Do you need a mobile application for your business to stay competitive?

Number of mobile applications in each stores Google Play, App store, Windows and Blackberry continues to rise with the front-runners being Google Play and App Store. Having a share in the market place, Blackberry and Windows have a lot of catching up to do and that is going to be very interesting the coming years.

Looking at the statistics Google Play Store has around 13,50,000 apps and Apples App Store has around 13,00,000 apps. As a business owner when you glance through the above statistics it can seem that each and everyone (even your competitors) has a mobile application except you.

That’s when you feel that you are left behind while your competitors are eating up major junk of the market share. As a business owner your main concerns would be

  1. Do I need a mobile application for my business?
  2. Building a mobile application is expensive.
  3. Building a mobile application is time consuming.

Users are now moving away from laptops and desktops and are relying more on their smart phone or tablets. From ticket booking, paying bills and buying grocery is just a click away, it is fast and very convenient. As more and more apps are downloaded from the stores, business enterprises are moving towards having their own mobile applications.

Ok! Now you are ready to join the apps bandwagon but then being an entrepreneur you would look into all possibilities and think…

“Cant users access the current website through their smartphone?”

A tricky question and it is important to know if the website is mobile friendly and has been built keeping in mind the compatibility factor with smartphones. If not be ready to face some challenges when the website is displayed in the smart phone.

Keeping these in mind you can build

  1. Mobile Optimized Website
  2. Stand alone App
  1. Mobile Optimized Website

This can be done with minimum fuzz if the current site has been developed using the mobile responsive design. One of the main advantages of mobile optimized website, it will work universally in all mobiles as the Internet browser opens a web page reliably in all the smartphones.

  1. Stand alone app

From a business perspective the stand alone app is much better than a mobile optimized website. The app is always there in the users smart phone and just a click away, no need to launch the web url in the browser which can be felt time consuming now a days. A study suggests that 82 percent of time spent with Mobile media happens with apps. If you are looking to engage customers with your product or service it is better to build a mobile app. You can be constant touch with them through notifications, be it a new product launch or a new service that you offer.

Choice is yours to decide :-)

Startup success: Forget the recipe, focus on the ingredients.

Build it and they will come. Ever wondered the truth of that statement? Read on.

You’re sat in a swanky coffeehouse with your mates on Sunday afternoon. Three espressos later and all present reach the conclusion that the idea is going to work. You’ve even worked out the reasons why it will work, just in case the question comes up at the next family gathering on why you quit your corner office corporate job to work in a startup.

The stark reality is that the rate of failure is high. Here’s why: startups can’t exist by themselves. The ecosystem for their success requires other ingredients. It involves mixing that initial idea with mentors who’ve had the experience to ease that painful but necessary learning curve, a healthy financial reserve to weather that incubation period of any idea coming to life as well as the all important ability to test that idea as a product with the target audience.

The importance of testing and getting feedback with a minimum viable product (MVP) has proven vital in successful start-ups. Remember the early days of Dropbox? They moved quickly to launch the minimum viable product with the key features for testing with their target audience. Dropbox certainly built it and people came but they allowed their customers to build it with them and success came knocking. For more information on Dropbox’s minimum viable product days read TechCrunch’s post.

To build your own minimum viable product and success story contact us @ Xminds.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Eric Ries is the creator of the Lean Startup methodology and the author of the popular entrepreneurship blog Startup Lessons Learned.

In 2007, BusinessWeek named Ries one of the Best Young Entrepreneurs of Tech and in 2009 he was honoured with a TechFellow award in the category of Engineering Leadership. He serves on the advisory board of a number of technology startups, and has worked as a consultant to a number of startups, companies, and venture capital firms.

He is the author of several books including The Lean Startup. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries explains How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.

Learning from his own mistakes chronicled in his blog , his team formulated a methodology that is changing the world of startups. Eric makes statements like “failure is preventable”, “don’t launch” and urges entrepreneurs to stop using “vanity metrics”.

Listen to his interview below:

Are you ready to start a new business ?

One of the common mistakes made by entrepreneurs is assuming they have just come up with a unique idea that is going to save the world from a common problem. They get so passionate about the idea that they often forget to validate this with their target audience. This results in them building something that already exists or offering something that doesn’t have a value proposition. And as expected most of those businesses end-up in the cold shelf and the entrepreneurs after burning what little they had will get back to work trying to get over the sour episode of their life.

So If you have just been hit with a great idea and before you get on the surfing board, do a self-assessment by answering the questions below.

