Top Software Development Mistakes That Kill Startups. Part 1
Wonderful ideas that turn into startups succeed quickly and grow into mature well-established businesses. Take Twitter, Instagram, and GitHub for example. Sometimes, it’s just enough to have a great idea to find investments and target users. Sometimes, it’s not. In fact, often first-time-CEOs are completely committed to their vision and can’t see the painful truth.
For startups, it’s especially important to find the audience that lacks something this product or service can give them. Not always a startup meets the user, and there are a bunch of reasons for that. However, it doesn’t mean all ideas are doomed, it just means that startups are fragile ventures and their chiefs have to be a bit more careful at decision-making. Let’s take a look at the most common mistakes that can kill a startup.
Mistake #1 — Premature project scaling
As I said, startups are fragile. Not all of them, but most of them. No matter how much initial capital there is to build the service, it’s always painful to lose the budget because of something that could not happen at all. I am talking about premature scaling now.
Let’s look at the potential issues closer. Firstly, competition is huge these days. There are thousands of mobile and desktop applications that solve various problems of different audiences. Thanks to this, it gets harder and harder to come up with something that will blow the market. However, let’s take Uber for example. Not so long ago we had to go outside in order to hail a cab, but Uber completely changed the way we take our rides nowadays. When you are the first with such a brilliant idea on the market, you have all the chances to succeed. Unfortunately, lots of startups fail because of poor market analysis. Chiefs often hire engineers and start to develop an application or software without any proof of its product/market fit.
Secondly, it’s important to scale the product realistically. Startups usually have limited budgets and this is not a problem if the owner understands, accepts, and is ready to deal with all possible budget-related risks. Estimating too big Return on Investment (ROI) while the development hasn’t even started yet, will most likely lead to a startup’s death. Making a product for large scale when the business is still small may lead to the risk of building something that no one needs.
Let’s take a look at Ruby on Rails, the framework with huge possibilities that was built specifically for web development and with a big hope to become the major all-purpose web solution in the world. Depending on SQL databases, Rails demanded engineers build monoliths. And then NoSQL databases happened. Engineers realized huge capabilities of Cassandra and MongoDB, specifically their near-infinite scalability. And then microservices happened, which meant SQL databases were no longer a primary choice for data storage. Ruby on Rails ended up being called an outdated framework that is no fit for web development these days for it’s too slow. This is what may happen to any business as a result of unrealistic estimation.
Each startup owner has to thoroughly examine the market in terms of product/market fit. The possible ways to achieve success and avoid risks are:
- checking whether there are competitors with a similar product or service and defining whether the product is really demanded on the chosen market
- estimating the budget for each stage of product development
- finding potential ways to popularize the product in the future
- developing a minimum viable product (MVP) for smaller scale
- getting first feedback and analyzing the success of the initial idea
- making all essential changes and improvements
- building for larger scale if needed
Under the pressure of tight budget and deadlines, there’s a chance to get into trouble called technical debt. To avoid it — hire only a couple of engineers but with proven expertise. Don’t put too many feature requirements on the initial development stages, and don’t expect your team to constantly iterate like robots. Startups are meant to be moving in small steps.
One of the best ways to achieve success for a startup is to develop an MVP before you give your product a real go. MVP is a lighter and less feature-packed version of a product that allows your startup to get user feedback and decide upon further improvements.
Another great way to develop software for a startup is microservices architecture. It is the type of software architecture which allows engineers to build each service as a separate, independent block. The key advantage of microservices is that several engineers can work on the project simultaneously without intrusions and failures because each of them can code their own service. Microservices are also great for startups because they allow to add new features easier, with less fear for breakdowns, and without having to review all the code for inconsistency. All that’s needed to add new functionality — is to create another service and tie it with the core. You can read about more advantages of microservices over monoliths here.
Mistake #2 — Using the wrong technology
Don’t be deceived and tempted by emerging technologies. Startups often choose the latest technology for development, because they don’t think much about the future. What is needed for a startup now — is to quickly code an application that works fast and is easy to use.
Experienced engineers can work with anything you ask them to work with. Even if the framework you’d like to use for your new shiny project is released just yesterday, a well-skilled programmer can learn how to work with it in just a couple of hours. The problem here is that not all solutions fit your idea.
“How the choice of technology can kill a startup?” — you’ll ask. Easy. Startups build for small scale. All you most likely have at such early terms is a couple of savvy engineers and marketers. But if your startup gains momentum in the near future, you’ll need to expand the team. New, untested technology is usually prone to failures when it comes to large-scale software development. It’s harder to find experts in Flutter than to find Senior React developers who can improve your service.
The number of people using your service will also grow. If you use untested technology for software development, there’s a risk that at some point the loads will be too big to handle. In case of breakdowns, no one will figure out what to do because it happened for the first time in the lives of even experienced programmers.
If you insist on using the latest technology, be ready to face challenges when it comes to project budgeting and timing. Engineers may need more time than you expect and may ask to pay them much more for the use of something they never used before. It’s a risk for everyone because the desired result — is a high-quality product, and this goal is easier to achieve through well-tested, reliable technology.
Startup owners are not always capable of choosing appropriate technology by themselves. They usually turn to their engineers for advice. However, engineers may choose tools they are comfortable working with, and these tools are not always the best choice for your product. The advice here would be to thoroughly research the market and find startups that are at least somehow similar to what you’re planning to create. If possible, find out what technologies they used and then ask an experienced engineer whether this would work for you.
Another way of picking the best technology for your product — is IT consulting. IT consulting is a great way of diving deeper into software development processes for those who don’t have their own team of engineers, and who are only thinking of building something. You don’t have to be technically savvy. All you need is to apply to a company-vendor of software development services with a request for consulting. Their experts will analyze the market and help you to choose the best technology. Most of the time, companies like this can also build software for you on demand.
There are many more problems that are capable of killing startups, but remember that any problem has a solution. Don’t plan too far, remember about premature scaling. Stay confident in your ideas, don’t acquiesce to someone, whose choices can badly affect the result of your hard work. Remember that no matter how big your team is, or how much money you have, there are still lots of possibilities for startups in terms of technology. If your idea is brilliant, nothing can stop you on the way to success.
Read the second part here: