Falling back in love with my product

19 Feb

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It’s been a long year. I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve had the trials and tribulations, I’ve faced having to give up on my dream, and I’ve really come to find what start-up stress can be.

Over the last six months my mentors at Accelerate Cambridge have pushed me hard – marketing, team building, raising finance, developing sales pipelines, market segmentation, partnerships and product development – something I will be forever grateful for.

Thanks to them I’ve been able to concentrate on not only creating an amazing product, but at the same time a sustainable business. A lot of people believe that if a product is incredible then there’s no need for a business. I’ve found this to not be true. Creating value propositions, promotional documents, websites, sales structures and pitches – these all help you to identify, reach and streamline the purchasing experience for the customer, helping them from “Oh I’ve never heard of this!” to “This product is awesome”.

Without defining your customer, how you will find them, how they will find you, how you will make enough money to keep improving the product, etc – much less people will be able to enjoy what you create.

That being said the last two weeks I’ve been slowly realising how I’d gradually been falling out of love with my product Rize – (app integrating therapeutic concepts into interactive exercises to support mental well-being). My thoughts have been engrossed for months in deadlines, strategies, timelines and milestones. I had barely spent any time appreciating the quality of what I was creating for myself (beyond thinking “What would the user think of this?”).

Now, we have reached the big milestone – The launch of Rize is at hand! Rize will be ready on iPhone, Android, Tablet and iPad for the 5th March..just a few weeks away. I’ve had a small bit of space to think. At first I panicked – thinking I should be filling this space in my brain with sales, marketing, strategies for maximising downloads – and although believe me I’m filling a lot of my time with this still I’ve found that these parts of work just won’t fit in the space I’m describing.

So I took the advice of my ever patient girlfriend and tried this relaxing thing all the kids are talking about. I started to reflect on every thing I’ve achieved (and admittedly began to stress over everything I haven’t).

The most important thing is that I’ve come back to looking at my product – the app – and have started congratulating myself on getting here. I’m now starting to get great feedback from the beta testers of Rize. Through the talks I’ve been giving to large audiences people have reached out to me and suggested potential partnerships with existing health platforms. I’ve even been invited to pitch Rize to the Duke of Edinburgh at an event called ‘Pitch at the Palace’! We’ve been featured in Cambridge News and the Huffington Post and our twitter followers increase steadily by the day.

I may not have started to generate revenue yet – I don’t have an apartment of my own like I had hoped for, I’m still considering the sainsburys meal deal as the treat of the week, but I’ve still come a long way. For that I’m proud.

And into the future I plan to walk forwards, hand in hand with my new tool for mental well-being. And together we will see what the world has in store for us.

[Rize will be available on all major iOS and Android platforms on 5th March. In order to stay up to date and be the first ones to download it please follow us on twitter: @rizenow]

The transition from product development to sales

2 Jan

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Jumping into sales after such a long time, 15 months, working almost purely on product development is a scary and exciting concept.

With a solid date for Rize completion – End of February – all wireframes, requirements documents and designs completed it’s just a matter of testing my developer’s builds as he completes the coding to finish iOS and Android versions, and simply preparing to make Rize go global.

A quick replenisher for those who aren’t yet acquainted with Rize – Rize is a multi-platform app that integrates therapeutic concepts into simple information and interactive exercises to help those who need it to understand, track and improve their mental well-being.

I really love where my business model for Rize currently lies – individual, weekly subscriptions to the app (£1.99 per week) and alongside I provide in bulk – employers can pay annually, at a discounted rate for their employee’s to access for free (we came up with a way that we can provide employee’s with anonymous access codes to remove the weekly charges).

So this means I will have two customers – individual users, and employers. …later down the line I could provide as well to schools, counselling groups, etc, but for now I think two is enough.

I have already been through an online course on SAO (Search App Optimisation) to help bring in individual users, and I’m now creating a press release to send to a long list of healthcare, technology, and app journalists and reviewers. So in terms of free marketing/press I’m doing right.

