Building a product in the most effective and efficient way is imperative at the pre-seed stage level because of the financial, human and timing constraints and the challenges getting to market are immense.
As a software engineer, the majority of my time covers a number of activities such as scoping development projects, building and testing user-driven solutions.
In this post, I will go through the prototyping fundamentals that are critical to creating great products and services.
Empathise with Your User
When trying to solve a technical problem, you must first and foremost understand your user. Try to use qualitative and quantitative methods to gain user insights.
Go out of the office, sit down with your user and listen. Interviews/surveys are practical tools for gathering qualitative user data.
You can also observe a user through doing a demo. The importance of this activity is to learn how a user interacts with your product. This can reveal further questions and product ideas that make up the product release.
Make sure you collect large amount of qualitative data - use open-ended questions, as this leads to more in-depth answers.
Define Your User Group
After collecting data, you will need to define who is user group. Here are few ideas to help with this process:
- Think - what are their beliefs?
- Say - what is their language?
- Feel - what is their emotional state?
- Do - what is their job/hobbies?
You will be able to observe user behavioural patterns that form pain points which your product should aim to solve.
Brainstorm For Ideas
Once you have defined common user problems, you should brainstorm as many solutions to solve the core problem.
At this stage, the goal is to create as many ideas as possible. It doesn’t matter how mad, expensive or hard it is to implement it. The more ideas, the better.
Create A Prototype
Aim to use readily available resources to bootstrap the solution into reality.
If you are building an app/web-based solution, sketch wireframes to see how your solution would work. You can use Invision to get things started.
If you are creating a service, use storyboarding to demonstrate the entire user experience.
Testing, Testing, Testing
Testing is the critical stage as it will determine whether you have created the right solution for your users.
At this stage keep it very simple, and it doesn’t need to be complicated.
If you’re creating an app/web-based solution app, use the wireframe you designed to navigate users. If you are offering a service, try to use roleplaying to guide users.
Gather feedback and use it to iterate towards a functioning product.
Following the above framework will not only lead to a working product, but it will give you insights into your target users which is critical to building products they love.
You have product roadmap but no one to build it out. So what should you do?
Finding the most highly skilled full stack developer might sound ideal but it is hard to pull off as a founder.
Well, if you want to build a high growth tech startup, you have to find someone to take ownership of this role. Without this person, you can’t create products that add value to people’s lives.
There are some critical points to keep in mind for recruiting a technical co-founder.
Look for a Different Skillset Compared to Yours
Taking on a technical co-founder is more than just having a developer on your team.
We advise you look for more of a creative partner of your product/service, someone who is going to bring more to table and owning your product roadmap. From there you can identify skills gaps within your team.
Try to look for cross-functional traits such as:
- A business analyst & developer.
- An engineer with product experience.
- A coder and a designer.
Your Values Must Be in Alignment
Remember when selecting a co-founder their has to be an alignment with their values and the startup’s value.
For example, dealing with product release delays or fundraising ups and downs can be challenging. You will need to have a co-founder to take ownership and be a partner in difficult times.
You can’t afford to have a co-founder that quickly loses interest and is not committed to building your startup.
Tolerating values misalignment is playing with fire.
Commitment, Commitment, Commitment
Creating a startup is easy but growing one is hard.
It takes a lot of commitment, drive and expertise to build great products that in turn scale great startups.
Therefore, you must know that your technical co-founder is committed as much as you are to building your startup.
This doesn’t mean working crazy hours but more a deep conviction that your co-founder is looking to scale the business.
Professionalism is A Must
Your co-founder must be organised, able to prioritise and meet deadlines. Necessary essential skills make a significant difference at the early stage of a company.
Other Skills can Pay the Bills
Being a proficient engineer is a part of the puzzle that makes up a great technical co-founder.
However, there are other skills/traits to look out for:
- Don’t rule out someone who didn’t graduate with a programming degree - previous coding experience highlights that the individual is capable of building products.
- Operating in a fast-paced environment - it’s key to pick a person who can thrive in a startup, as the early days involved a lot of fire-fighting while building your product.
