Now, more than ever, ditching the day job in favour of starting up your own biz is the way to go, especially when it comes to taking the tech route. There’s an app for every kind of person these days and if you’ve got a great idea that will make life easier, then bite the bullet and take the plunge. It’s not as difficult as you think if you’re smart about it. We’ve done the groundwork and come up with the basic musts for you to crush your start-app!
Most successful start-ups fill a void the founder was lacking in his or her life. What annoys you? What do you wish was easier or better? There’s always room for efficiency in this world and if you think you can do something better or make someone’s life easier, then Just. Do. It. as our friends at Nike would say.
Uber’s founder Garrett Camp came up with his genius idea when he rented a private driver with friends on New Year’s Eve for US$800 (roughly Dhs3,000). He wanted a cheaper way to get quality transportation and thought sharing could make it easier and gave birth to the billions-worth Uber Empire. “Most successful app founders fill a gap or void in the market they’ve noticed or experienced. That’s ground zero right there,” says Ayla Bajwa, founder of ampUz (a sustainability tech solution) and Executive Director of the UN Global Compact UAE Local Network.
Getting an idea and running with it ASAP is important in the start-up world, but if you rush into it without actually testing out whether what you think the market needs is actually a need, you risk wasting a ton of money and time on nada. “Focus groups are key,” says April Abboud, founder of technology start-up consultancy Be The Apple. She explains that you may start off with an idea that you think is everything but unless you run it by people, you won’t know what they’re looking for and will end up saving a ton of money by validating your idea.
Coming up with an idea and validating it is one thing, but executing it is a whole other ball game. One of the main reasons most start-ups fail is because of lack of planning and focus. The more you get out there and learn, the higher your chances are making informed decisions.
You don’t have to be a hard core coder to start an app. There are lots of people in the world who can and have done it. The work that goes into an app is what is crucial to its success.
“You don’t have to be an engineer or even a designer. Everything I have learned is through my own experience or with other designers and other engineers and having a strong grasp of what’s happening in the industry right now,” says Karen Poole, the co-creator of Steller – an app that allows you to make a virtual storybook with images and text.
If you’re completely lost and don’t like it, take a class in coding to learn the basics so you can make sense of the technical mumbo jumbo and be less intimidated. “One of the most important things when starting an app is to have a Chief Technology Officer or a really experienced tech consultant. Your app needs to have the right kind of coding to sustain its growth and evolution. If you’re not careful, the entire thing could implode with a wobbly code foundation,” says Bajwa.
Making the right kind of contacts is crucial to success. Simply working out of your accelerator or incubator’s offices can be a step in the right direction. You’ll meet likeminded entrepreneurs and learn information that you never knew before and be able to bounce ideas off of one another. Make sure you’re attending whatever start-up conferences are going on in your area as well. “Keep your eyes and ears open always. Meeting people who are in the same boat as you is key,” says Bajwa.
“Also, being an entrepreneur can be very lonely. It always helps to surround yourself with a likeminded support system with people going through the same challenges you are.”
Register and work out of accelerators and incubators alike In5, DTec, Dubai Future Accelerators, Dubai Start-up Hub and 1776 Dubai. Learn about what’s going on in the start-up world around you by joining groups like the Dubai Businesswoman Council and C3 (a mentorship program). Becoming a member is easy and the investment is well worth it as it opens you to a whole world of contacts that could benefit you. Sometimes it’s who you know more than what you know.
“The critical reason to have a co-founder is that investors are more likely to fund start-ups with multiple founders. No one wants to put all their eggs in one basket,” says Bajwa. Also, doing things with someone is much easier than doing it alone. Most people find it difficult to work solo.
Tackling something so large is a task that may be too tall when it’s just you. “Find someone who is as passionate about your idea as you are and who has skillsets that complement yours. If you’re not the networker, find someone who is for example so you can focus on your strengths more,” says Ayeshah Akhtar, founder of education-focused children’s activities app, Noodle, which will be launched in Q4 of 2018.
Being a perfectionist will not do you any favours when it comes to starting an app. Do a good job, yes, but don’t spend hours mulling over every detail. Chances are someone else is trying to do exactly the same thing you are and you don’t want them to beat you to it. “Time is the most important thing in the app world,” says Bajwa. “The faster you get your act together, the higher your chances of success. So get a move on!”