But business to business sales….phew sales is going to be a different thing! Employee well-being is becoming recognised as a very important requirement by employers for a successful and motivated workforce. Still I am very new to the world of business to business sales. It’s different to business to customer where I can create a digital message – website, social media, blogs, etc, release it into the ether and allow people to find me, take interest and download. With sales, at least for the way I want to go about it requires a much more personal touch – reaching out to HR Departments and employers, offering our service, pitching the product in a tailored way each time, negotiate prices, offer a demo, and finalise a payment.

These sales will be juggling more zero’s than I’ve been used to on my meal deal budget so it will be a step I am not used to. That’s why I am using the picture as a metaphor above. I don’t yet have my sales wings. I haven’t yet made a big sale and soared confidently, I don’t even know what the rush of wind feels like.

I was given some fantastic advice from one of my mentors at Accelerate CambridgeBrewster Barclay – when you’re talking with a potential customer encourage them to describe the problem’s they are facing (in the context of your product), work out exactly the pain this problem is causing them and make your pitch personal. And, importantly for me, listen. Stop telling them they need your product and listen and allow them to fill the silence. If you don’t make a sale then at least you’ve done some fantastic market research.

So now I will preen my feathers. I’m going to take a deep breath, step to the edge of my perch, and in a week’s time, when the time is right and I have my tight pitch prepared I will pick up the phone and take the jump.

Of course, these sales can only happen if I am able to complete product development. The product will be ready for the end of February if I can afford to continue to pay my developer. To make this happen I’m currently running a crowdfunding campaign – https://www.indiegogo.com/campaigns/therapeutic-software-to-improve-mental-well-being/ – to raise £5k to complete product development. Please feel free to take a look, contribute as little as £10, and receive a range of valuable Rize gifts in return. If you can share the link with your network that would be incredibly appreciated by me.

Happy flying!

People look at me like I’m crazy

18 Dec

When I first decided to dive head into the world of entrepreneurship I knew it would turn some heads, and like anyone with an innovative idea I predicted a lot of people wouldn’t ‘get’ what I was trying to do, but the main aspect people don’t seem to ‘get’ now is me – my work, focused lifestyle..even some of my fellow entrepreneurs are gently nudging me to look at my life choices.

Now that I’ve grasped your curiosity I should probably put a pay per click ad here or an offer for a free podcast on how to become an entrepreneur in return for your email addresses…maybe next time.

The reason I am surprising a larger and larger percentage of people is my choice to continue with my start-up – Rize – that has not made any significant amounts of money in 15 months….15 months!

As a student I even made more than this handing out fliers for club nights.

So why am I doing this? Why am I carrying on? 25 and 26 is passing me by as I pinpoint focus solving one problem that has still shown little evidence of effectiveness, sustainability,and reward. I’m writing this blog entry from my bed where I have another cold I picked up from over working myself.

I often get the question now “Why are you doing this?” with a variety of different facial expressions somewhere along a spectrum of pained contemplation and confusion. People look at me like I’m crazy. I’ve hit £0 in the bank account for the first time in two years, I have no ‘breakthrough’ product, and doubt is coming from all sides. So what am I doing still hanging on with Rize through pain, doubt, disappointment, colds, lonely long days, long nights…and since when did sainsbury’s meal deals become a damn treat??

I always like putting things in bullet points, so here they are. My succinct reason I’m going through this crap:

Purpose: Creating a start-up where the deep ingrained concept is in-line with your personal beliefs and aspirations gives you purpose, fact (P>0.05ish). My three requirements for undergoing these hards times are threefold: Learn, help others, make money. I’m two of three right now.

Leadership: I’m not talking about those god awful stockphotos you see of those pearly white Clark Kentss in a board room smiling at an assertively-dressed brunette you get from typing ‘leadership’ into google images. I’ve been to a great deal of conference on mental health, health tech, and NHS innovation. I know for a fact that the UK needs a new way to engage people so that they can feel empowered and learn to support their general and mental health. I know that there are desperate, still early calls for technology to fix this. Whether I fail or succeed, going into the future I will have had experience at the front line of trying to provide health technology solutions, and in that way I believe I am leading the way for a lot of mental health tech startups in the future.

Belief: Plain and simple I want this product. I want to use Rize in my daily life to help me, and through market research I know other people do too. Bringing such a concept and content-heavy, digital product to reality is a clunky road as we go through bootstrap development and iteration, and I see frustration from those testing the newest builds of the Rize app, and I see it in the mirror every morning but I believe, I know that the problem I’m trying to solve exists..it’s just a matter of defining and refining the solution over, and over (and over and over).

