Posts tagged startup life
Your idea is worthless and yes, you can and should talk about it with everyone

Have you ever met someone who told you they have an idea for a project or a business but couldn’t talk about it?

I always wonder why that is; could it be they’re scared I’ll hear their idea, immediately drop everything I have been working on myself, and steal it? Are they scared that if they tell someone, they’ll have to finally do something about it? Or is it because they have an idea they think is good, but don’t actually want to commit themselves just yet and think no one else will start working on it because their idea is so unique and brilliant it hasn’t crossed anyone’s mind?

In the knowledge economy, I’d say ideas are worthless.

There are millions of ideas being shared online every second. It’s unlikely I haven’t heard or come across the idea this very person doesn’t want to share with me.

It’s very unlikely I’ll drop whatever I’m passionate about to start executing on something that doesn’t feel like a calling to me already.

If you share an idea with someone who works on their own projects, why should they suddenly make time to pursue someone else’s idea? Especially when the idea is no more no less than an idea; a worthless cloud of thoughts and imaginations.

Ideas aren’t special. It’s the execution that turns decent ideas into exceptional ones. It’s the networks one builds, and groups of fans and followers who prove an idea is worth pursuing.

The team at EyeEm started working on something very similar to Instagram around the same time Instagram was launched. Now everyone knows what Instagram is, but how many know of EyeEm? And how many knew EyeEm when it was just the German alternative to Instagram and not what it is today; a community-sourced stock photo platform.

Before Spotify there was Napster, and while we all know Napster, it was the execution the team at Spotify delivered that made it a successful company worth talking about; they most likely all knew Napster after it was launched. I doubt anyone at Spotify would’ve tried building Spotify if it wasn’t for Napster; a company that was up and running, yet very differently.

How many times have we all heard, “I also had the idea for Facebook, Sims, period panties...whatever?!” Would we know any of those brilliant ideas if they hadn’t been executed with such dedication and excellence by the people who went through the pain of turning an idea into reality?

If someone shares an idea with me, my immediate reaction is I want to help them succeed at turning their ideas into reality, So the next time someone wants to know more about your idea, share it with them. They will much more likely become your fans than your competitors.  

Questions to ask when launching an app

A case study

What does it take to launch an app? How does one create an app people love and use repeatedly?
If you ask me, I’d say the time where one could launch any old app is long gone. The app market is oversaturated, as people are no longer enthusiastic about checking out the latest thing and are in fact decreasing the amount of apps they keep on their phones.

So, the question remains, how does one successfully launch an app?

Recently I worked with a team in London on launching their new app. It was an investor backed venture, which enabled the founders to build the product with a design and development team they trusted. After finalising a working version of the app, they needed someone who would help to spread the word and I was the person they hired.

When they first contacted me, their app had not been submitted to the App Store. They were not sure if hiring a marketing person before the launch made sense but as you cannot launch an app overnight we agreed that I would come to London immediately. Our aim was to launch mid-December but for several reasons, explained below, we decided to postpone the launch to spring.

When I agreed to join their team as an online marketing consultant I assumed that the app was market-ready and that they just needed someone who would draft a communication strategy, hire the right people and train their interns to be able to work independently.
Upon arrival I learned that the testing phase had only started that day, which then changed my role from being a marketing strategy consultant to someone who does a lot of grassroots work and helping people to build the voice of the brand. As a community manager I see myself as the person who bridges the gap between user, product and the communication team. Being there during the testing phase had proven extremely beneficial.

I believe it’s getting harder and harder to get the attention of people online. Every day we are confronted with so much information that it becomes hard for upcoming startups to spark the interest of their target group. We started with no signups and had to find a way to talk to our target group directly. We needed to find people who were really into football and then had to find a way to interact with these people offline and build a community, ensuring that this wasn’t just another anonymous app. I figured the best place to start was in London’s pubs, with big screens and a good selection of draft beer.

I immediately registered the brand on Meetup and launched a group where I invited people to watch football in different pubs in London. We scheduled Meetups for all televised matches, which gave us a reason to go to pubs every single weekend. Because we had our own Meetup group, we could slowly but surely grow our online, and offline, community. If you need to find like-minded people has an amazing algorithm to help you reach your target group.

Our first step was to print stickers and cards we could give to people. Everyone loves free stuff, however small. We also had some shirts and hoodies made for our team to make it easy for people to find us.

When I was a teenager I used to do a lot of promotion work, so I know how much easier it is to approach strangers and talk to them about something when you wear a garment that gives you some sort of an identity. Additionally, because we were all wearing the same hoodies, people often approached us and asked what we did; a reaction I’d call a double jackpot.

After talking to about 80 guys in different pubs, I began to identify certain patterns; I also asked the team after every match whether they've used the app, whether they rated the players as the app "asked" them to do. After the response of “no” several times, I decided to gather everyone for a product session.

If you want to build a successful app then I don’t want to hear: “I’m not really the target group. I don’t use many apps.” Because truth is, the majority of people don’t really use apps and if you cannot build an app you’ll use yourself several times a week, you’ll not only have a hard time getting people to use your app but you will have an even harder time convincing people that using your app is worthwhile.

If you want to build a great app, then you have to consider ‘yourself’ as the target group and start asking what types of apps you use and why you use them.

