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How to find someone to build your app

How to find someone to build your app

Congratulations! You’ve come up with a once in a lifetime idea and now its time to grab the bull by the horns and build the next billion-dollar app. But hold on there’s a catch – you’ve never written a line of code and the most technical thing you’ve ever done is install antivirus on your mom’s laptop.

You don’t have a clue about where to start. So you’re looking for a tech guru to join you and build your baby. Many entrepreneurs have gone through this. In this post, I explore the different options on how to find someone to build your app. 

You have a couple of options to find someone to build your app

  1. Hire a third-party agency to do the whole thing for you
  2. Find a friend or ex-colleague.
  3. Hire a person directly.

There’s no black and white answer for this. Your best choice depends on several things, such as your budget, where the team will be located. 

Third-party agency

Hiring a third party agency to build your app is good for a more hands off approach. You usually have a team of people who help refine your crazy ramblings into a set of requirements, develop and deploy your product. Using an established company means that there will be a lot more accountability than you would get with a one-man band. 

It will be easy to find an agency – there are loads of them. You could find an agency in the UK, but there are many offshore companies that offer similar services. They are often much cheaper but offer a comparable service.  

The major downside is that this is the most expensive option. Many will require money upfront, and most won’t really be open to taking a pay reduction in exchange for shares. 

Friend/ex-colleague

The key benefit of this approach is that you take out one of the biggest areas of uncertainty around working with a total strange. You already know a lot about them and have a good idea about their character and work ethics, and you also have a strong relationship to fall back on. 

Some of the most successful businesses have been built based on existing relationships. 

However, be aware that having someone work for you is a different dynamic compared to a normal friendship and may put a strain on your relationship. Especially if they are not used to seeing you as their boss. 

Hiring someone independent

Hiring someone independent is a tricky option. You might not know the difference between a good dev and a bad dev. You might have a call and think wow, this person was great, but when you end up working with them they turn out to be terrible. 

I had a similar challenge when I tried to hire salespeople. I don’t have sales experience, and so don’t have a point of reference to figure out the difference between a good and a bad salesperson.

Professional relationships can be easier than dealing with someone that you’ve been friends with. You’re starting from a blank slate and so they’ll be much more comfortable taking orders from you. 

A bad developer can leave a significant negative impact on your business and may leave a lot of work for the next person who comes along, so you need to be extra careful when thinking about doing anything like this. 

Great communicator

So now you’re sufficiently scared, you might be wondering, what does this fictional person actually look like?

Look for someone with excellent communication skills that is great at explaining complex technical things clearly and simply. This happens all the time; the developer advises why something should be a priority, and the best way to do it.. 

If they can’t give you a simple explanation that you understand, then this will prevent you from making the right decision. 

Don’t hire someone too senior

Don’t hire someone too senior either – such as a CTO. This only works if you already have a good chunk of cash and can afford to build out a dev team and therefore making the most of the CTO’s skills. 

Speaking as a CTO, even though I can write code, and still do for personal projects, being your primary developer is not the best use of my time 

Hire a capable developer that can grow into the role of a CTO 

Negotiating salary and equity

Renumeration is always difficult, and there is no actual rule of thumb. The salary will depend on a combination of things, such as their level of experience and their location. 

Remote developers will have a preference to be paid fully with a salary, whereas developers in the UK will be more open to taking equity. The amount of equity you will give depends on how much work you need from them them and how much effort it will take. 

So as part of this, one of the first things I would recommend doing is fleshing out a roadmap and a critical path to getting to your MVP. 

Equity depends on what stage your business is at. If you’re at an early stage and have a lower valuation then you will give up more equity. Whereas uf you’re at a later stage, then you will probably give up less. Be sure to add a vesting period to any allocation to ensure that equity is not squandered.

Summary

In conclusion, there are many options at your disposal when trying to find someone to build your app. but the following three key principles will put you in good stead.

Develop a clearer idea of what you want to build, be willing to give up some equity at this stage of the business and understand just how important this person will be helping you on the road to success.

5 Minimalist Lifestyle Tips for a more effective Life

5 Minimalist Lifestyle Tips for a more effective Life

What if there was an approach you could take to get more of the important things done but also make life feel a little easier? Well, there is something out there that can help – it’s called minimalism. In this post, I will go over five key minimalist lifestyle tips to help you live a more effective life. 