The learning process: I came here to learn. That’s it. I wanted to learn to take an idea/dream and make it into reality. Because this is what I have craved from 15 – 23 years old. I lacked self-confidence and found it so hard to ever get what I want from life. My brain was filled with self-deprecation rather than subjectivity, problem solving, and tangible, constructive ideas to bring me closer to my goals..well I barely had goals if I’m being honest! And I am learning this in a lot of ways. In a less profound way I’m learning an incredible amount about starting a real business –  market research, communication, product development, managing teams, partnerships, sales, fund raising, negotiations, networking, user testing, accounts, tax, legal, and a lot more.

The reward I still believe exists: The health tech market is growing and the amount of people using their smartphone is on the rise. Mental health issues are increasing at an alarming rate in the UK and US – affecting our personal lives, our workplaces, and our country as a whole. Two more rewards exist for me – money (once Rize is ready for the hard sale) and more importantly I will be helping a lot of people, which if you download Rize V4 next month you’ll learn how this can +vely impact your well-being.

– I get to go to free swanky party’s at least once a year and drink all of their booze: A few night’s ago I was honoured by an invitation from Sir Paul Judge, Founder of the Cambridge Judge Business School to a Christmas party at his penthouse apartment by the river Thames in London with my fellow cohorts from Accelerate Cambridge. I got to meet a lot of interesting and definitely very intelligent people..and of course it was an OK view..

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He gave us all a great speech on entrepreneurship. What stood out for me is the emphasis he placed on an encompassing and balanced lifestyle. “Life is a lot like juggling” he began “with five different juggling balls. Work (or money), family, friends, health and spirit”. He went on to describe work as the least important one not to drop (not what I had expected such a successful entrepreneur to say at all). “The others are slightly more fragile and can be more easily broken and harder to put back together. Work can be put down and picked up, but the others are to be cherished” – I don’t think this was word for word what he said…as I said I had already drunken quite a lot of his booze – but the sentiment of the speech was honest, clear, and no less than inspirational – a fantastic reminder to all of us that our work and money is far from everything.

The support: I have a handful of mentors at Accelerate Cambridge who believe in me and my start-up. They may not agree with some of my decisions but like a good parent they let me run off into the playground, learn through play, shout encouragement and warnings at me, and always have something reasurring to say when I scrape my knee. I have my family, girlfriend and some awesome fellow entrepreneurs who simply help me to sit for a minute, remember how to smile and laugh (no more than a minute though) and get back to work! And those who look at me like I’m crazy remind me that if I’m getting a response from this many people then I’m doing something right. And of course a great deal of you reading this have helped – with testing, feedback, encouraging messages. You are all an integral part of this journey, so thank you.

Rize V4 – our milestone product has been delayed for 1-2 weeks by iTunes. It will now be available for iPhone early in the new year. This is one I think will take off very well and we’ll start to get a lot of paying customers…I’m very excited!

I want to provide Rize for android, and so do a lot of android users. It will prove essential to make Rize multi-platform if i am to develop this into a sustainable business. As I said I’m down to £0 now, living off lentils and garden wildlife, so:

I’ve decided to set-up a crowd funding campaign to raise £5000 – this will pay for development for android, iPad and tablet so that with V5 Rize will be able to reach the vast majority of the population and I can begin my sales to large businesses for employee well-being programmes.

So make an Xmas dream come true and support a start-up looking to make a difference in the world. Contribute as little as £10 and receive some Rize goodies!  and of course please make sure you share it with your networks!

Ah and twitter..follow us on twitter to keep up with the latest breakthroughs! @rizenow

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Happy Xmas everyone, and try putting down one of those juggling balls for at least a few days this holiday to focus on the rest (I think you know which one to put down😉  ).

Raising funds for the Rize start-up

8 Dec

Hi all!

It’s been a while….

So much has happened since I’ve last posted. I’m putting all of my focus, energy and time into continuing the app to improve people’s mental well-being: Rize.

