The Ins and Outs of Startups & Custom Software

So you’ve decided it’s time to finally pull the trigger and launch a company to implement your great idea to change the world. But you’re stuck trying to decide if a custom software build is worth it for your burgeoning company. 

We’ve worked with countless companies in this same place. It can be hard to decide whether creating custom software right out of the gate is a worthwhile investment or if you should wait a while before making that investment. 

To help make that decision just a little bit easier, we’ve written this a primer for what to think about as a startup looking to launch a new, custom software product.

Why choose to create custom software off the bat for your startup?

As much as we love to build custom software for clients, the truth is, it’s not always a good idea to build custom software right out of the gate. Sometimes it is better to test out some less ideal tools in order to learn more about what you need and how to optimize your software before investing in creating your own. However, there are situations when building custom software is a good investment for a startup.

Your business revolved around a proprietary product.

The first is if you are wanting to develop a proprietary product. Let’s look at Uber, for example. Uber would have had a hard time launching into the market using off the shelf software. Their entire business model and the logistics of their operations revolve around their app.

If a large part of your service or product includes a direct digital experience for your customer, then starting with custom software is probably a good investment.

One of our clients, Grayce, delivers expert consulting for those that are primary caregivers for someone. While they could provide this service without an app, the app is a big part of how they communicate and guide their clients. The app also provides value for their customers beyond the consulting services allowing them to store important information such as medications, allergies, legal information in the app, not to mention the convenience of it.

There isn’t an off-the-shelf solution.

If, after you’ve done extensive market research, you cannot find an out-of-the-box product that meets your needs, a custom software solution could be just the thing.

We see this a lot when a company has a very unique process of delivering their service. For example, one of our clients is a law firm that has optimized the way they track cases in order to better serve their clients. General off the shelf project tracking tools aren’t custom enough to support their operations.

To gain a competitive advantage.

Finally, a custom software solution will set your startup apart from the competition. The startup world can be pretty cutthroat and being successful requires setting yourself apart from your competition. Having a proprietary piece of technology could be the thing to do just that.

How do you decide what to prioritize on your custom software?

One of the most overwhelming parts of building software is deciding how to prioritize all of the features that you want to include. You have 10,000 ideas of what you really want your product to do and be. We believe that the most important aspect of new software is getting something in the hands of users as soon as possible, and that requires whittling down to the essential features that will begin to provide the impact your business and/or customers need.

It’s important to figure out what is your MVP (Minimal Viable Product). An MVP is typically defined as a version of the software that includes enough features to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future product development. One of the questions we ask that helps you focus on what is really important is “If everything you have in phase 1 was complete except for this feature, would you hold off launching your app?” If the answer is yes, it belongs in phase one. If the answer is no, then it is a phase two or beyond feature.

Key advice for startup founders making custom software decisions

As our client Kassidee Kipp, cofounder of Grayce, likes to say: “Be comfortable being lean.”

What does that mean in the context of software?

“Things can quickly snowball into complexity. I think that every software decision should be made with the mindset of ‘what’s the least I can do to get this out there and then test it,” says Kipp.

There can be a tension between wanting to get it right and wanting to get it out the door, but it’s up to you as a business owner and startup founder to figure out where that line is for you. 

No matter what, be ruthless in your leanness!

Ready to start on your own piece of custom software? Schedule a free consultation to learn more!

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