Our MVP is currently on the App Store, the development was outsourced and looks great but it's quite slow and glitchy and will probably not be able to get much traction in its current state. I'm currently looking for a technical CoFounder but after that would like try get some investment. I don't like the idea of asking for funding with low usage numbers but am also weary of spending too much time + money promoting a subpar product.
Obviously there's no black and white answer but if you could share your thoughts +/ experiences it would be greatly appreciated.
I hear you, we were in the same boat. Bootstrapping to MVP is HARD, especially if you're not a tech person (like me). Essentially after years of struggle I realized I just need to buckle down, ask for funding, and get 'er done. Seed round funding is just for this purpose, to help you build a solid MVP. Because you're right, a glitchy first product isn't going to inspire much traction and early adopters can often skyrocket or kill a business. Look for the right investors that invest in seed rounds in your field (always look for smart money vs dumb money), develop your business plan and pitch deck, and raise the money! Don't worry about not going after funding before users.
If I understand, correctly, you are unable to afford product changes now that the first version hit the App Store. You are right not to spend lots of money on promotion. But you've just started on the MVP road.
Paul Graham has plenty of advice packed into this essay:
You have done well to "release early". Before you try to scale your users concentrate on the small number of existing users. Among those users find the ones that are getting the most value from your app.
Are you collecting usage stats? If not, ask them what functions do they find the most useful? What is missing? Concentrate on those that love your app and make it better for them.
The MVP is not a version of your product with less features. It is a shortcut for learning - about the problem you are solving and the effectiveness of your solution. Hence, by the time of scaling your business you should have already noticed enough excitement about your MVP from the earlyvangelists (customers that need your solution so much, they don't care if it is slow and glitchy).
Are these first customers really excited about your offer? Do people - besides your friends and family - show a strong willingness to download your app? Are they willing to pay for it?
Remember, before improving your app, you should have answered these questions. Raising funds before validating your business model hypothesis, will lower the value of your business and, consequently, force you to accept a worse condition in an agreement with investors.
p.s.: certainly, having a technical CoFounder in the team may raise the value of your business when searching for investment, but presenting validation evidences is a higher card in this game.
In my experience (which is mostly B2B but might be useful) if you expect too much of an MVP in terms of scale or traction you are going to lose early adopters and not learn enough about what your users actually want. You are usually better scaling back the feature set and keeping cultivating a warm user groups that can help you iterate the product. Investors will be more interested in what you learned than how many users you managed to get.
I work as a Consulting CTO and help start ups to build a roadmap, get MVP built and to scale beyond that with best practice project management and architecture.
If you would like to talk I can maybe help advise you on how the MVP can be optimized in the short-term to be less slow and glitchy.
It will be tough to ask anyone to invest in you without knowing you or see value on your idea, so having traction is VERY important when you are a first time founder and don't have a track record to show.
It's good that you're looking for technical cofounder. You should also reach out and build more connections with investors especially the ones near you. The most important is to build relationship and ask for their advice. Keep them in the loop when you reach certain milestones and ask if them or their associates might be interested in investing when you are ready to do so.
The whole purpose of the MVP is to validate your core concept or idea using feedback loop (build, learn, and improve). So if users are not be able to complete the tasks what the app is set out to do because of slow and glitchy on the app, you are missing the whole point here. Ask the team who built the app for you to track down what is causing sluggish performance (eg coding, frontend/backend, or UX/UI) on the app and improve it.
This is tough problem. Having a technical CoFounder and THEN considering an investment is the right path. Few things to keep in mind though.
1. Finding a good technical cofounder is hard but if you find the right person you may be able to delay investment up until growth phase and that would be ideal. Your experience may vary, finding the right person is not an easy task.
2. The second best thing is to find an experienced adviser/consultant who can help you to find/train your future CTO, help with product development and team building. I used to do that and it worked well for 3 out of 4 companies I was engaged with (one was write off), so this approach definitely works and I would even choose it over option 1 but I'm biased :-)
3. There are also consulting firms that provide "Interim CTO" services and this may work too, but you need to always be aware that there is a little conflict of interest here - they do what is beneficial to their business first and yours second. But since you've done some outsourcing already you should have some idea by now ;-)
Another thing to keep in mind is that getting an investment does not necessarily solves your problem - it just replaces one problem with another. Let me explain. Rightnow you are having hard time finding enough money to finance your development, once you get money - you will be having hard time hiring the right people (it is a separate subject but just trust me on this for now) and you will be under constant pressure from investors. If your goal is just to have enough money to pay to development company - this might be good enough though.
So the bottom line, I would put the priority at finding the technical co-founder and then playing it by ear.
The purpose of a MVP is to determine if you have the right product, and make this determination quickly and for as little money as possible.
Do not scale until you know the following:
- How much it cost to acquire a customer: CAC Customer Acquisition Cost
- Your COGS - Cost of Goods Sold
- Revenue > CAC + COGS +30% of revenue.
Scaling would included hiring a technical CoFounder. Assume the CTO will be worse than outsourcing - that is what happens most of the time. The likelihood of getting a good CTO this early in your development is close to zero, and whomever you hire will almost certainly not be the right guy for scaling (that requires a manager and a team, not a solo tech guy), so he likely becomes a liability in a year anyway - the so called "hero to zero" phenoma.
Scope, cost, time, and quality form what we refer to in the software development industry as the "iron triangle", the idea being that if you put pressure on one of the legs, the others need to support more weight (or quality, in the middle of the triangle, suffers).
Your startup is cash strapped, so going big on cost probably isn't something you can do. Searching for a tech co-founder will take time, which will divert time from your product. That leaves you with scope and quality.
To relieve scope pressure, examine your MVP and see whether it's really "minimal" - are all of the features present in it necessary to prove your concept and test the market? You may also decide that they are, in which case you'll either need to accept that the quality isn't up to where it should be, or invest more time/cost to improve it.
Switching developers is likely to take longer and cost more than going with your existing team, unless they're just pathologically incapable of developing decent software, as some teams are.
It is the chicken & egg problem , a common dilemma for entrepreneurs and innovators. If it is consumer app then optimal traction in number of downloads is mandatory, so focus on getting traction. With my experience, Investors will most likely see the traction and usage statistics rather than Technical glitch because no app is perfect during MVP stage. Ensure that your value proposition is right with considerable market size and it have a long term economic viability.
If the market size is bigger, segment it wisely to serve niche category of users who will ignore glitches if the app serve their purpose. Use SMART positioning strategies.