Entrepreneurs often think of their startup as their “baby”. I think a better analogy would be an “egg”. It’s extremely fragile, concentrated, it contains all the DNA that will define the foundation of the future (grown-up) company and you don’t know what it will look like until it hatches.
How to Find Product Ideas
I don’t know if Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, came up with this statement or other partners from Y Combinator, but I heard it from him and never forgot it:
“Make something people want“Paul Graham, Y Combinator
What is also crucial to remember is that your founding team should be part of that user base.
I never heard of a product that was invented just because the inventor thought it would be a good product.
All great products start from a need, a problem to fix.
With Bytes Route, our new product, it all started from Advanced Installer. If you have any experience with software development you will know that packaging and deploying software is a complicated task. It takes time to learn the Windows Installer framework and most teams make the mistake of starting to build their installer way too late in their development cycle.
We tried inserting videos inside the app. This, I thought, would help users discover our hidden options and leverage the full power of the application. However, videos easily get outdated. This happens when we change the interface, move options, or simply expand existing functionality. It just wasn’t good enough.
We needed an easy way to define and publish onboarding guides inside the app, without writing code and completely decoupled from our release cycle, for maximum user coverage.
Now, wait a minute, this looks like an idea for a completely separate product. 😎
Remember, it must be a pain that your feeling which leads to building the product, not a crazy idea coming out of thin air.
If you haven’t noticed yet, Advanced Installer is a desktop application. Inspecting elements from its diversified GUI frameworks is much too complicated.
So, how can we get an MVP out to test, in the shortest time?
Time to pivot: Make it a web app and see if others find it useful too.
So pivoting we did. We drafted our plans for the desktop solution (we’ll come back to it, don’t you worry) and wrote the first prototype in about 3 days, during the “Saptamana Altfel” week.
You might be wondering what the heck is “Saptamana Altfel”? Well, it’s just the Romanian way of saying this is not your typical work week.
It is a week where all our colleagues grouped in teams to build new software products. It wasn’t a hackathon, we don’t like sleepless nights, cold pizza and caffeine overdose.
It was more of a week where everybody could work with a few colleagues on solving a problem that he/they had (not necessarily related to our current products), without any strings attached. Some of the projects were continued after this week, like Bytes Route, Clange Power Tools or bmb, and some of them were drafted. It was a fun and educating week which we’ll surely repeat.
Let’s Get Down to Coding
In the Advanced Installer team, most of our developers are experienced in Windows desktop apps, but we have a small web team too. We started with two of our senior web devs to work on extending the prototype built during the “Saptamana Altfel”. The idea was to iterate as fast as possible.
Can you guess what was the first problem we hit? Summer was just around the corner and both of our senior devs had already started preparing materials and interviewing interns for tutoring over the summer break.
We had the option to give them boring tasks to help them discover the basics of web development but we instead decided that growing future colleagues is more important than a quick launch (the benefits of intra-company bootstrapping) and went with the much fun option of throwing them directly in the startup trenches.
I know, if you want to iterate fast you NEVER take on interns in the team. Our context (having a stable product that brings in enough revenue – Advanced Installer) however allowed us to prioritize the people.
So now we have two seniors and two interns building a new product, that sounds like fun.
A few months later, with some breaks in between to work on Advanced Installer’s web infrastructure (after all, we couldn’t neglect our main revenue source), and now Bytes Route has hatched. It’s time to ask for your feedback and continue growing our baby. 😁
What is Bytes Route?
Bytes Route is an interactive virtual assistant that enables you to learn the web as you go. It can annotate any web page without writing code.
You can help your friends learn how to use the web or you can train your employees/customers on how to use your web app.
Everything you create with Bytes Route is available in our Stash and can be shared with other internet users for free or you can save your rtlets (that’s our name for the steps your create) as private (accessible only to your clients or employees).
Let’s build a better web together.