Blog

These posts are from real questions on Tech Eye events. The discussions already helped real founders fix real projects — and we hope they can fix yours.

Product Delivery to the App Store

Delivering for the web is easy. In a sense, websites are continuously released: from the moment a site is online and reachable on the internet, it’s more or less job done.

When it comes to releasing fresh iPhone apps, product managers have no such luck. Even distributing test versions of the app requires setting up a list of complicated things like development certificates and testing groups. If the app is the company’s first, the first step is to create and Apple Developer account, which takes some extra paperwork.

The good news is that a lot of those steps you’ll only ever need to do once. Even better, you can partition this work nicely: admins can get started on the paperwork while developers hack away.

Publishing a brand new app, on time, on a new account takes planning. But, as it’s often the case with project management, by thinking ahead the release date gets compressed.

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Managing Creative Work

An important skill strong founders have is the ability to manage people. This is much more than delegating tasks: founders need to encourage and help others to do their best work.

We often talk about how to improve this skill, but we always come to the same conclusion. The only real way to get better at management is to actually do it. To get better at working with people, you need to work with people. Give them tasks, then provide feedback and instructions to improve the product.

Creative projects are a good place to learn, because:

  1. They are actually difficult to give good feedback on, but you'll learn about your mistakes right away. Discussions often involve personal preferences and taste, and it’s hard give professional feedback that doesn’t feel personal to the receiver. If you can nail these conversations, that helps every other aspect of your life.
  2. There are plenty of low risk situations where you can practice. Look at Fiverr for inspiration, but you can find projects small or large right away. Anything goes, from designing a business card, to wedding invites, or just find someone to pimp up your next presentation. And of course, you can start head on with the big stuff: websites, apps, full-blown marketing campaigns.

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Breaking Down Monster Projects

A lot of uncertainty lingers around the start of a digital project: how much will it cost? How long does it take to deliver? Who is going to build it?

Large projects can span years, and some require flexibility to change specifications on the way. Flexibility can be a huge problem when the team has to work within a fixed cost structure. Project managers often have to give a cost estimate to the client, and the client will pay only that price once the work is delivered. If the project manager misjudged the size of the work at the outset, the team has to eat those costs.

The larger the project, the likelier it is that something unpredictable will come up that alters scope and features. The only thing scarier than a large project? Not having a plan to deliver it.

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Know Your Competition, Or Else

Startups are often a land grab, where the winner really takes it all. Being first to market can mean life or death when you build a global marketplace like Airbnb’s or Uber’s, because once someone signs up early adopters, the new entrants will have a much harder time to reach customers.

This is why it’s such a painful thing to learn about somebody else working on the same idea. Even worse, you usually find out about the other team from press releases: when they already released the product, or landed a massive investment. That cold, sinking feeling in the stomach is something many founders know all too well.

But, before you get caught up in jealously and become paralyzed by fear, look at the facts rationally. Competition is often not even a bad thing.

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Negotiating with freelancers

There’s a night and day difference between good freelancers and bad ones.

From the many freelancers you’ll ever work with, only a select few will be truly amazing. They are not only good at what they do, but also understand you and understand your projects. They fill in the gaps when something is missing from the job description.

You’ll be better at spotting talent as you get more experience in hiring, but it’s still rare to find someone great. So if you find someone you can work with, do hang on to that relationship and treat it as treasure. With each completed job and every delivered project, working together will be easier. Working with tested partners is more efficient and more fun.

Approach each negotiation with this in mind.

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Free Servers & Other Resources

Tech companies often offer services with generous free tiers, to entice new users. Free trials are good for them, because they can drive word of mouth sales, and marketing doesn't get much cheaper than word of mouth.

For us, startups it's also gold, because we can experiment with all the tools without having to pay big bucks. Often you can build production-ready product on entirely free platforms.

(This blog is running on those, for example.)

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Buying MVPs Instead of Building Them

A startup’s job is to reach product-market fit. Before having product-market fit, that’s really the only thing startups should focus on.

You don’t “focus on” building a great product, you don’t “focus on” getting customers, you don’t “focus on” changing the world. You focus on building a business. A defensible business is the only way to survive in the long term.

All the other things are a side effect. Startups build great products, because that helps building a great business.

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Managing Artificial Intelligence Projects

Ever so often, first time founders surprise us with their ambition. It’s only fair, artificial intelligence works well in pitches, so you can use it to get more attention from VCs. And with the advent of AI frameworks such as TensorFlow, it’s easier to use AI than it’s ever been. Here’s how to think about getting the execution right.

There are two important differences between artificial intelligence projects and “regular” tech ones:

  1. Most artificial intelligence projects you’d want to embark on are heavily front-loaded. A lot of thought and effort has to be put into the first iterations, and you’ll only get to see the result much later.
  2. Artificial intelligence projects mostly fall in the research & development category. You never really know how long the research part will take before you come up with anything to sell.

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Learning to Delegate

One of the most useful things I've learned on my entrepreneurial journey is the importance to delegate.

Leadership is hard, because taking responsibility for other people's work is hard. It's not a small jump to being responsible for things you haven't done yourself.

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Making Good Tech Decisions Without Understanding Technology

Non-technical founders ask this question at almost all TechEye events. How can they hire developers to build a product, if they don't know what to put in the job specs in the first place?

It's hard to believe, but when you start out on an MVP, almost everything else is more important than the technology choices.

Just to make this point super clear. As long as you can build a product that people use, there really are no bad choices.

For sure, some technologies are better than others in a specific way, but bad tech is a problem you can fix later. Indeed, sometimes bad tech decisions can be an expensive problem to fix, but you can almost always fix it.

Not having customers is not a problem you can fix later.

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About

Richard Dancsi

Founder & Techie

Startup founder and management consultant with over 15 years experience in building technology teams, products and companies.