1. Why should I spend my hard-earned money on a product without validating it first?
2. Should I build all the fancy features before I launch?
3. What’s my user acquisition strategy? Can social media help me here?
4. How am I going to earn money to pay for my resources? Do I have a good revenue model?

I will touch very briefly on the above and will tell you why they are important.

Why should I spend my hard-earned money without validating my idea?

You have to be passionate about what you are building but at the same time you have ensure that there are others around you who are also having this same problem as you.

So does your solution solve it and how big is your target market?

Once you have answered these questions honestly then go to the validation part.

So how do I validate my business idea?

There are several ways you can do this and I am going to list a few that worked well for us.

  • Talk to your friends and tell them what you are going to build and then be a patient listener.
  • Create a survey with very few questions (5 or less would be my safe bet) and invite your friends and relatives to answer it.
  • Create a facebook advertising campaign and specify the target audience and send them to the survey page.
  • Create a homepage for your product and mention what you are going to build (don’t reveal everything) and put an email box asking visitors to share their email address so that you can notify them when you launch the service.

Collect the feedback and compare them with your own answers. Are you convinced there is a need?

Should I build all the fancy features before I launch?

This is where most of the businesses fail as they wait to put the ‘bells and whistles’ and misses the feedback from early-adopters. A rule of thumb for startups is to enter the market as quickly as possible and then integrate the fancy stuff by doing quick time-boxed iterations.

Imagine where Mark Zuckerberg would have got to if he waited 7 years to launch facebook with all the fancy features it has now.

So the idea is to build a Minimum Viable Product that lets you get to the market rather quickly and then fit yourself before you run out of money.

If I were to build facebook, my MVP user stories would be

  • As a user I should be able to create an account so that I use the service.
  • As a user I should be able to login so that I can see my friends activities.
  • As a user I should be able to post my updates on the wall so that I can share it with my friends.
  • As a user I should be able to invite my friends so that I can build a network.
  • As an administrator I should be able to pull up user reports so that I can do some analytics.

And I could get someone to build this MVP in 8 weeks for less than 8000$. And If my business doesn’t get the expected traction and even if I quit, I loose only a few thousand dollars and can still survive the trauma. So build an MVP to further validate the concept and enter the market before you run out of money.

What’s my user acquisition strategy? Can social media help me?

It’s such a broad question but you should have some answers before you start. If you are planning to rely on facebook and twitter to send traffic to your website, then I suggest you revisit your decision as social media markets are very crowded and you might even go unnoticed.

So what else can you do to bring customers to your website?

Again facebook advertising campaigns can bring users to your website but that alone should not be your primary marketing technique.

I suggest you checkout the presentation ‘From Zero to a Million Users’ by Adam Smith who is the founder of Xobni. He passionately talks about lot of techniques that applies to all the market segments. So be sure to adopt a few of those.

How am I going to earn money to pay for my resources? Do I have a good revenue model?

This is definitely the most significant question that decides the fate of your business. If you have a financial model that largely depends on advertising revenue then your chances of raising investment is 1 in 100. There are a few exceptions like Quora that raised $14 million and valued at $90 million and their revenue model is still a mystery. But don’t be over-joyed; we don’t get to hear too many stories like that every year.

Fundamentally you need to understand your target market and then realign your business model to plan for growth, investment and revenue. This is easier said than done but that’s why you chose to be an entrepreneur.

My advice to startup entrepreneurs – Startups are never cheap or easier to build and don’t trust people who say so because they have never built one. To succeed, you need a good idea, excellent planning, awesome implementation, right timing, perseverance and lot of passion.

Agile – Sets up time-boxed iterations and provides a decent feedback loop!

Gone are those copy-writer days where I have spent 3 hours on impact analysis document when I’ve changed a few lines of C++ code. When I co-founded XMinds, I was very clear on the process we are going to use and thus we adopted Agile where extreme change is the mantra and adapting to change is considered as the key to success. I’ve heard people saying ‘Agility’ means undisciplined practices where you often end up with zero documentation and ‘No’ schedules. I’d like to change that belief by emphasizing the key benefits the model holds.

Why Agile ?

I often wondered how I managed to release complex web applications in the past where the requirements changed almost every week. We did a good job in getting the project releases out but I must be the first to admit that the process was always irksome to a few of us. Being an entrepreneur myself, I now understand what would have gone through the minds of business owners or stakeholders when they changed the priorities overnight.