I managed to raise a £3k grant to keep developing Rize onto V4, which will be available on iTunes app store next week, and I’m very, very excited to see what people think of this version! It’s got a lot of new additions, including three minute audios, workout functionalities, syncing activites with your calendar and notifications, and lots, lots more!

Right now I’m trying to raise £5k to pay for development onto Android and Tablet. For the last year I’ve had people asking me when, when, when will I provide Rize for android so that’s what I’m now focussing on doing. I spent a lot of time developing some strong promo and video material, and describing my personal and professional story in short on the website. I’ve gotten advice from my mentors on the best way to present my campaign, so I recommend you take a look to see what a nice, polished crowdfunding campaign looks like.

https://www.indiegogo.com/project/therapeutic-software-to-improve-mental-well-being/embedded/3694097

And if you think what I’m creating is a worthwhile cause please do contribute – you can invest as little as £10. And most importantly – share, share, share!!! I’ve dedicate 15 months of my life to the Rize app now. With your help we can make this something that can help people around the world.

Thank you all. I will post here again soon to let you know how the crowd funding is progressing.

Impatience!

8 Sep

Hi all,

This is going to be more of a frustrated rant more than a piece of writing that will add any value to the lives of people reading this..unless they like to oversee a good old rant!

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For the last three days I’ve been mainly confined to my bedroom with boxes of orange juice and tissues. I complained yesterday to my girlfriend that I’d been out of work for the last two days..she patiently explained to me that it is what a lot of people tend to call a ‘weekend’.

Anyway it’s now Monday and I plan to be back into the office tomorrow..taking it slightly easier from now on so I stop running myself into the ground like this every few months.

In bed today I’ve been watching a few documentaries on start-ups:

Nothing to lose – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4g_Hq2pwao
Start up kids – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2279353/

 

During the second of these I began to feel a building frustration and impatience. I think it’s a feeling I’ve been keeping down for a long time. After a year now it’s starting to rise. I keep feeling like I’m playing a game on a really old computer with slow internet…whenever I press a button (or make a business/product decision) I have to wait weeks, or months for the result.

This is the painful part of having a startup where you are having to bootstrap and cannot create the product yourself..you must wait. And it sucks.

The way I’m trying to remedy this is by focusing on preparing the next steps – i.e. the next product development costs, monetisation strategies.

I’ve also started working on an online course – ’30 days of mental well-being’ – publishing on Udemy. This is probably what made me ill – I set a deadline of two months to complete the course and man has it been hard – creating lecture slides, recording audio’s, video instructions, interviews, quizzes, and text. It was all going well, and ahead of schedule and then I realised that my microphone had malfunctioned in recording 13 of the lectures! That made me really angry with myself. So I’ve taken these sick days to not think about it and try and come back to it tomorrow with a fresh head. I hope some of you guys will check it out when it’s ready! I’ll be posting it on my website – http://www.rizenow.com.

Speaking of the website – I decided to describe my personal journey from depression to start up in  video on my website, so feel free to take a look🙂

 

So how about all of you…anyone else find similarmfrustrations in their work/relationships/lives?

 

 

 

An update – $1 per day

4 Sep

Hey guys,

I’m really sorry about the long delay since my last post. I’ve been really pushing myself as hard as I can recently..must be something to do with turning 26 and wanting to make enough move out of my mum’s house!

The last time I posted was about three months ago. I still didn’t have a product or a team. Since then I’ve come across a number of challenges.

One of the biggest one’s was that I was almost kicked off the Cambridge Accelerator Program. I was told I wasn’t making enough progress and the grant I’d been promised the chance of was being taken out of my hands prematurely.

As you can imagine this came as a very big blow. It wasn’t so much the fact that I wouldn’t be able to receive their office space or mentorship. It was the hard hitting fact that they didn’t think my start-up was good enough anymore.

After a day of feeling like crap and mainly sitting in my shower weeping I decided that enough was enough and I would prove them wrong.

So I’ve sunk all of my money (including the small amount of savings I have) into my app now, which is re-branded to ‘Rize’ – http://www.rizenow.com. I’ve found an incredible developer who has been working for relatively low cost ($1000 per version). We’ve released V2 onto the iTunes app store and will be releasing V3 in a month…it will be then that I’ll have no more money so will be looking for grants or trying to boost revenue.