Take a piece of paper and a pen and write down every app you use and also why you use them and how often. I guess the majority of apps on your phone are there because they either save you time, money, help you get organised or show you how to better connect to the people who matter to you or because your mates use the app.

Our product meeting turned out to be a ‘truth and honesty’ session. Here are some of the questions I asked:

  • What apps do you have on your phone and use?

  • Why do you use these apps? – I then asked ‘why’ for every app they named.

  • Why should people care about this app?

  • What do you offer to people that they don’t get elsewhere?

  • What would make your team use the app at least once a week?

  • What would make you use the app several times a week?

  • How do people usually solve what you’re offering when they don’t have this app? And what is their biggest problem with it.

When you have answers to these questions, you’re ready to start mapping out the improvements that are needed to build a better product. A product that has potential to get traction, what you really want is to build is an app people use over and over again, an app that creates a habit. I’d recommend reading Nir Eyals; ‘Hooked’ for further thoughts on this matter.

As soon as you spend £500 or more on trying to get people on-board who don’t return and if they don’t offer you feedback then it’s a waste of your money. £500 is already more than what’s necessary to prove if a concept works or not.

When you start testing your app with people you don’t know, look at how they use the app; listen carefully when they ask questions, watch what screens they skip and what screens confuse them. Also ask them how they currently deal with the issue you’re trying to solve and don’t forget to ask what their biggest criticism of the product is.

When you build an app, think about how you’ll re-engage users once they’ve downloaded it and also what you can do for them so they spread the word. Also, something that’s often forgotten is the way that you get people on-board. Don’t just write a bit of copy to explain how to use your app and why, figure out a way to engage them so they really understand what your app is for. Here are some good examples you can learn from.

I am a firm believer that word of mouth is the most valuable marketing strategy, much better than splashing out expensive advertising that takes a while for people to notice and has no guarantee of them actually buying the app.

Once you’ve built an attractive product that people like using, you should start looking into hooks you could implement to encourage people to spread the word amongst their friends. No-one will ‘share’ that they joined an app immediately after they’ve signed up, there is no social leverage and no one wants the potential embarrassment. Sorry to disappoint you but I think the ‘share button’ will be skipped if you don’t give the user the possibility to properly engage and find value in your product.

If sharing is an essential part of using your app that’s great; just make sure that when people see something that’s been shared using your app, add a hook that adds value to other people so they will also download your app. The biggest apps have not grown because of advertising but because people who were using the app were happy to spread the word; build a product people want to talk about!

Now you might ask what you should use your advertising budget for; I’d say that after you’ve found a way to connect with your users offline, you should do all you can to show your appreciation. Engage with your community and give your early users and testers something in return for their feedback; buy them a beer, crisps and raffle tickets to events they might enjoy. Make sure that the people who have already bought into your product find value in it and have a reason to spread the word for you.

My initial goal in this project in London was to make myself redundant. I wanted to take away insecurities, help create a voice and train interns to help them grow into their new role. Even if I’m not with the team for the launch I know they’ll be fine without me because they now know how to advertise on social media, what type of content to use and most of all, how to ask the right questions. Also, they know how to reach me if they need advice or have any questions. If you have any, here’s my email address:

Culture, are we changing yet?

"..But you're one of the start-up people everyone's talking about. That sounds pretty rockstar to me." Well, fair enough. I might be just that. With all its clichés. That's indeed exceptional and great. Still, there are things that should be highlighted. Just because they are rather unusual, which I am more than ever aware of.

One thing I've noticed repetitively, is what I might want to call the AirBnB- factor. It's something I consider worth a note as it's so bold and rather different than what our society would define as 'normal'; As the standard of the 'middle class' if you know what I mean.

In the start-up world flexibility is what seems most important. We're flexible in terms of jobs, homes and relationships. Being able to come and leave seems like the thing of the hour. Any place we've dreamed of visiting one day in the future, we can now call home anytime we decide we want to. We can go wherever we want; Do whatever we like. We can live in the now and not care about (our) future.

For some of us, it means to live out of a suitcase. That might of course be amazing and I admire people who can actually do this consequently, but there are also a few who like to keep their homes, their things, their memories somewhere together. There are people, who like to keep some security defined by having a place they can always go back to.

More and more I seem to be meeting people who sublet their apartments. When you're gone for a few months or regularly for a few days every week, it seems like the thing to do. When I say sublet, I don't necessarily mean that you'd clear out your personal things and actually sublet. It's much rather 'borrowing' your things to someone who needs them more than you do. You leave your house with a stranger and change the bed sheets every time you come back to what you still call home.

While the general idea of being an adult and having a relationship with someone is build on the idea of shared possessions; On shopping for things together. In the start up world 'home' as such seems to have become less of a private matter. In the physical aspect it's a place that's defined by personal goods for use and not as much as a place curated and filled with objects indicating certain status. We keep a home as a symbol of security we seem to be in need of.

While home is still somewhere personal pictures are on display, we seem to have gotten comfortable with the idea of having other people use our possessions. We share and we share for real. Also, this time it's not a sign of poverty. It's rather the complete opposite: We share as a sign of chosen luxury, following our hunger for freedom. Home in the start-up world is not defined by what we have. Much rather it's defined by the self-acknowledgement of who we are. Objects become things we use, not things we possess. Now there is just one more question to ask.. Is this a bubble that's going to burst? Or is home about to change its status for real? You tell me.