Building a web start-up doesn’t have to cost the earth. On this, Steve Blank, advocate of the in-vogue lean start-up approach to developing a business says: “You no longer need of a ton of cash, because now you have a process to iterate on a hypothesis. These factors have allowed start-ups to develop a hypothesis and test that hypothesis rapidly”.
However, there is recommended stepped process to follow to make sure that you cross all the Ts and dot all the Is for your web start-up business. Blank recommends following a ten step approach, and these steps are outlined here:
1. Set up team logistics – team meetings and communication is even easier than ever before with all the tools that you can find online to help. Your team can work from anywhere as there are excellent communication tools to enable this. For example, Skype may be an excellent and free tool to use for holding meetings, and Google+ Hangouts can be an easy way to get the team together over large geographical distances.
2. Craft your company hypotheses – you can develop a business model canvas to understand how your business will really work in an “at a glance” view : the-business-model customer-development-stack. At this stage it is useful to understand the size of the market that you will be selling to, through tools like Google Insights or Google Trends.
3. Create a simple value proposition statement – this explains what you do and why. Steve Blank suggests using the format: “We help A do B by doing C”. With a statement in place it is worth running this by other people – friends, family, acquaintances. It does not really matter who, just as long as they can tell you if the statement makes sense or not. They may be able to help you refine it so that it becomes more easily understandable for others.
4. Website logistics – you’ll need a web name (domain name) for your business. A good place to start is Domainr. Then you have to register the name at a site like godaddy or namecheap. Hosting your name can then be achieved by using GoogleApps.
5. Create a low-fidelity website – in some cases your website may just be one page which says what you offer (using your value proposition) explains the benefits and has a call to action to get people to give you their email address. There are really easy options online to help you build sites such as Google Sites.
6. Customer engagement – this step is all about getting customers interested. Here you drive customers to the website and also take steps to find target customers. You can use social media such as Twitter to identify potential customers, and you can use tools like Mailchimp to get emails out to large customer groups. All of this allows you to get feedback on your business proposition so far.
7. Build a more complex solution – once the business looks as if it has a high chance of success because you’ve got customers engaged and interested already then you can start to create a slightly more advanced version of the website. For most entrepreneurs this may involve getting development assistance. However, don’t go crazy here. You’re iterating and improving rather than designing a top notch approach.
8.Test the customer problem by collecting customer data – use tools like Get Satisfaction to ask customers what they like or do not like about what you are offering, as well as using web analytics to see how things are going for your site.
9. Test the customer solution by building a full featured high fidelity version of the website – Blank at this stage recommends improving the website based on all of the learnings from stages 5 through 8. The product should look fairly professional without you having spent all that much time on it, as you are still validating the business and improving all the time.
10. Ask for money – this is perhaps the best step of all because finally you get the chance to start seeing money rolling in. A pre-order form can be used on your website and you can use a tool such as PayPal to collect fund from people.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.