I am currently starting a new company and I am in charge of business side of things. I have some tech background with the tech but I feel that if I get involved with it I am just going to be holding everyone back.
I already started to go out there and make new connections and figure out new opportunities. But I feel stuck I can't make any moves until the tech partner has finished making at least a mock-up of the product.
is there anything you might recommend I do to best use my time?
While it's hard to answer well without knowing specifics of the company's business, there is PLENTY you ought to be doing.
These should give you a starting point:
- Start building lists of who might use and/or buy the offering (LinkedIn is usually a good start).
- Come up with a couple sentence hook. Email / cold call / network your way into meetings with whomever this offering is intended for. Sell them on the concept and get signed letters of intent to purchase / use, purchase orders, offers to invest, pre-paid revenue validating power of the concept.
- Even is this is a SaaS offering you all hope will sell itself, make a paper prototype (on your own, if needed) and show people, get input. Keep iterating that paper prototype until people you walk through it have to have it. Then you have an idea what needs to be built. If it's not what your tech partner is building, a) influence them, b) learn from them and iterate the prototype together, or c) get a new tech partner.
--> Ask open-ended questions about problems they need solved & listen to dozens of such people to triangulate common themes. Don't wait until after the tech / prototype is built to learn what's required to attract revenue, find out now!
- Start working on a placeholder marketing site (www.upwork.com to recruit the tech help working for you -- let your tech partner focus on the core offering).
- Begin working on documentation explaining to humans how the software / solution will be used.
- Why is this a concept / company you're prepared to invest your time on? Reframe that as to why investors should invest their cash. Use this to start applying for accelerator programs (YCombinator, TechStars, 500 Startups) and create an angellist profile. Use what you learn from that process as input to a proper pitch deck.
- Begin meeting VCs and angel investors to socialize the concept. Do they agree you're onto a massive opportunity? Keep iterating the pitch deck until they do (or pivot).
- ops & logistics e.g. Is the company incorporated? EIN / Tax ID? Bank account? Bookkeeper & accountant? Lawyer? Co-founder agreements? Advisors to be recruited? Have you identified people likely to join the team as the buisiness grows?
Get to work!
I've been in your shoes. Bob and Joy both have great answers - be prospecting, talking to clients, gathering info, working on how you'll actually describe what's being built, etc.
I also highly recommend going and learning Sketch or InVision.
You could have a "functioning" mock up in a day or two, without any of the coding done. Sounds crazy, but that's what those systems are built for - you hot link jpgs together in such a way that you can click through a few key elements and get feedback on it, with no time / dollar consuming coding being done. Both are industry standards and I'm pretty sure you can start for free.
If you haven't, check out Eric Ries' "The Lean Startup" as well. He lays out the argument for agile development. In a nutshell, you shouldn't be pouring the foundation for your house before you've finalized the plans. And you can't finalize the plans without talking to the home owners (your customers).
See, your prototype is never going to be "done" so you're wasting your time waiting for that to happen. (Think - has Apple stopped working on the iPhone? Has Amazon stopped improving their offerings? Has Google kicked their feet up and said, "Welp, that's it. It's perfect. We're done."?)
All you need to have is the almost embarrassingly small, most simple mockup that still shows value for your customers and then go get feedback from them.
Take that feedback, go back to InVision, add the feedback, and go back to the customers. Repeat that until they say, "This is awesome. I'd pay for this/ use this yesterday. Please build it asap." Then have your devs get moving.
Last thing, it NEVER hurts to learn to code and it's not as hard as you might think. For me, I tried Lynda and code academy and all those, but just a good ol' book was really what worked for me. I started with "Head First into HTML/CSS" by O'Reilly. It's easy to read and grasp. It has a few minor issues, but overall it's been a great way to get my feet wet.
Best of luck!
If you are in charge of business, best role would be to find some pilot customers who would be willing to use your prototype and be giving active feedback on it.
These customers need not be paying customers. You can take them in as unofficial advisors to give direct user feedback. This will help your product more market ready and streamline the features being offered
Two points to note:
1. If the users are waiting for the prototype before even initiating a discussion, they are not the right pilot users (early adopters). Early adopters should be excited with the idea and should offer to get involved even during concept stage.
2. If you already have a couple of early adopters ready to work with you and the prototype is taking too long (depends on the type of business) then you guys are spending too much time on development. Go and release it for the early adopters.
Hope this helps!
Abheek mentions the path to recognizing a minimum viable product - Customer Discovery. In Cleantech Open, we recommend 100 customer calls to gather info about their needs, not to describe your offering.
You've got some great advice already. I agree with what has been said - find who your target audience is, segment them, prepare your pitch according to those segments and just start talking to people.
Figure out how you can demonstrate your vision without a refined, "final" prototype and keep collating that feedback. It will be essential as you go along refining and building your product.
As for the prototype, it will never be a hundred percent complete. And that's the objective of having a prototype - to keep iterating on it until you have what people want.
Stefan Thomke and Donald Reinertsen conducted a study (published by Harvard Business Review) of 391 teams that designed custom integrated circuits. They found that teams that conducted early and frequent tests outperformed teams that tried to get their design right the first time. While they made more errors along the way, but because they used low-cost prototyping tools, they were able to discover critical problems early and save time and effort.
You can use this time (and more) to help your business (and your tech cofounder) by gathering crucial feedback from people who will eventually use your product.
Find a way to deliver your value without software, and build a non-scalable version of the business so that you can iron out the operations early. 90% of software is automation of process, and knowing what the process actually needs to be based on real-world experience means you won't waste time writing automation-in-code that's "wrong". For example, if you're forming a marketplace to match up dog walkers with dog owners, then while the marketplace is being coded, find a way to gather both sides do the matchmaking manually. Whatever you learn about matchmaking, enshrine *that* in code.
Improve your coding skills to the point where you address that gaps that are taking away your confidence... that way you can start to help / make small but minor tweaks to the code base without disturbing your tech partner while he/she works on bigger aspects. And, you hedge your bet in case for whatever reason they leave the project.
Participate in development. Without your input, creeping elegance could expand your time to market into the distant future. You may be the team member who can recognize a viable minimum product and catapult your company into revenue.
You don't have to code to be part of the development process. Take the idea to your target audience and ask them what functionality or features they want. What problems do they have that you can solve? What will make their lives easier? It's much better to build something you know people will want than to throw something you think they might want or need onto the market and hope it catches on. The nice thing about development is you can build to an audience.