The Panel discussion hosted by Aspire Systems on “Bootstrapping a Technology start-up” evoked a very good response from software startups across the globe and a few consultants/ecosystem partners as well. We had 3 eminent panelists participating (Prakash Narayan, co-founder and CTO of MiCello; Ted Finch, Owner and CEO of Chanimal and R S Ramkumar, Managing Director and founder of MangoDVM) and Bhoovarahan Thirumalai, Board member and co-founder of Aspire Systems, moderated the panel.
It was an interesting & lively session – we had four broad themes, around which each of the panelists shared their views.
Perfect Vs Quick and Dirty Product
The first theme was on the conundrum of getting a perfect product out Vs a quick and dirty product. One view was that if you’re an engineer, you want a perfect product but from a marketing perspective, you want to show something to your customers as soon as possible. As users are much more ready to give you feedback nowadays, you need to get your product to the market as soon as possible.
The importance of iterating early and iterating often was also stressed upon. Another good point brought up was the use of analytics – measuring how your customers are using your product, which part of your product they are using the most etc.
On the question of who is your first best customer – one of the panelists mentioned that if you are a startup, and if you have a customer, you should embrace that customer – whether it’s a marquee customer or someone (who may not be big) but believes in your product. The point was that when you do approach professional investors, they certainly want to know who believes in the product apart from you & it adds a lot of value to have a MoU with a company willing to use your product.
Another panelist was of the view that a customer who requests your product to be custom-built is your first best customer, as your product is paid for. While this product may not meet all the market needs, it could possibly meet 70% of the needs and can get you started.
Time, Budget and Scope
The question of where does one start when developing the product idea evoked different responses from each of the panelists. Prakash’s view was that it was a good thing to have some protection (read: patent) around your core idea and to use existing frameworks and tools to reduce the time-to-market. Making crucial decisions in terms of the trade-off between features and time/budget are also extremely important.