It’s been enough to impress the powers that be at the Cambridge Accelerator Program. They want to keep me on and will consider me for the grant in a month’s time. I was disappointed with their support over the last three months, but it’s made me rely on my own grit and determination, and I’m very proud of myself for it.

Alongside the app I came across Udemy – an online marketplace for courses – I’ve decided to spend a few hours a day working on creating an online course – ’30 days of mental well-being’ – and by a few hours I mean every second I have spare trying to develop it further. Due to my ridiculous work regime the course should be ready in a month – $30 – but I’ll be offering all of you bro’s free coupons to take the course and give it a nice review🙂

So those are the newest updates for the business. I’m not seeing much money coming in from the app yet..about a dollar a day, but they’re MY dollars, and I earned them, and I couldn’t be happier with that! Sloth hop brings in about 10 cents a day..it’s around 2200 downloads, so although it’s not making money it makes me happy to know that people are enjoying it around the world.

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In terms of music I left the blues band I was in – smoken joes – mainly because I didn’t have enough energy for it. After a year and a half I was no longer feeling excited about the band so I realised it was time to pack it in. I’m still with 4lab. The music’s going well. There are some disagreements within the band, while we try and navigate through all the up’s and down’s of a four person team with nothing to lead us but our passion.

Like I say things have been really tough. But thanks to my girlfriend and some awesome friends I’ve had enough support and encouragement to persevere. I hope this blog still provides some inspiration to others too, and it’d be great to hear from you. So please feel free to go ahead and leave a comment at the bottom🙂

My next post will be on a subject I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while – ‘What makes a good leader?’ – it might sound like a corny title you’d find on linkedin or something, but it’s an important subject to me in a lot of areas in life, so hopefully you guys can have a look and let me know your thoughts too.

Keep persevering🙂

I’m not giving up on my dreams

11 Jun

That is all

From sofa to start-up

3 Jun

I’ve been asked to write a guest blog for the Cambridge Accelerator Program about my journey so far, so I decided to write it here first, as it’s where I feel natural writing about this kind of stuff.

So “From sofa to start-up”

It was a year ago, two days from today that I decided to quit my job as a Research Scientists and jump into the unknown. I had a passion, an idea, and if I do say so myself, a hell of a lot of balls. I had always admired my Dad (a Physicist) for being able to take ideas out of his head, make them, test them, and make them useful. I wanted to do the same, but in a different arena.

I began my entrepreneurial journey with three ‘awesome’ ideas..they would all be ground-breaking. I would have them made perfectly first go round with some of the best professionals working alongside me for free because they believed in my ideas. Of course, in mere seconds after my products were released into the market, people would forget everything about civilised society and give up any forms of reason just to get their hands on my products!

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…I was very fortunate to be knocked down to reality relatively quickly by those who I now respect thoroughly. I was told to concentrate on one of my ideas, get a team, and get on with making something, instead of getting drunk and telling everyone I was already giving tips to Bill Gates in my time off.

The idea I decided to put all of my concentration into was an app – a gamified app that could help people suffering from mild-moderate anxiety/depression. I found a Designer and a Programmer who could make the app, and would be willing to come in for sweat equity. I found a counsellor who liked the idea and would give us advice on how to make this a successful tool. I decided I would make it a game where the user controlled an animal avatar and found out information and practiced therapeutic exercises, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness. It would be amazing, and we would call it ‘Life Pets’.

Why would this be amazing? Because I said it would.

It was at this point that I was welcomed onto the Cambridge Accelerator Program. I was offered mentorship, seminars on business and entrepreneurship, and potential seed grant funding later on. The Director, Hanadi Jabado, had me immediately test what I had of my concept with potential users. Those I interviewed – mainly counsellors, mental health professionals, and contacts I knew had suffered from depression – provided the feedback I didn’t want to hear. They thought it seemed good, but they wouldn’t use it, because it seemed too childish and complicated. It was the feedback I had needed to hear – that I’d been creating the concept just for myself, and not my future customers.

Over the last nine months I have continually developed my concept and tested it, getting bigger every time. At the start I used concept art of some of the important screens, and walk the user through the app journey. Now, I am beta testing my prototype on iphone, and thanks to the incredible feedback I got from this I am able to create my first product that I will be putting on the iTunes store for the public revel in.

