After almost an hour searching for their car in the shopping mall parking garage, Nandi and Mandy got a brainwave: Why isn’t there a Find-my-Car app? Why don’t we write it? Thousands of people who would thank us for it.
Nandi had been teaching herself to code on codecademy and appinventor and believed she could whip up something in a few days. Mandy had just read Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup and she had a different idea.
Nandi first decided which mobile platforms she would develop her app for: in South Africa, Apple iOS and Android appear to be the most popular.
Then she worked out the storyboard: how each interaction flowed to the next. She had to figure out how her app would interface with the vehicle. Most insured cars have a tracking device. She found out how each type sends and receives signals.
While she was writing the code for the app, Nandi also developed a flashy website to market it, with download and support pages. A graphic designer designed a glossy brochure. And her accountant drew up a detailed business plan. She was so excited, this app was going to put them on the map.
The process was getting tricky because the phone would have to communicate with the tracking device so the app had to be approved by ICASA. Then there was the unexpected technical problem of getting a good signal in a multi-level or underground garage.
Finally, after many late nights and much frustration, Nandi had a working model. Everyone she demo’d it to thought it was great. Excitedly, she approached a big vehicle finance company to advertise on the app but they said that budget had been allocated until next year. As did the next one.
She uploaded the app on iTunes and Google Play (where she saw that there were already several similar apps) but no one downloaded it. Fed up, Nandi gave up the whole idea.
Mandy remembered what she had learned about lean startups: having a great business idea doesn’t necessarily mean that the business model will work. She decided to see if the idea is likely to be a success by testing it on Strategyzer’s Business Model Canvas.
Customers are important because you depend on them to buy your product. Mandy found out what type of smart phone apps motorists like to use. Is this app something they might find very useful?
She read up about the tech developments and economic forces that might affect the success of their idea. And she did an internet search to find out if anyone else already had a find-my-car product on the market.
Next Mandy went to the real world to test what she had learned with real people. She asked everyone she knew if they would use her app. She asked travel related business if they would pay to advertise on her app or include it in offerings that they give their customers.
What Mandy found out disappointed her: there are many free find-my-car apps but people couldn’t be bothered to download and use them. Something interesting that she found out was the none of the apps use the tracking device to locate your car.
This discovery allowed Mandy to ‘pivot’ her idea and suddenly the tracking and insurance companies all wanted to sponsor her app; they referred to her great idea as a ‘value proposition’.
first published in SME South Africa
Mandy met Nandi for coffee, cheering her up by reminding her that Ignitor startup guru, Paul Smith’s secret is: “Successful startups get customer feedback, improve the product continuously and increase resources to deliver a great product.”
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