How to startup? Not by outsourcing

Cafe Milano Gastown

Business season is picking up and the mobile app market is humming at a higher pitch again. We are getting a lot of app idea inquiries that repeat the 3 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 everyday. They add up to 10-15 a week go well over 600 a year? Do you think it is a good idea that we sign 600 NDAs every year? What if one of them go 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 actually 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 normal business operation. Because it doesn’t actually 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 very hard and most people aren’t prepared to take on the challenge. If your idea can easily be copied by another company, 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, Snapchat clone for a specific market niche. How much do they cost?

Here is our estimate. It costs all the time and money you have until you make it or break it. Of course we can build and launch a 1.0 release for you, but that is not the same as launching a successful app. You need to acquire users, observe their behaviours, collect data, and make constant revisions to your product and underlying infrastructure every month. Sure we have helped early stage startups to launch their first release, but they promised us 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 get acquired by another company. There is no easy way to get there and 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 easy. Be prepared to solve problems under extreme uncertainty and the answers that you find may give you the unfair advantage that 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 entrepreneurship can be taught and learned and some people learn to make the best out of it. If you think that you are an entrepreneur at heart start with 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 3 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 in your vicinity. If that didn’t work out, look for a shared work space. Have a successful journey!