In between the time I joined the accelerator and now a lot has changed. I’ve lost and gained team members, faced rejections and difficult feedback. I’ve rebranded to Remap, and pivoted around so many times I feel like a ballerina. I’ve celebrated in the smallest details, and always got up one more time than I’ve fallen down. 

Now, in one month’s time I will have my first product in the market. Remap – A gamified app that integrates therapeutic concepts to help users to track and develop their mental well-being through a series of engaging and interactive exercises.

I’ve gained support from the London Institute of Psychiatry, Mindtech (NHS), and a group of sixty counsellors in the Cambridgeshire areas. 

It may not become an overnight success, but I will learn from each attempt, and every time it will get better.

Sometime, like many of those around me I have doubted what I am doing, and wondered if my vision has been worth a year of my life, and however long in the future. Once I’ve had a cup of tea, I can always, unreservedly say yes.

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The vision I created a year ago has taken me on a journey I did not expect. Those who have shared my vision and passion for entrepreneurship, social impact, and following a dream, have helped me to gain incredible skills.

These skills I can use to progress my app further.  I will have these skills with me to help bring my future ideas into a reality, and I will use these insights and abilities to inspire those around me to strive and to succeed in whatever way suits them.

I’m extremely thankful to my incredible mentors, the Cambridge Accelerator Program, all of my dedicated beta testers, and everyone who has played their hand in keeping this going. I look forward to getting your review on iTunes in a month!

Outsourcing work and creating your idea with a global team

29 May

Hey guys today’s post is going to be covering the very tangible areas of what I have found to be invaluable in my process of taking new ideas and turning them into real, technical products and solutions – outsourcing your work, so you can focus on ALL the other areas of work required to make something successful.

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Currently my main project is the same app I’ve been working on for almost nine months now ‘Remap’…I long time right? And not a penny to show for it … some might say it’s disheartening, but thankfully I’ve been able to hang out with a lot of ‘entrepreneurs’, and have amazing mentors at the Cambridge Accelerator Program who continue to remind me that creating new ideas take time, and the rewards come later.

Once piece of advice I’ve received numerous time is that I should get a technical Co-founder on board – it means I would no longer need to outsource work, so development would be free, I’d have someone on for the long run, and the business development wouldn’t be so lonely. I completely agree that there are a lot of pro’s to this, but at the same time outsourcing work has become so cheap and easy (will get to this process in a second) that essentially in taking on a technical co-founder I would give up 30-50% of my company for what may eventually cost me $5000…and that’s kind of pricing my company pretty low (anyone seen breaking bad, S5E5?).

 

So I’ve decided that for me, what I require, my skills, and how I feel comfortable working outsourcing is what I will go for. So far it’s going great, but there are inevitable downsides you have to face.

I’ve outsourced work before, and the NO1 problem that arose is that both I and then person agreeing to do the work had not effectively communicated what we expected from the working relationship: I hadn’t explained all the work required, and in some cases the developer/designers promised more than they could deliver just to get the job. 

So before I go into the process of hiring and outsourcing I’d just like to go over some steps to keep in mind for risk mitigation of not getting an end product that you expected:

1 – Interview far and wide. Post jobs requiring quotes for the full job, not by the hour (and offer payment the same way)
When setting up a project you want to get a very wide scope of what the the average cost of creating your product would be. Of course there will be a lot that charge much cheaper than the average, and much more. But generally if you get ten people giving you quotes, that will give you a good idea of how much you would want to be paying. Always pay by the milestone, and not by the hour!! People can screw you over by quickly knocking up ‘unexpected’ extra hours. That almost happened to my, but thank god my business mentor advised against it, and saved me a lot of money and stress.

2 – Create a pinpoint specification requirements list, detailing every single thing that is required of the person. 

Here’s a bad example for a specification list:

” I need someone to make an app platform game like sonic the hedgehog. It will have a few different screens, and works on lots of phones”

Here’s a slightly better one:

“I need a team to provide all design, development, and sfx/music for a basic platform game. It will involve the same gameplay as sonic the hedgehog, but with different characters (to be discussed) – all in all ten characters. It will involve three different levels with different backgrounds, a menu screen, and the ability for user to save their game and scores, and share their progress on fb and twitter. The app will be made for use on Iphone, Android, and ipad devices.”