Why minimalist lifestyle tips are important

I adopted minimalism a few years ago. I was trying to do too many things at the same time, making no actual progress on any of them. My life felt really cluttered and I could see the negative effects that it was having on me; I felt overwhelmed and stuck in a rut. 

It was at this time I came across the minimalist movement and the whole idea just really clicked. I adopted various practices and below I will outline the ones that really worked for me. 

1. Remove Clutter

One of the most obvious ways that I applied it was when it came to my desk. This is where I do my most important thinking, and I would always make sure my desk was as clean as possible and free from distractions. 

I believe this helped me to focus on the things that did matter i.e. my work and stop feeling distracted.

The practice of removing things also helped me build some momentum and trick myself into actually doing some work.

A different type of minimalism I adopt is with packing for travelling or even commuting, I always try to pack as little as possible as it just means I’m lugging around less literal baggage, which makes me feel freer. 

People always like to pack for emergencies. I veer in the opposite direction and usually find that I have enough stuff that I can cope with any emergencies that may arise. 

This makes me more able to accept when things happen that I could’ve prepared for such as if it rains and I have no umbrella. I still prefer not having to lug around the weight of the umbrella.

2. Clothing

Clothing is another big area where there is usually a lot of excesses. 

In more recent years I try to throw clothes out regularly – even if they aren’t worn out. I just check whether I’ve worn a particular item in a long time and realise that I probably won’t be wearing that item again anytime soon, and so throw it out. I know this would be very hard for some, but with practice, it gets easier.

3. Gadgets

I also throw out old gadgets or miscellaneous things that have accumulated in the garage. 

I get a lot of pleasure from throwing things away, so it’s not that difficult. Throwing clothes and old possessions away also helps to focus the mind and stop you from buying things as quickly. 

I’m reminded of previous times when I thought something would be useful but ends up just gathering dust on the shelf.

4. Don’t become a slave to your possessions

I have been fortunate to earn a good salary from my profession. There is a constant temptation to upgrade to better houses and cars. But this is a never-ending repeating cycle, and then you become a slave to your possessions. 

I partly owe credit to Robert Kiyosaki the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad in terms of my thought process around this as the last thing you want to do is be stuck in that loop which means you have to work just to put a roof over your head. 

5. Get rid of debt

This is one of the most important minimalist lifestyle tips. Getting to a point where you have no debt or at least minimal debt really lifts a load of weight off your shoulders.

I regularly go through times where I spend little or nothing to remind myself of the real value of a pound. When you earn little, you are acutely aware of the worth of every pound, but when you earn thousands of pounds, it’s easy to lose sight of the actual value of that pound. A sort of cognitive inflation happens. Doing a reset regularly can help to recalibrate your idea of value. 

Don’t go overboard with minimalism 

As a counterpoint, it’s still worthwhile to exercise moderation… even when applying minimalism.

There comes a point where you’re actually causing more pain to yourself rather than reaping any benefits. Eg sleeping in a cold hard bedroom eating gruel instead of staying somewhere better. 

So as a rule of thumb, if the things you remove stop you from living optimally, its worth re-evaluating whether you should really cut them out.

In conclusion, we live in a world of distraction and excess which has a hidden negative effect on you and really weighs you down. You get into a cycle of constant distraction, chasing the next thing that will give you pleasure. But it’s just an illusion any pleasure you get is only temporary. 

I think if more people adopted minimalism, they would back in touch with the essence of life. They would feel liberated and really get to grips with what really matters.

This liberation would help them focus on the present, appreciate what they have now and make them feel happier and content with life. 

I hope my minimalist lifestyle tips will help you, let me know in the comments below of any other tips that you use!

Content Marketing Strategy for Tech Startups

Content Marketing Strategy for Tech Startups

In today’s world of short attention spans, ad blockers and overstuffed social media feed – companies are finding it even more difficult than ever to simply be heard. Your content marketing strategy is more important than ever. In this post, I’ll talk about some of the new approaches and techniques to get that ever-elusive customer attention.