- An adaptable problem solver - within the startup ecosystem, you should aim for your business to add value to customers and continuously innovate. Look out for engineers who are proactive in dealing with problems before they emerge.
- Hiring - you will need your technical co-founder to assist with building out your development team.
- Strong expertise/fluency in a specific programming language.
Grow Together. Learn Together. Co-Founders for Life.
Your co-founder shouldn’t be averse to learning and pick up new skills. Finding a person who can grow with the startup is critical to success.
You can uncover this during the recruitment process you can learn about how potential co-founders learn, their curiosity, commitment to improving their skills and what side projects they have done.
A founding team the grows together, learns together is more likely to be together to scale their startup.
Choose wisely out there.
Afrotech Fest took place 26th - 27th January at Rich Mix London.
The two-day technology festival for black people of African and Caribbean heritage featured panel discussions, workshops and art installations from startup founders, civil servants, developers, designers, artists, writers and many more.
As soon as you stepped into the venue, you felt welcomed. At home with long lost friends.
It was also encouraging to meet people outside of tech who were to learn more about the industry. A youth programme was also put on to inspire the next generation to think about creating technology. Plus the conference was incredibly inclusive for all.
Here are a few of the high quality panels and workshops.
YSYS Founder Series Panel featured Darren Tenkorang CEO of TRIM-IT, Urenna Okonkwo Founder of Cashmere, Product Manager Yommy Ojo and Startup Advisor Andy Ayim shared their journeys in tech, how companies can scale and the need for more sustainable businesses within the black community.
Eunice Baguma Ball from Africa Technology Business Network talk highlighted women are leading tech startups across several African countries.
Abi Mohamed, Tech Director at CGV detailed the need for more discussions around privacy rights and the rise of data broker companies.
Paris Petgrave from Rareseed Capital presented the need for more investment within the Afro/Caribbean community and demystified venture capital.
The underlying theme that struck me at Afrotech Fest was the need to create more intergenerational wealth and encourage more community support.
Doing so will aid in solving urgent issues within the Afro/Caribbean communities. Technology can help in addressing issues but without enough resources and community support startups and their products will not reach enough scale to benefit the community.
Afrotech Fest 2018 was a pivotal moment for the UK Tech ecosystem, an event for everyone to establish connections and for those who are not usually visible at tech conferences to be visible.
Congratulations to the Afrotech Fest team and volunteers for putting on such a fantastic conference.
Bring on next year!
Happy New Year!
As a founder, a new year brings more opportunities to grow your business but what about you as a founder?
To become the best version of yourself, you can consider getting a coach.
Having a coach that can guide you through your entrepreneurial journey is critical.
An idea, no matter how good, does not automatically equal a successful startup. It’s just a vision.
We always advise founders to use it as a blueprint, create a product roadmap around it, establish your goals and milestones to work towards. It all sounds easy but it can be hard to put into practice.
The phrase ‘I am a founder of a startup’ sounds very captivating because the idea of being your own boss is exciting and attractive.
So how do you increase the likelihood of success for your startup?
Firstly, you must have:
- Established that you’re solving a real problem in society.
- Created a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to solve the problem.
- Tested the MVP, acquired early users or customers and show signs of a high growth trajectory.
You still have long way to go but a coach can help you with:
- Providing actionable advice and give constructive feedback.
- Hold you accountable to goals and milestones.
- Avoid common entrepreneurial pitfalls.
- Understand your strengths and weakness.
Lastly, being coached isn’t a quick fix and you as the ‘founder’ and leader of your company - you have to do the work.
Dedicating time and effort into your own self-development will turn you into a better leader.
During the lifecycle of your company, the industry you operate in will likely change, new technologies will emerge and you will have to deal with the competition.
You are only going to win if you are learning and developing faster than your competition.
Working with a coach can be deemed expensive but it should be viewed as an investment. In the long-run, the rewards you gain will be significant.
P.S: We are currently open to advising new high growth startups run by passionate founders. If you believe (or you can refer a friend) you need help starting up, feel free to contact us.