Even this will need a lot more meating out. But, for example I recently had a team creating a game for me, and they refused to work on sound effects for me, because they claimed we hadn’t agreed on this in the price. I was able to bring up the specification I provided them in seconds and show them exactly where in the agreement we agreed on this.

3. Use a safe freelancer website where you know disputes can be sorted out, otherwise make a contract before any work is started or money has changed hands. You can usually find very good contract templates that people have already used in business and are sharing here – https://www.docracy.com. Then just make a few customisations. The freelancer website I always use for finding designers and tecchies is www.elance.com . An incredible website – once you post a job you’l most likely have at least ten quotes by the next day. I can’t tell you how much stress and money and restless nights I’ve saved by setting up air-tight contracts, or full agreements prior to starting work. Although at the time it’s seems so easy to go with a ‘friendly agreement’ it is incredibly likely, even if you are on friendly terms, that this will involve both parties getting disgruntled, upset, and ultimately a lot less positive about the working relationship and the results. This is just my experience, but for me contracts work.

4. Start with small milestones to gauge if they’re as good as they say they are.
In my experience of programmers – the better they are at selling themselves, the more they turn out to be full of sh*t. So, if you find someone like this, but they do have a great portfolio, ideas, etc, and you really believe they can create an amazing product for you, then take them out for a test drive! They say the whole thing will take them 200 hours to make? Ok, ask them to spend 5 hours creating the menu screen and a few basic features. Obviously pay them for this 5 hour stint. If they are as good as they say they are, and you like working with them, awesome, carry on working through. If they turn out to be crap then you can politely say thank you, but no thanks, pay them the 5 hours and wipe the sweat off your brow you didn’t already agree to marry tha bugger.

Wow, this post is getting quite long!! Here’s a summertime song 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k21nZsf6kHM

What a song….

Right, I’ll try to keep this rest of the post succinct. My advice for taking an idea, and getting it made:

– Post detailed description and requirements of what you want made, and how it works. Use elance.com, getacoder.com, freelancer.com. My personal favourite is elance, but they all work. They’re free, but charge 10% of whatever you’re paying your freelancer.

– Choose three that provide a good quote, portfolio, and review

– Interview them all

– If you don’t like any candidates go back to step 1, repeat as many times as you need to find the best possible person/team to make your product.

– If you do find that special someone, set up a milestone early on to check their abilities. If this is good hire them for the long run.

– Keep in contact at least every other day. In my opinion it’s important to make sure they’re sticking to a timeline, and that you show consistent interest in the product development.

– Don’t let teams get away with underproviding. If you’ve agreed with them to pay a certain amount for a service, make sure everything is provided. Some will try to do less work unfortunately. Make sure you get what’s a agreed. 

Right, that’s a mini guide on outsourcing your work. I’m outsourcing two projects at the moment:

 

Sloth Hop
 Image Available on android tomorrow, and iOS next week. Outsourcing cost me around £300 for design, sfx, and development, which is pretty good. I found the team on elance, and despite a few hiccups and disagreements we’ve gotten there! The app will be free so take a look, and give us a follow on twitter @slothhop🙂

 

Remap
ImageRemap – A gamified app that integrates therapeutic concepts to allow users to track and improve their mental well-being.
The app that has taken nine months, and counting. I’m testing my prototype (prototype, not product because I was unlucky with my first choice of developers and didn’t get exactly the high-quality, full product I had hoped for). Now my luck has changed around. App development companies were quoting me for up to £100k to have this complex app made. I’m extremely passionate about this app and strongly believe in it’s potential. And I’ve found a developer who is similarly very passionate. When he applied for the job and gave me a quote for $800 to make this, design and development I was very wary. I checked out his previous work (clean, attractive, functional, intuitive), I interviewed him for 2 hours, we agreed on every single aspect of what needs to be done, and that he would send me a new version every two days to test. This guy is an unexpected blessing! So we’re very happily working together – him in the states, me in my bed (we work to each others’ time zones). We just reached the first milestone. I’m happy with his work, and we’re continuing. Best of all he works fast – first product (which I’ll provide for free) on iphone in two weeks. 