In this fast-paced world, how can they predict what their product needs in 2 months from now ? Today it might be content syndication and Facebook integration but next month it could be an API layer which their iPhone application uses to talk to the server. So ‘Embrace Change’, an old cliché is often the key to success. And what you need is a process that can adapt quickly to such rapid changes in priorities.

And Agile is the answer!

Value it brings

1. Continuous Integration (CI) – In traditional waterfall model, integration has to wait until the end of the development cycle and “the longer you wait, the more painful it is”. If we agree, then why can’t we always keep the code integrated ? And that’s where Continuous Integration comes into play. The idea is to build the code whenever a check-in happens and run all the automated tests and send reports to the concerned people. This process will ensure sure that unit tests are executed several times a day and thus avoiding late-night support calls. We rely on Hudson for build-automation and it does an awesome job.

2. Test Driven Development (TDD) – The idea is to create test cases that initially fails and then write the code to make them succeed. One thing I’ve noticed here is how important the tests are from an Agile perspective. When we write the code first, our propensity is always to get to the next feature and thus ignoring the tests completely. So TDD ensures that you get very good test-coverage and along with continuous integration you’ll get a high-quality-less-buggy product.

3. Better Planning – We work in small iterations and call it a ‘Sprint’. A Sprint is typically 2 to 4 weeks long and depends on how rapid you anticipate the priority changes are going to be. We write the requirements as user stories which are quite high-level but informative. Mike Cohn in his book User Stories Applied has suggested some formats for writing the stories

“As a (role) I want (something) so that (benefit)”

A Typical user story in the format above is “As a user I want to search for a product so that I can buy it”

We then break the user stories into small measurable tasks which give us better visibility and then they are added to the product backlog. A Sprint always aims at doing the high-priority tasks from the product backlog and during the sprint review meetings these features are demonstrated to the stakeholders.

Feedback from such meetings end up as new user stories in the backlog. So the core principle is short cycles of Plan-Do-Check-Act which helps to better plan the priorities.

4. Detect failures early – Since business owners and stakeholders are involved in every phase of the project starting from writing user stories to sprint planning to review meetings, problems become apparent and course of actions can be carried out to rectify it at an early stage. I’ve worked with clients who have a sense of detecting these problems very early and they will change the priorities in the next Sprint making sure they are fixed before they become too complex.

This is one important aspect of business where you have to embrace the change in priorities.

5. Collaboration – I’ve worked on several products that failed over time and most of them owing to not hearing what the customers have to say. So user involvement is a leading contributor to the success of a project and agile gives very high value to business owners collaborating continuously with their customers.

So Agile is the answer to your problems if you believe

1. You’re in a fast changing world
2. Your requirements are unclear
3. You value feedback from beta users very seriously
4. You value frequent scrutiny and adaptation
5. You value self-management through leadership and teamwork.

I was not an avid fan of Agile but after trying the methodologies in my organization I’m convinced that Agile is the way to go. I was more allured towards implementing a practice by taking the ‘good agile’ parts from Scrum and XP.

It’s totally up to you to decide what’s best for your organization but keep in mind, Agile makes the life easier by setting up time-boxed iterations and a decent feedback loop.

How to develop a website

Developing a website.

1. Plan
2. Progress
3. Prototype
4. Persist

Plan – Why do you want to create the website. The aim here is to identify the purpose of creating the website. Are you going to offer a particular web service or are you going to sell any particular web product. Answering this question would most probably give you the vision statement. The longer you ponder around this question the better clarity you get. You should be able to define your aim about your service and provide great information about the service that you offer.

Progress –  Think from the user perspective, so if you were in the user’s shoe would you utilize a service like this.
What is in it for the users?
What are the benefits that they would get out of your website?
What is that they would gain?
What is would you gain?
This would give you an idea to specifically place yourself in the web industry.

1. List the features
2. Write user stories
3. Create wireframes
4. Create user interface
5. Database Design
6. Start development
7. Test
8. Fix
9. Release

If you have an idea and want to be visible launch as early as possible. Do not wait for the right opportunity, if you do so the window of opportunity might close. So do it fast. Keep adding new features after the initial launch and keep ahead in the industry with new methods of providing your service. Keep innovating and persist until you succeed.

7 Important Tips For An Entrepreneur.

1. Goal – As an entrepreneur one needs to have a goal. The goal could be an idea or a product that would be helpful for the internet/web world/ social media C4040-123 user as a whole. Having defined goal would help the entrepreneur reach the destination with a plan, without a strong goal it would be pretty difficult to reach the destination. You need to know where you are going.

