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How to: Prototyping your App Idea

You’ve got an idea for an app and you see the insane potential for it – it’s an X-million dollar industry, everyone needs it, it isn’t in the market yet, and you can’t wait to start talking about it and selling it. ( read Do I have a Great Business Idea or Great Startup Idea, Your Business Idea is Worthless)

BUT – you don’t have the tech background to build this as yet. You’d like to have it magically built and ready to use and then you can get started with the marketing bit. (read To Build or Sell Which Comes First, Why Entrepreneurs need to Get Customers First )

All you need is a tech person willing to partner with you for it. Right. So, let’s get to the point. In all likelihood you aren’t going to find a tech co-founder willing to join your business, unless they’re either:

  1. Under-experienced, OR
  2. They believe in the same idea as you

If you’re lucky enough to find the latter, you’ve got to convince them you have the business acumen to match their tech skills.

So bottom line: you have got to invest your energy in the right direction as opposed to convincing people to partner with you and waiting for the magic to happen. Go out and make the magic happen yourself.

I’m going to do a brief overview of prototyping your app idea here and then we shall get to the specifics in the coming weeks.

Few points I’d like to etch in your mindset are:

  1. You need to get to market ASAP
  2. Focus your energy on the marketing front, and get creative on the platform
  3. You don’t need a fully functioning platform to go to market
  4. For the best results do shit yourself, and you can make it happen

This post isn’t for core technology products that require a AI / ML engine and all that will disrupt the world. This post is entirely geared towards people who want to get started on a business idea but don’t know how to build it or move from Idea to Execution phase. Consider this an “in-between” phase, the testing phase.

Right, so let’s get down to it.

how do you go about prototyping your app idea? We’ll do it by way of an example. Let’s say, you’d like to build a platform to connect Pet Sitters with Pet Owners. You know there’s pet sitters everywhere, and there’s pet walkers everywhere.

The current way of finding each other is through Word of Mouth : “Hey Jess, what’s the name of your friend who watched Dex when you were travelling last year”.

“Ah, his name is Tom. I’ve lost his contact number so I have no way of reaching out to him now, but I’m sure if you post on Facebook you’ll find another recommendation”.

So this product idea – matching pet sitters to pet owners. You see the potential and you can visualize the perfect website for this – it’ll be green, have a Tinder-like interface, and happy families on it – and even have a Instagram feed with cute pictures of pets showing up every day.

How do you take this from an idea to execution?

You prototype. Over a weekend.

Yes, that’s right – you put yourself on a deadline. The best kind of work happens when you focus your entire energy onto something, and focus on the core parts alone.

How would a prototype for a matchmaking service look like?

Off the top of my head, I have a few ideas:

  1. A landing page to generate leads
  2. A Facebook group / page
  3. Handing out flyers on the subway
  4. A dial-in phone number

Essentially, the 2 pillars of such a business are data and branding.

You have to focus your energy on collecting the data, and on building up the brand. Irrespective of a platform. The platform can come later – technology has to pay for itself and should not be part of your capital / seed money.

How do you collect the data? Manually. At the start you’d be lucky if you had more than a dozen signups a day on your website anyways – why not do this bit manually?

Break out of the mentality that you need a fully functional product to go to market with – and you’ll get the validation and confidence quicker.

You need to get to the mindset that everything has to be manual until it is tested and verified that it can be automated. After all, you can’t really automate something until you have done it a dozen times over, manually.

I’m going to cover further details on how to do this “manual” testing and the next stages of Prototyping your app idea in future blog posts, so do watch this space for more.


About the Author

Rashmi Bachani - TorontoStarts blogger

Rashmi Bachani
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Rashmi has been on the founding team of a few startups and she knows what the life’s like. She has mostly been into tech – Web Development, and some bits of marketing. Rashmi likes to focus her energy on prototyping & testing your business idea – before getting into the app building phase. Essentially, at the start, you need the confidence to know this business will work and you can invest your money (and time) into it.

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