Over the last two months, I have been working on a new project called TechShare while I’ve been working at CoshX Labs. TechShare is a marketplace for people to borrow and lend technical devices and gadgets, and I believe it will become a great resource for people to bootstrap their product development, and will become a great way to introduce new technologies to the greater good. This post is here to give advice on how to build a service and/or product based on what I’ve learned developing on TechShare so far.
1: Identify Pain Points / Opportunities
As you can see from the rest of my blog, you can see that I’ve worked on many projects and on many ideas, and I have so many ideas that I haven’t even started on working on yet. So why am I working on TechShare? Simply, it’s because the community needs a service that TechShare will provide. Back when I was working with hcMedia, a media group highlighting entrepreneurs and projects in the technical field in Charlottesville, our first obstacle to overcome was to get the equipment needed to film our interviews. There were a couple of options available in the market, but the cameras and mics we needed for the production value we wanted would have required us to spend at least a couple grand. Instead, hcMedia recruited talented photographers that already owned some of the equipment needed, and hcMedia also struck deals with a couple of groups at UVa in order to get more equipment. hcMedia was able to eliminate it’s start up cost by utilizing their network to get access to devices that they could not afford to buy at market price. What TechShare can do is provide an even bigger and wider network that entrepreneurs and developers didn’t have before so that they can easily get devices to save both time and money.
2: Build Iteratively
I have been a huge advocate of the development method I like to call the Minecraft Launch. That is, instead of building your product to perfection and then throwing a huge launch event, you build the most barebone product possible and release it at early as possible. The advantage with the later model is that you can collect feedback as early as possible from users, and then build on top of the foundation that you have already got based off of the feedback you got. Minecraft used this model to get hundred of thousands of users to play the alpha and beta version, and used their input to expand the game, such as adding magic, horses, and more diverse environments. I used this model to build the current iteration of TechShare, although it is much easier said than done to follow this model. If it wasn’t for Chielo, one of my co-workers, I would have waited much later to release this app, even though TechShare is feature complete right now. If you are building a product or a service, find out what is the minimum viable product and build that. The last thing you want to do is build for years, launch that product, and then find out it’s not what your consumers are looking for.
When I first started building TechShare, I thought the easiest part would be the marketing. If there is one thing I could do would be to hire someone to do the marketing for me, partly because it’s a bit harder than I thought it would be, but mostly because it is just much more time consuming than I thought. Cassandra, CoshX’s project manager, have always said that people have to hear about a product or service at least 7 times before they will consider using it. One mistake I have made while building TechShare was not building an online presence. One idea that I had to promote TechShare was to post projects or products that people were working on so that people would get excited to work on their own ideas and visit TechShare to see how TechShare could help. The problem was that I had to find stories that I could post or tweet about, and that took some time to do. I was very sporadic with my posts, and therefor could not build an online presence. If I knew what I know now, I would have worked harder on being more consistent with my posts, or I would have somebody try to take care of the marketing side for me while I continue building the product.
4: Give / Sell
If I don’t have an online presence, how do I know that people are going to use and like TechShare? The answer is simple, the few people that have used TechShare have been able to work on really cool projects that they would never have been able to do at the time. Over this summer, this cool guy and I took this Probability class at UVa while also working at our respective jobs at the same time. One day, he noticed that I was wearing the awesome Pebble SmartWatch, and he went on and on about how cool it is to extend tech functionality to the wrist. To my surprise, when I told him that a CS professor from UVa was handing them out to students for free and that he should get one, he declined. Convinced that he could definitely use one due to his enthusiasm, I talked to the professor to see if I could get a couple of extra Pebble’s because even though the guy was reluctant to get one from the professor, he might not be as anxious to get one from me. The next day in class, I straight up gave him a Pebble SmartWatch, without anything in turn except for that he should go thank the professor for giving out the Pebble’s. The guy not only thanked the professor, but was able to get Pebbles for the rest of his team so that they could implement the watches to their robot project. The act of giving ended up making two people very happy, and introduced Pebble to at least three other people. The moral of the story is that sometimes, you might have to go out of your way to get people to use your service, often in unique and creative ways.
I have had so much fun building and developing TechShare, and I really hope it is as rewarding for you as it has for me! Please give me a holler if you have any questions or concerns or just want to discuss the future of technology!