In simpler times, a letter could be sent to your house, or an advert could be placed in the local paper. However, there is so much noise on Radio, TV and the Internet that it is very difficult to get heard above the din

This is where your content marketing strategy comes into play, as there is a big thirst for knowledge and information! 

In those moments of ‘micro-attention’ when a person is in some queue – people love to read about something…

if you can feed that insatiable appetite you’re onto a winner.

The time it takes to sell a product is getting longer

In this new information age people like to gather a lot of information on you and your product, compare it to other products on the market and then buy. In earlier times that process would be much quicker.

Breaking the ice with Quick Videos

Webinars and videos are the way forward.

One way of resonating and connecting with prospects is with a quick video where you outline what you are offering and establish your expertise.

This is much more effective than being bombarded with long worded emails. It also helps you to really connect with your customers in a way that that was only possible by walking into the store and having a nice chat. 

Short, informal videos are a more scalable way of ‘breaking the ice’ and is also the reason why podcasting has taken off.

What if there was a quick way for you to talk to a selection of customers on a regular basis – so that they could provide you with quick feedback about your product, like a quick Snapchat or Instagram message.

Technology is key in making this happen. Mobile phones have been getting more and more powerful and social media platforms are placing more emphasis on video and especially real-time video. 

Leveraging video is a good way of getting a competitive advantage

Creating video can be challenging and people often aren’t comfortable in front of the camera. Let’s be honest – It takes a lot more time and effort. 

But the rewards are there if you are prepared to take the plunge… it might be worth taking some public speaking lessons to improve your presentation skills.

Just writing a boring email with a few tips doesn’t cut it anymore. 

If you really want to stand out in an email or timeline then your content has to be extra special and visual. Which is why it helps to have talented graphic designers and videographers to help generate this content. 

Quality over quantity is also something that I am a big believer in. 

This needs to be present in every content marketing strategy.

One amazing piece of content can really help boost your profile and establish your expertise… rather than just writing loads and loads of average content.

You can do research and see what is trending on google, what people are searching for and what questions are being asked in forums to help figure out what content to write, instead of just taking a shot in the dark.

Having a process and plan in place to produce content is also recommended. Once you put the infrastructure and timetable in place you effectively have a machine that can be iterated on and improved. 

Gradually you develop more of a feel for what people want and you get the boost in customers that you are after.

Grab micro-attention using infotainment

A user has ten minutes while they are eating their lunch and have given you the honour of taking up that time. Bear that in mind when creating content. 

It might be worth having something short to fill that time, rather than having something long and involving – which might be better off sent on the weekend or evening when the user has more time. 

You could even have a questionnaire, or build some sort of calculator which would also drive traffic to your website which is a form of entertaining content.

In conclusion, content marketing is a fairly new area but if you really build up an expertise in it, it would be a good way to differentiate yourself and get an edge over your competition.

Making Small Bets

Making Small Bets

Managing uncertainty

When approaching a new business idea there is always a lot of uncertainty, you think of things such as: 

  • Will the idea work
  • what will I need to do to get it working right? 
  • What are the risks that will cause it to fail?

This can seem like a daunting task. You may just be put off it and avoid it and do something else instead easier instead. Or you might get distracted in the minutiae and never end up building the grand vision that you had for it.

This is a situation that I’ve been in many times. 

Sometimes I have successfully scaled the mountain to execution and success. Other times I haven’t even made it past the first few steps, or I’ve slipped down after trying a few routes.

 

Why is Perfectionism bad?

One of the main reasons that I fail is perfectionism. I want to get my solution perfect before I even bother trying to launch it to customers. However, this approach is the opposite to newer more agile lean startup methodologies, this way is hard and prone to failure.

 

Accept Imperfection

A more successful approach that I’ve learned is to be happy with an imperfect solution and to cut corners so that you to get further up the launch cycle quicker. 

 

This approach has a number of benefits, but the key one is around feedback

Real live feedback from your customers has a very powerful effect

  • it can give you a lot of motivation and focus to keep going, 
  • It can also make you feel sad because in the cold light of day no one was interested in using your product or service.

This latter scenario tends to be more common than everyone loving what you’ve done and having instant success. 

