What is Startupality, why are we making it, and how?

Just today Startupality became a part of Zagreb Entrepreneurship Incubator and for this occasion we decided to explain in a bit more details what is Startupality all about.

What is Startupality in short?

It is a software tool for entrepreneurs with which helps you turn your idea, project or your current startup into a successful company by using the empirical process.

Why is it called Startupality?

The name emerged as a combination of words startup and reality originating from the idea that an entrepreneur has to face reality and do a 360° view of his idea and his business model before making important business development decisions.

Tell me more about it?

Have you ever needed a tool which could help you manage your ideas, understand the market and improve your business decisions? Until now, there were no efficient tools for managing startups and finding business solutions by talking to customers. Enter Startupality. It is a collaborative business planning tool which helps startups get from idea to success by learning from customers, measuring progress and iteratively building the solution. Get systematic guidance through your business planning process, no matter if you are an expert or not. We are experienced in startup methodologies and processes and are certain they can also help you with your project. Main building blocks are customer development and lean startup methodologies, along with tools like business model canvas and kanban boards. With minimal effort, startup founders can get immediate results by using visual tools and smart wizards along with founder’s checklist. While there already exist a lot of project and product management tools, market for business management of startups is not saturated.

What are the platforms and technologies used?

Startupality is being built by doing extensive research through customer interviews to build MVP. The application development is data-driven which means that metrics analysis is crucial for guiding product decisions. By using analytics tools like Google Analytics and Mixpanel and messaging/CRM service like Intercom it is important to be aware of the customer funnel and conversion rates at each stage. Main goal is to make a fully functional responsive web application. On the backend there will be Node.js running along with PostgreSQL and Redis databases to provide a RESTful service. Express is used a simple framework on the server, while most of the business logic will be on the front-end where HTML5 and CSS will be used along with Javascript and Backbone framework. To easily start building responsive design and to kickstart the layout, Twitter Bootstrap is used. Git is used as source version control tool, and Heroku Platform is used as a provider of cloud hosting and additional add-on services. Startupality is based on previous experience developing a tool called “Startup Modeler”. By using a web application instead of desktop/mobile application that means users will need Internet connection to be able to access most of the features, but it’s interesting to note that with using HTML5’s AppCache this can be successfully mitigated and data can be stored in user’s browser until next establishment of connection. Later in the product lifecycle, depending on customer needs, hybrid mobile apps (primarily for iPhone and Android) could be rapidly made using Phonegap as they work extremely well as an extension to a responsive web app.

What are the biggest challenges?

Some challenges which await our team are making great UX/UI for both newbies and experts and figuring out how to properly apply gamification in order to engage users. Also, it will be important to optimize the tool for startups outside of tech field. Overcoming the natural resistance of field experts for using tools for what “they already know” and reconsidering freemium revenue generating business model against free trial model will also be important things to take care of. The plan is to fail fast and learn from mistakes, talk with potential customers and keep iterating.

Any interesting facts?

Research study done in 2012 at University of Tennessee says that the main reasons for startup failures are no knowledge of pricing and financing, lack of planning and no experience in record-keeping.
While leading management mistakes are

  • going into business for the wrong reasons
  • lack of a clear focus
  • entrepreneur gets worn-out
  • underestimated time requirements
  • lack of market and financial awareness and responsibility

It is safe to say that most of these problems could be solved by using a planning tool and timeboxing activities, making at least basic finance projections, validating business model with potential customers and tracking the data about customer interviews.
Statistics also tells us that:

  • New products have terrible success rates. (As much as 90% of new products fail)
  • Especially in ventures done by first-time entrepreneurs. (95% of enterprises are small firms, but only 18% of first-time entrepreneurs will succeed with their first venture)
  • Most of the startups are stuck in the ideation phase. (About 70% of startups are stuck in the brainstorming/ideation phase)

Target audience for this tool are innovators, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, lean startup practitioners, and anyone with a side project,. In 2012 only in US there have been 6516000 new startups founded and this means there is a big market as there are many startups created each year and the trend is seen worldwide. Unemployment rates are rising and tendency to be self-employed is getting more common.

Pre-launch phase

What to do when you are preparing to launch your product, but you want to prepare your visitors and “connect” even before launching it? We will show you how we have approached the process of building our launch page during the first stage of a startup lifecycle, which is also known as customer discovery phase. There are other activities which are important to do in parallel with this, but we will talk about them in the upcoming posts.

The point of having the launch page is to let visitors know what you’re doing, ignite some interest in them and then make use of that interest by offering a call to action in form of registering and subscribing to updates about the product or referring to a friend.
The viral loop is a “multiplier effect” that is built into the launch page. It’s usually an incentive for people to share news of the product and to share the signup page with their friends and followers. Most important things you have to get right is to properly brand your product, send a clear message about what value you are offering and offer visitor to keep in touch if he/she is interested.

To do this you could also use an automatic launch page builder instead of building it on your own. Three of the most popular ones are Launchrock (http://launchrock.com), Unbounce (http://unbounce.com) and Kickofflabs (http://www.kickofflabs.com/). What we did is we used Launchrock service as a bootstrapper and then highly customized it and hosted it on our own server.

We think it is important to get proper information about the website traction and what is exactly happening when visitors arrive on your web site. It is not enough just to rely on the the number of visits and assume this data will tell you anything interesting. To get relevant data, it is useful to spend some time implementing web analytics tools and configuring your visitors funnel. Google Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics/) will be your mandatory companion as it will gather a broad range of data from your visitors like referrering websites, bounce rates and unique visitors. Besides that it will be useful to gather data about visitor’s language, country, resolution, device used and browser used. Most importantly it is good to also track events, in this case for example visitor’s signup. Then you will be able to visualize the funnel which will show you for example how many smartphone owners came to your site and registered vs desktop users who did that.
To help you focus you should define key performance indicators(KPI), which can be for example sign up conversion rate. There is a useful relatively new feature built in Google Analytics which helps you track most important KPI-s and other indicators on one page in the form of a dashboard.

There are other tools which help you learn more about your visitors like Intercom and Olark. Both of them provide CRM functionalities along with messaging which is the most important to gather real feedback from your visitors. They will allow your visitor to actively engage in a discussion with you, possibly let you know about what is bothering them before they are ready to register or even letting you know about why they like or do not like the product which will be useful to update your business strategy. In this phase it is most important to learn as much as you can from your visitors as it will be crucial for all the upcoming phases. Customers are the ones who are defining your product, not you or your marketing staff, these times are long gone.

Enter Startupality

Hello and welcome to our brand new blog page!

It will be regularly updated to document the process of creating Startupality by following the lean startup principles and customer development methodology. Here we will be talking about UX and UI design, web and mobile programming and startups/business, the choices that we made, along with the advices to help you learn from our daily wins and fails.

It will also serve as a source of information regarding new releases of Startupality and other announcements concerning the product. We are very excited about launching Startupality to the public, stay tuned for the next blog post soon and in the meantime check startupality.com to sign up as our beta user!