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  • Writer's pictureMariane Bekker

Building Your Startup's Initial Product: A Comprehensive Guide

Building the initial product for your startup involves several key steps to ensure you create a viable and valuable product that meets your target market's needs. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

Step 1: Validate Your Idea

Start by validating your startup idea. Research the market, identify your target audience, and determine if there's a genuine need for your product. Conduct surveys, interviews, and market research to gather insights.

Step 2: Define Your MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

An MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, is the simplest version of a product that contains only the essential features and functionalities required to solve a specific problem or meet a particular need for its target users. The purpose of an MVP is to quickly validate the concept, gather user feedback, and learn from real-world usage while minimizing development time and resources.

Defining an MVP involves identifying the core value proposition of your product and determining which features are necessary to deliver that value. Here's how to define an MVP:

1. Identify the Core Problem:

Clearly define the problem you're trying to solve for your target audience. Understand the pain points and needs that your product aims to address.

2. List Key Features:

Make a list of features that are crucial to solving the identified problem. Focus on the functionalities that directly contribute to delivering the core value of your product.

3. Prioritize Features:

Determine which features are absolutely essential for the initial version of your product. Prioritize features that provide the most value and directly address the primary pain points of your users.

4. Simplify and Trim:

Strip away any unnecessary or complex features that don't directly contribute to the core value proposition. Keep the MVP as lean and simple as possible.

5. Focus on User Experience:

While simplifying, ensure that the user experience remains smooth and intuitive. The MVP should be easy for users to understand and use.

6. Set Realistic Scope:

Keep in mind your development resources, time constraints, and budget. The MVP should be something you can develop and launch relatively quickly.

7. Create a Prototype or Mockup:

Develop wireframes, mockups, or prototypes to visualize how your MVP will look and function. This helps you communicate your vision to your team and stakeholders.

8. Validate with User Research:

Before finalizing your MVP's features, conduct user research or surveys to get feedback from your target audience. This will help you ensure that you're building something they truly need.

Examples of MVPs:

These examples illustrate how MVPs focus on delivering the core value proposition of a product with minimal features. Over time, these products evolved based on user feedback and market demand, eventually becoming the feature-rich platforms we know today.

Dropbox: Dropbox's MVP was a simple video demonstrating how the product would work. The video showcased the idea of easy file sharing and syncing across devices, even though the actual software wasn't fully developed yet.

Instagram: The initial version of Instagram was a photo-sharing app with basic features like uploading photos, applying filters, and sharing them with friends. The core value was focused on easy photo sharing and social engagement.

Zappos: Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer, started with an MVP that consisted of a basic website with pictures of shoes taken from local stores. When customers ordered shoes, the Zappos team would buy them from the stores and ship them, validating the demand before investing in a full inventory.

Step 3: Choose the Right Technology Stack

Selecting the ideal technology stack is pivotal in ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of your product development. Balancing product requirements and team expertise, factors like scalability, speed, and cost-effectiveness should guide your decision-making.

For a Web App:

You first need to select a front-end and back-end language. Here are a few recommendations:

Front-End: Opt for React, a widely used and responsive front-end library that enables the creation of fast and interactive user interfaces.

Back-End: Choose either Django (Python) or Node.

If your app will use a lot of data or have any type of AI component, opt for Django. It's a framework built on top of Python, the most used language to build AI apps.

If your app real-time interactions and high concurrency, then use Node, due to its event-driven, non-blocking architecture.

For a Mobile App:

You first need to choose whether you want to develop a native application or a cross-platform JavaScript application. This choice will influence your app's performance, development time, and user experience.

Native Apps:

Building native apps means building separate versions of your product for iOS and Android. Native apps offer a level of performance optimization and integration that aligns closely with each platform's capabilities.

This is the most expensive option, as you need to hire an engineer to build an iOS app and another one to build an Android app. If your app will be simple or you're building a prototype, consider starting with a cross-platform javascript application

For iOS, I recommend building an app with Swift/Objective-C. For Android, apps are usually built with Java/Koitlin.

Cross-Platform JavaScript Applications:

Cross-platform frameworks, such as React Native and Flutter, allow you to write a single codebase that runs on both iOS and Android platforms.

These frameworks leverage JavaScript and other web technologies to create apps that resemble native experiences.

The performance is usually not as great for as native apps, but the development time and budget are substantially less. This is your ideal option if your app is simple.

Step 4. Building the MVP

Once the technology stack is chosen, you're ready to build the core features of your MVP. Prioritize features based on their impact and importance, employing an agile approach for iterative development.

Building the initial product for your startup necessitates meticulous planning, thoughtful execution, and a blend of idea validation, MVP definition, technology stack selection, and iterative development. Embrace this guide as a compass, steering you toward creating a product that resonates with your target audience while setting the stage for your startup's growth and success.

Step 5. Release the MVP, Get User Feedback, and Iterate.

Once your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is ready, it's time to introduce it to the world. This marks the shift from internal development to external engagement. Launching the MVP to a limited audience opens the door to invaluable user feedback that guides your app's evolution. Pay close attention to user interactions, preferences, and pain points – their insights can uncover hidden features and areas for improvement that were not apparent during development.

User feedback fuels the iterative process of refining your app. Whether it's fixing bugs, enhancing performance, or adding features, continuous improvement based on user input ensures your app meets expectations and stays competitive. By involving users in shaping the app's journey, you not only enhance its quality but also foster a sense of community and loyalty. Remember, the MVP is just the beginning – an adaptable foundation for crafting an app that truly resonates with your audience.


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Mariane Bekker is a passionate advocate for women in tech, an angel investor, and the founder & CEO of Upward, a premier boutique recruitment agency connecting companies with exceptional diverse tech talent. With over a decade of experience building diverse engineering teams at leading startups, she’s navigated the intricacies of the startup landscape and understands the unique needs and aspirations of founders. Follow her LinkedIn and Twitter for insights, industry trends, and valuable resources about Startups, Tech, and Diversity.

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