You have to treat every failure or rejection as a minor victory.

Every time you interact with your customers you’re gaining more information about your venture. So each time you launch or get feedback to sift through all the data with a fine-toothed comb and see what nuggets of insight you can glean from it.

 You may need to do a lot of sifting, or there may be no obvious insights. 

But even that is an insight in itself and stops you wasting time and effort working on something that wouldn’t have actually gone anywhere.

 Even if it is a failure, you will have learned a lot of valuable lessons. Because of this, you will be more likely to have success on your next idea – where you won’t make the same mistakes you made this time… Next time you’ll make different mistakes…  

Each failure will bring you one step closer to success.

 

Fear of failure 

A common problem is that people become so afraid of rejection in this situation. They wrap up their self-worth or view their project as a reflection of their abilities as a business person. 

Instead of treating the whole thing as a mechanism for gathering information and insight. The more information and insight you have that you have gleaned with your own hands – the clearer you can see the landscape and the chances of your project being successful.

Now you may say that you’ve heard all of this before. To some extent you probably have – as I mentioned it is the classic agile approach to tackling a problem. 

 

Unknown Unknowns?

But the difference is that I’m not just talking about a piece of functionality, I’m talking about a process of mapping out what you don’t know, what you do know and leaving a space for the unknown. 

Unknowns are what you want to find out. The only way to do it is by playing a metaphorical game of minesweeper with your product or service. Have a bunch of ideas/statements that you want to verify and try to verify them as efficiently as possible.

Sometimes the answers will be ambiguous and not give you any clear indication one way or the other… In a lot of ways that is the worst outcome because it leaves in you pretty much where you started. 

 

A clear idea of success and failure

Always try and avoid that pitfall by setting out your tests/implementations in such a way that you’ll have a clearer idea of success and failure, leaving no space for a middle ground.

 It is also worth using probability when possible and makes sure your success or failure is realistic or whether it was just a quirk of the way you ran your experiment.

 

To wrap it up

In one perspective, when building new businesses/trying new ideas we are revising our understanding of how the world really works – based on our intuition about what we think will work. 

Instead of blindly stumbling around, I’m suggesting approaching the whole thing with a more rational, logical mindset that will increase the chances of success, and just as important the chances of progress and you actually want to continue with your idea.

Going from Idea to Business

Going from Idea to Business

The Biggest Challenge

One of the big challenges with any business is what needs to be done before you can tell if you have a successful business or not. It’s so easy to get distracted in building the business that you lose sight of the key thing:

Are there people around that actually want to buy what you’re trying to sell them?

By the time you do finally realise that no one wants to buy your product, it’s too late – you’ve already sunk in thousands of pounds and hours of your life.

As an example, for a relatively simple online app you need to:

  • Buy a domain
  • Design the logo
  • Design the website
  • Design the flow and actions that your website would take
  • Figure out a pricing model
  • Figure out the marketing

You would also need to hire a web developer to do all the work for you, as well as a designer to put the flows together.

Once you have done all this, you feel like you have accomplished something – you feel like an entrepreneur. But hold on a second. Something’s wrong.

The only people that have used your website are your mum and your best friend.

That’s ok, you think. People will find it

“I’ll post it on Facebook and it will go viral.”

“I’ll post a few links on twitter and everyone will think its amazing.”

But this never happens …you might get one visitor.

The next step is to look at the offering on the website. So you read loads of marketing blogs and decide you need a landing page with loads of key offerings. Or you might even conclude that the product is immature or buggy, so you go back and waste another month building even more features, making the list of things you offer even longer.

Eventually, you somehow manage to get three or four people using it; or you get feedback from some ‘expert’, leading you to fall into another loop of coding and tweaking. Convincing yourself that your gut is telling you that you need to make even more changes to the product.

Six months go by. You’ve built more, but now you’re losing your enthusiasm for the product. Finally, it seems you’re getting a clearer idea from people about it. The feedback is that it’s a cool feature but no one actually wants to pay a lot of money to use.

You tell yourself that it’s bad luck or its someone else’s fault, but deep down you realise, what you thought your customer wanted and what they actually wanted were two different things. Maybe if you had found this out earlier you wouldn’t have spent so long building it and spent the time doing another project instead.