2. Desire to reach the goal – Identifying goal is not alone enough, only a burning desire would take you to the goal. The best quote for this would be from Napoleon Hill “Every person who wins in any undertaking must be willing to cut all sources of retreat. Only by doing so can one be sure of maintaining that state of mind known as a burning desire to win – essential to success.”

3. Plan – The entrepreneur needs to draw a clear plan on how he/she would be going about achieving the goal. Your plans might change during your travel C4040-124 towards the goal but it is imperative to have a plan. If you have one and if you change course or if you deviate from your path the plan would guide you back to the original path.

4. Patience – It is important to know that with patience comes a great result. One should be like a duck, paddling very hard and fast under water but staying calm above.

5. Persistence – An important ingredient in law of success, one needs to keep on moving until success is achieved. Go that extra mile to get things done and do it with all you heart and success will follow.

6. Ethics – Define clear cut values and follow them honestly. Understand that there are no short cuts to success.

7. Enjoy what you do

Life as a Startup Entrepreneur

They are more important to you than you are to them

I happened to read this wonderful blog by Chris Lynch, the CEO of Thoughtful.

He has mainly pointed out the difference between a tech and a sales guy and how one takes rejection.

I really enjoyed reading it and thought would share my views on how an entrepreneur should take rejection.

The first step would be

1. Reject me I LOVE IT attitude – A sales guy would go through end number of NO’s to reach YES. For the sales guy its just part of the job and moves on. As a startup entrepreneur you may not be happy hearing NO from an investor. It can happen but you can learn plenty of things from the meeting with an investor even if it did not go well. Brush up and get ready for the next presentation.

2. Go read some books like Reject Me I love It, The greatest salesman in the world and also read the story “shake it and step up

Cheer up dude success is around the corner :)

Development Team for Start Up

Idea – The best option to kick start an idea is to follow the lean model, lean model comprises of the (Minimum Viable Product) approach in which you release early and release often. This often maximizes the chance of success by getting as much as feedback as possible and as soon as possible.

Design – The design should be simple and should go with the start up idea. Keeping in mind the simplicity of user interface and also the experience/ the look and feel that the user should have. Creativity is a must.

Dev Team –  The development team should be comprised of Engineers/Programmers, Core product building team having knowledge in API, server configuration, databases and JS/HTML/CSS etc.

Project Management-KISS (Keeping it straight and simple)

What are the necessary steps that a team needs to keep in mind while working on a project.

You could find plenty of articles written about Project Management.

One needs to understand what exactly does project management mean, you would find terms like Architecture, prototypes, agile methodologies, scrum and what not.

But some of the important things that needs to be mentioned what I thought important are mentioned below.

1.Getting a grasp of the requirements– Basically understanding the requirements is imperative for any project. This can be termed as the vital ingredient that the team of developers needs to keep in mind. This is the foundation in which the code could be build upon. As the general rule if the foundation is strong then what you build would also be strong.

2. Making sure your team understand what needs to be done In the usual process the after the requirements are written and discussed with the client it would be taken to the architecture board defining the architecture, database and the platform in which the development will take place. Equally important is the fact is to include and involve all your team members so that all are on the same page and would know what exactly is needed to be done.

3. The Team Being a Project Lead or a Project Manager does not mean that all that needs to be taken care of is to meet the deadline set by the team. It is important that as a PL/PM to understand and allocate tasks to each and every team member according to their strength and weaknesses. One would be good iphone apps and some would be very good at social media apps, as a leader one should understand were to fit in the right resources. How successful can be one in analyzing the members would directly provide the end results.

4. Helping the team to have more fun at workIf fun can be injected to the whole development process you would be astonished by the positive results that the team would be bring in. If the team understands that you are always there to support them rather than bossing around and if they feel that it is always good to have you around get ready for a plenty of kudos and congrats.

5. No hard and fast rule It all depends on how one can see things let it be positive or negative. Inject positive attitude to your team members. Teach them that a positive frame of mind can bring in great results.

a. Teach them the “Can do” spirit.
b. Teach them to be team player.
c. Teach them to be proactive.

This would create a healthy environment amongst the team members.

6. Do your homework and be very well prepared – The most important thing being a PM/PL be prepared for anything, expect the unexpected, expect the worst. But then take it easy, be proactive since life will throw challenges, meet them with your heart and success is yours.

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