The London Tech Inclusion hosted by Change Catalyst took place on 14th of December 2017 at Google Central (St. Giles) London.
The event created was to inform, promote and discuss inclusion within the tech industry.
A critical point repeated throughout the day was to promote minorities in a way that created an inclusive working environment.
The exclusive London event had a long list of incredible speakers sharing in discussions and truths about UK Tech.
RT Hon Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital, supported the tech inclusion movement and stated the agenda essential for the whole country.
He said the UK government is pushing to get more people into Tech via digital apprenticeships with the aim to increase diversity in tech.
Sara Shahvisi, Director of Programmes at Fearless Futures, highlighted the ‘symptoms' of the tech ecosystem as ‘not good’, shared a lot of insights and solutions to overcome the tech diversity problem.
Alex Fefegha, Lead Maker of Things at Comuzi, highlighted the problem of building AI building and the biases it will inherit.
His talk focused the talent pool building AI is predominately white and male, which leads to products that only cater to that one market.
Srin Madipalli, Product Manager at Airbnb, also spoke about his experiences cited accessibility problems when travelling led him to decide the best solution is using technology to travel accessible to everyone.
Another point that came up during the day was the need for culture and the structure of the workplace to make people feel empowered to speak up about any issue.
Amy Lynch, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at ThoughtWorks, shared the vital conservation about the progress that has come to past and there are still more objectives need to must be done.
Mark Martin, EdTech Expert and Team Leader at UKBlackTech, chaired the final panel discussion about the Tech Pipeline.
A key takeaway from the debate was without a more diverse and inclusive pipeline, a more diverse and inclusive tech ecosystem will be nothing but a pipedream.
This event exceeded all expectations, all of us at CGV are excited to see future developments in the upcoming years.
Thanks for reading,
Abi from CGV
Why are some founders scared to approach equity?
As we are kicking things off at Community Growth Ventures (CGV), we are having more conversations with founders - reach out to us if you want to grow your company.
Quite a few times discussions about recruitment have led to equity.
Quite a few times founders have expressed their dismay that they have to split equity to get co-founders and critical employees.
Yes owning a 100% of your company is cool. You call the shots, get the fancy CEO title and you are the boss.
But building a company, at the early stage, with barely any revenue and few customers is hard.
It is bloody hard. Even Elon Musk finds it hard.
Unless you have the money to pay for contractors/outsource key functions, you have to recruit people to fill these roles.
How do you do that?
Simple. By splitting equity with co-founders and employees.
It is hard recruiting talented people, let alone in a competitive city like London.
Not everyone is motivated by money, some people want to build something from the ground up and be a key player in a company.
Since money is low, your equity has to be in play.
Think about it, would you leave your corporate job to go work for at an early stage cash-strapped startup, where the founder owns 100% and is not open to sharing equity?
No you wouldn’t, that makes no sense.
Owning 100% of nothing sounds cool on paper but when you have the opportunity to own 20% - 60% of a growing revenue-generating company. It is pretty obvious which option makes sense.
Don’t let your ego cloud your judgement, think about putting equity in play to acquire a team that can help grow your company.
The UK Black Business Show (UKBBS) took place on October 14th 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Central London.
In the words of the team behind the event, UKBBS was created to “created to inspire and connect black business owners and professionals working in various industries.”
Boy did it deliver.
The exhibition room was packed with companies striving to make a difference in their communities, speakers shared honest stories of starting and growing their businesses, plus people made connections that could lead to future collaborations or business partnerships.
The first session was run by the Solomon Smith and Dr. Mahamed Hashi from Brixton Soup Kitchen, they talked about their story of starting the charity, how they leveraged local newspapers to obtain national press and detailed how many lives they impacted with their excellent work.
He also talked about the need to self-fund your ideas. One key takeaway was consistency is critical to building a loyal fan base on YouTube.
Damian Melville from Melville & Daughters Funeral Directors had a fascinating talk. Not often you get to learn about the funeral business.
He explained why more empathy is needed in the funeral business as his competitors focus too much on the bottom line, plus the need for more black ownership.