So, how do you avoid this situation?

I don’t have the definitive answers but I believe that you should focus ruthlessly on what the customer wants and what they are actually willing to spend money on! There can actually be quite a big gap between these two things.

When people see an excited, enthusiastic person asking leading questions, they subconsciously want to make you happy. They don’t want to disappoint you, so they end up tell you what you want to hear – in the end, no one is happy.

Where possible, use more anonymous surveys where the people have no vested interest in helping you. Do your research by checking out social media, forums and Google trends to see if people are searching/asking questions about your solution.

In an ideal world, people are already looking to pay for your imaginary product before you’ve written too many lines of code.

 

Keep asking your audience and iterating to suit until you find something that you can sell.

That’s when the next set of challenges begin. Your value proposition and how you sell your item is almost as tricky as figuring out the application in the first place.

Nowadays there are a lot of engineers who just start building stuff because of a hunch, but I think if engineers learned more about how business works instead of spending all their time on development, they would have a better chance at succeeding.

Making Ideas Stick

Making Ideas Stick

A useful skill

Selling is something I have to do all the time. I regularly need to hone the essence of my pitch and figure out which core idea would resonate most with my prospective customer.

Even if you’re trying to save the world by changing the way people think about something or behave, this has to be rooted in a core idea that changes the person you are targetting.

I think the most powerful ideas have the ability to change someone

…and if you harness this process then you have the ability to change the world.

First of all, a good idea has to be a combination of facts and emotions. There are a lot of cold hard facts out there that you can tell someone that should change them but don’t. One of my favourites is:

“Smoking Kills”

This is an idea based in fact. It is written on the side of many cigarette boxes and maybe continually seeing this message does lead people to change, but it doesn’t happen in an instant. I think some ideas have the power to do that.

However, ideas based on emotion rather than fact, such as ‘get rich quick’ or ‘lose weight fast’, seem to compel us to want to change something quicker. I think this partly comes down to the perceived benefit of a new idea.

Most of the time when we sell we’re trying to convince the customer how our product/service will make them better or save them money, but they hear this so often from all angles that it’s hard to get through all the noise. You have to somehow capture their attention before you give them your idea.

In the past, I’ve struggled with public speaking. One of the ways I’ve tried to fix this is by joining a group called Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a membership group that uses a number of techniques to help each of its members improve their speaking abilities.

One of the areas of Toastmasters focuses on is how to present a compelling talk related to a given idea. The techniques rely heavily on repetition and a predictable structure you can walk the audience through, which allows the audience to easily follow your train of thought.

One of the more interesting tips is this idea of a narrative. When telling someone a story it seems to capture their attention more than just telling them a bunch of facts – I wonder what the significance of this is? Why do we respond to stories better than other forms of structured talks?

It’s also worth thinking about the film industry. All they do is sell stories – so why are some stories more effective than others? There is also a tried and tested formula for stories with a start, middle and end, this also goes by the name of the Hero’s journey. Further information can be found here.

Comedy is also a good area to look at when thinking about compelling ideas. Comedians rely heavily on this narrative to keep audiences rapt for an hour or two.

What other situations can you think of where you can comfortably sit for that long without getting bored?

Jokes rely heavily on a narrative structure, but also on the element of surprise. Traditionally split into two parts, the delivery and the punchline. What makes the joke funny is how big a surprise you provide and how wrong the audience’s assumptions were in the first part of the joke.

Mastering the process of capturing attention centres around finding a core truth and appealing on that deeper level. Fundamentally, people want to be rich, thin, better looking. They perceive that this will lead them to happiness. They must believe that once they have your widget they will be a better version of themselves than before.

Ultimately you’re trying to sell them happiness, but the way you sell them this varies.

Persuasion is also an interesting part of selling an idea. A lot of the underlying concepts around persuasion are about finding the core truths of a person so that you can tailor your idea to touch on their beliefs in a very targeted way.

In conclusion, I think some sort of narrative structure that strongly persuades the person that they will be happier, whether by having more money, more success or becoming more attractive, are the common themes when we are trying to sell to people. We have been doing this for thousands of years, but its good to take a step back and try and understand it better.