How to startup by not outsourcing your product development

The business season is picking up, and the mobile app market is humming at a higher pitch again. We are getting a lot of startup app idea inquiries that repeat the three following questions. A lot of them are not good candidates to be taken by our team, so we figured perhaps it was a good idea to answer them here:

The NDA for ideas

We are asked:

We have an app idea but you have to sign an NDA before we can share it with you.

Some even claim that their “lawyer” advised them to have NDAs signed. We have ideas pitched to us every day. They add up to 10-15 a week, over 600 a year. Do you think it is a good idea that we sign 600 NDAs every year? What if one of them goes wrong? How do you know that we haven’t already signed an NDA with someone whose project has similar aspects to yours? Did you know that NDAs do not protect your idea?

That said, we do sign NDAs for legitimate business cases. For example, when you share your client list, data, or proprietary source code. We even have a clause in our contract that obligates both parties to protect each other’s private business information.

But we don’t sign NDAs for ideas because it interferes with our business operations. Because it doesn’t work and it can potentially harm us.

Our Advice? Let go of your desire to hide and protect your idea. You have nothing unless you validate that idea which often requires sharing it with at least 10-100 people. Executing an idea successfully is hard; most people aren’t prepared to take on the challenge. If another company can easily copy your idea, then your idea wasn’t viable enough to begin with. In that case, start brainstorming again.

Time and cost estimates

We frequently get emails that provide a long list of features for a Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat clone for a specific market niche. How much do they cost?

Here is our estimate. It costs you all the time and money until you make or break it. Of course, we can build and launch a 1.0 release for you, but that is not the same as releasing a successful app. You must acquire users, observe their behaviours, collect data, and constantly revise your product and underlying infrastructure monthly. Sure, we have helped early-stage startups launch their first release, but they promised to put together their own development team and take over the project. Many successful apps go through 30 to 60 revisions before they hit it big or are acquired by another company. There is no easy way to get there; very few people make it. You can’t accelerate that process by throwing money at an app development agency.

Our advice? Find a co-founder and money. It isn’t as easy as it sounds, but nobody said startups were effortless. Be prepared to solve problems under extreme uncertainty; the answers you find may give you the unfair advantage you need in the market.

How to Startup?

The answer cannot be summarized in one paragraph. Entrepreneurship is not for everybody, but we like to think that it can be taught and learned, and some people learn to make the best of it. If you think that you are an entrepreneur at heart, start with the following resources:

  1. read The Art of Start by Guy Kawasaki
  2. read The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steven Blank
  3. read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  4. join a Lean Entrepreneurship Program or Launch 101 Program (yes, we love LaunchAcademy in Vancouver)
  5. join a local startup incubator.

The last three links go to LaunchAcademy in Vancouver, which we think is one of the best startup incubators in Vancouver. If you don’t live here, search for the closest startup incubator. If that didn’t work out, look for a shared workspace. Have a successful journey!