Kojo Amin and Annika Allen from The Colour Network outlined the Future of Black British Entertainment, and they expressed the need for better support for our talent in the UK.
William Adoasi from Vitae London told his story about quitting his well-paid job to start a watch company that with each purchase pays for a child’s school uniform in South Africa, enabling the children to go to school and get an education.
He said having the patience to plan an equity crowdfunding campaign gives you the best chance of success, as well as building an email list before launching so that you can close more of your crowdfund raise a lot sooner.
Hanna Akintoye from UK Black Owned (UKBOB) deep dived into the necessity of group economics in the black community, putting out your ideas how she and her co-founder created a directory of over 700 UK Black-owned businesses.
Massive congrats to the team behind UKBBS, they outdid themselves with the event.
I can’t wait for next year’s event to see more businesses exhibiting, more speakers and forge new relationships with fellow black business owners and professionals.
Emmanuel hit me up last week with an article from the Business Insider, “The 100 coolest people in UK tech”, and asked me what is wrong with this list.
A few seconds scrolling down and it dawned on me relatively exactly what was wrong with the list - there was not an obvious black face to be seen anywhere.
There are no obvious quantitative metrics by which to measure coolness, such is the subjective nature of these lists right. But it still frustrates me that people that look like myself continue to be overlooked and underrepresented.
Yes, I did take time to grow through the list and tally up some simple diversity stats.
Yes, this is really what I do in my spare time.
The list sums to 113 but it counts a group of people as one position on the list.
As you can see the list is 81% white and 77% male, which, sad to say, is to be expected, but there is no black representation on the list whatsoever.
Last year it was marginally better there were an almighty and incredulous amount of black people on the “cool” list.
How many you ask? Well… just two black women. Julie Adenuga at No.3 and Legacy Russell at No.92
There are more black people than ever (both men and women) now involved in the tech ecosystem.
We need more representation, and we need to be the drivers for this. If we leave it to lists this one published on Business Insider, we will always be asking “where are the people that look like us.”
Instead of expressing my disappointment repeatedly, we need to take this as a time to celebrate platforms that celebrate other underrepresented groups and us.
- BBB Awards
- Creative Hustle
- Goal Digger
- Pepper Your Talk
- Dream Nation
- Hustle Crew
- BAME in Games
- The Other Box
Let us know your thoughts about the list and showcasing underrepresented groups in the UK tech ecosystem.
Today we are officially kicking off Community Growth Ventures (CGV).
Currently, there is two of us and we are in the process of setting up everything up, we’re excited to document the process of building an angel investment fund from the ground up.
So you’re probably wondering, who the hell are these guys and what is CGV.
Who Are We?
Denzel has experience building business across numerous sectors, his operations and finance expertise has made an impact at several companies.
Emmanuel is a growth marketer, he has the knowledge and marketing skills that has helped startups and SMEs achieve sustainable growth.
Why We Started CGV?
Black businesses and founders face disproportionate challenges in growing and scaling businesses such as access to capital, strong networks, and mentorship.
We want to be a part of the solution to these issues. So the plan is to advise, invest, help black businesses and founders to scale.
We want to be a part of the solution to these issues. So the plan is to advise, invest, help black businesses and founders to scale.
The reason why this is necessary is pretty simple. Financial freedom for our community can be facilitated with an abundance of resources — our community is lacking the resources to ensure prosperity and opportunities for future generations.
With the opportunities overflowing in the tech sector, it only makes sense for us to shift the tide our way.
We want to create an open dialogue around solving economic issues in our community, as well as provide a window into our thinking at CGV, but most importantly, make what we are trying to do accessible to those that want to do the same.
Let’s Work Together
We are looking for mentors ourselves, that would be great! And, we are recruiting for a female black tech partner (if you know anyone, please let us know).
We are also open to working with others who are solving the previously mentioned issues.
The plan is to get a small team in place as we kick things off. Be sure to follow as we will be sharing updates as we push forward.
Denzel & Emmanuel from CGV