 

The main point of this post is that these days we have such incredible resources to connect with anyone with any skills around the world. It is completely overwhelming, but it means we can create things we never even dreamed of, with teams around the world. It’s so exciting, and freeing to be able to outsource our work for low cost, with relatively little experience of business.

If anyone has a tech business idea but no idea where to start I’m always happy to provide advice, encouragement, and a few signposts to help out.

 

Happy outsourcing!! :) 

Sloths! New startups, pivots, and a few reviews

12 May

I’ve got good things to share today! I have some frustrations to include, but also quite a few good nuggets of information and tools for prospective startups like myself!

This month has seen me facing a few challenges. For Remap (the app I’m developing for mental well-being) I’m looking for a co-founder so I’m giving a presentation at an ‘app programmers’ meetup next week to see if I can find a programmer who can join the team and make the app without costing any money (just equity).

Another interesting place I’ve found, if you’re looking for a co-founder for your enterprise, OR you want to join a start-up check out – http://www.cofounderslab.com/ . A place where you can post or browse entrepreneurial opportunities, usually involving equity. Very exciting place.

On top of this I’ve been checking out this other blog – http://www.gameacademy.com – it’s all about outsourcing all of the work to develop an app game. It’s from there I got inspiration for a side project. I’ve identified that Remap is going to take a long time to get off the ground – a complicated app, and an even more complicated concept.

So to prevent me going crazy with frustration while finding a co-founder for Remap, I’ve decided to create a second app just for fun. A game that I can outsource the work for relatively cheap and feel like I’m finally getting traction with something.

Iiiiiiintroducing

SLOTH HOP

Image

Free download of Sloth Hop here for all android and ios devices!😀

Google play:  http://tiny.cc/u7ushx Itunes:

If you’re on twitter feel free to follow and share🙂 – @slothhop.

 

So that’s the icon for the app and I have the same people who did this design working on creating the app this week. I found the designers and developers to do this on – http://www.elance.com. It’s a great website where you post a technical job that needs doing and hundreds of designers/programmers/etc will apply for the job and tell you how much they will charge and how long it will take. I’m getting this app made for £350 in two weeks. It’s a very simple game, same complexity as flappy bird, but different game. Anyway I’m very, very excited.

Why?

It means I can finally get into some sales and marketing. I’ve been in ‘development mode’ for a year now and it’s gotten incredibly boring. I’ve definitely learned an incredible amount, but I need something to keep my energy going and this will be perfect for it.

How am I paying for it? Through my music. I’ve had a lot of gigs recently, so instead of new shoes, I’m making an app this month😀

So yeh please follow my ol sloth hop venture on twitter, and I’ll announce the release date of this app in the near future.

 

Now back to Remap. So for a long time I’ve stubbornly insisted the next version must include lots of ‘essential’ features, great graphics, and no skimping…even though I can’t afford it, or have anyone to do this for me.

…Then I started reading a book called ‘The lean start-up’

Image

Review – An amazing book that is a fantastic read for anyone….in my opinion it can be applied in so many areas of life – startups, science, even personal lives. The biggest message can be summed up in this picture

Image

Whatever your idea ‘build’ it. Build the most basic version of it possible. Then test it, learn what worked what didn’t, then develop and build a bit more, then measure how good this next build is, learn from it, and build on it again. If things aren’t working then ‘pivot’ and try to build something slightly different to reach your end goal.

So from just reading this I’ve learnt a lot about what I should do. I’ve pivoted slightly with the functionality of the app, and have designed a ‘minimal viable product’ – with only the most basic functions of the app, and I’ve fortunately found an awesome designer/developer from Pakistan on [www.getacoder.com] who is designing this for me for free, and if I like it we create the next version together and I pay him £300 (ridiculously cheap!). While I’m waiting to find my co-founder I believe this is a fantastic path to walk in creating the next basic version, testing it, measure what works and doesn’t, so that the third version can be fantastic.

 

Yeh, good month! Keep your eyes peeled for Sloth hop (my game app) and thanks to everyone who’s always supporting me for Remap and believing in me and my idea..especially my girlfriend who has to listen to these ideas, revelations, and madness 24/7!!

Happy slothing🙂

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