Launching a Tech Startup Without Technology

(Forbes Contributor; Andrew Weinreich) – As a startup founder, is it possible to launch a technology business without building technology first? The overwhelming majority of companies launch an app or web experience that misses the mark upon launch. The companies that reach success iterate their ways there, usually over a long period of time and at great expense.

If you can validate your user experience before writing a line of code, you will save a lot of money and be much more likely to make your first product launch successful.

I’m often asked: what’s the very first thing I should do while building my business? Should I wireframe the product and get an MVP built as soon as possible? Or is there another way to demonstrate traction? Consider these two companies that had very different approaches to figuring out what to build first in order to prove their business propositions.

Building Technology First

The first idea was for a fascinating new type of educational platform where there were distributed teachers, lots of students and an application that supported one-to-one instruction and one-to-many instruction. There was a desktop application, downloadable apps and a mobile website. You can imagine the sophistication that was reflected in wireframes and specification documents. This founder had also put together an impressive development team.

Building Community First

The second company is called Dreamers // Doers, a networking site for women entrepreneurs. This founder similarly had very elaborate ideas about the technology she wanted to build to support a vibrant community on the desktop and through downloadable apps. But instead of writing a single line of code, she built a Facebook group and put together a very vibrant community of 2,000 women, with a wait-list almost equal in size.

How Can You Create The Ideal User Experience?

So we have these two different approaches: does technology or community come first? Before we answer that, it might help to answer another question: what can you do to build the ideal user experience? What is the user flow like? Where are the buttons laid out?

For services that require a community of users, what will the community members be using? What experiences are they having? Are they using the service to network? Are they using it to plan events? If you can see what features people are using first, is there an opportunity to build around the usage that already exists?

Save Time And Money Building The Right Product

If you have the opportunity to build a community first, you should. Why? Because you’re likely to both save money and time. When you build a technology product, the odds are overwhelming that it won’t work, that you’ll launch something and you’ll have to iterate again and again, each time throwing out what doesn’t work and keeping what does.

But if you have one of those businesses where you can interact with users ahead of time using a low-technology solution, you should see what works, see what they like, see how they interact and then build against that. You’re obviously going to save a huge amount of money in the build, and even more important than the money, you’ll save a lot of time.

Andrew Weinreich is a serial entrepreneur based in NYC, the founder of 7 startups with 4 exits. He runs Andrew’s Roadmaps, a premiere boot camp for startup founders.

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