not feel like a ‘big idea’. It doesn’t have to be Newton; heck, it doesn’t even have to be that new. Small ideas win every day.

2. Kiss 100 frogs before you do anything else

By frogs we mean potential users of your idea. To bottom out your idea and get to the heart of what will be successfully adopted, you need to kiss a lot of them. For more information on how to carry out the customer exploration that will get your business growing, see our post on software startup user and customer research.

For now:

  • Leapfrog your way to 100. Start out with just five potential users and then ask them to introduce you to more.
  • You can start by asking all sorts of people, but as your user demographic becomes clear then that’s where you need to focus your research efforts.
  • Remember that the people you want to speak to may not be the ones who will pay for your product. You want to find those who have the pain that your business will solve.
  • Never make the mistake of asking your frogs what they ‘like’ or ‘want’. Meeting ‘likes’ is not the same curing ‘pain’.

3. Create the kind of software development prototype that fits on the back of an envelope

Creating a software prototype yourself will allow you to show people your idea rather than relying solely on your perfect elevator pitch.

If you can’t quickly describe your idea with a few words, arrows and shapes with a pencil and paper then your idea needs some more thinking through. Likewise, if you can’t describe your high level idea in 25 words, or 10 seconds. Keep the ingredients for this prototype really simple and don’t agonise over complexities at this stage.

Here’s a post on how to create your software prototype and more of the benefits it will bring you.

4. Work out what intellectual property is missing

Whatever you want to achieve from this startup – financially, commercially, personally – rests on ‘value’.

Many software companies have been bought and sold multiple times for millions, despite making limited revenue and zero profit. Why? Because people believed in the value, and the software starter-uppers (i.e. you) didn’t have to risk their own money.

Here’s a post on how to create extra value for your startup by having multiple revenue streams.

5. Show how pains are relieved AND gains are created

If you want to take your idea to the next stage, you’ll need to show potential funders that your product relieves the users negative pain and creates additional positive gains.

Find a full breakdown of how to understand and use your startup’s target users’ pains and gains here.

This exercise should reflect how well matched your idea is to its intended market. You can underline this by documenting some of the false pain relievers and gain creators that won’t succeed.

A Walking Talking Software Startup!

There’s plenty of development a young software startup needs to undergo, making sense of ideas and learning how to back them up with practical application. Before long you’ll be ready to make your idea a reality by entering the software development process.

Look out for our tips on gaining funding, and read about real software startups who’ve already walked a mile in your shoes.