The blockchain is the technology of the future. World over large corporations, governments and consortiums are investing large sums of money on exploring how they can use Blockchain technology to transform processes and create new business models. World over lots of startups has started to leverage Blockchain as their primary technology for their business. Blockchain engineers, developers and architects are on high demand and in the future, the demand is about to increase multiple folds.
If you are a developer who wants to learn Blockchain, this is your opportunity. This workshop will take you through from the basics of the technology to help you develop a simple application on this technology to gain hands-on experience. Here is what we will cover in this workshop:
1. What is Blockchain? What are the fundamentals of the technology
2. Look at some examples of how the Blockchain technology has been used by various companies
3. Understand the technology stack involved in developing a Blockchain application
4. Set up your development environment to start developing a Blockchain application
5. Develop a simple application using Blockchain
You as an attendee would get to develop a simple Blockchain application using the Corda (https://www.corda.net/) Blockchain tech stack. You are required to bring your laptop along with you for this workshop. Kindly ensure that you have admin rights on your laptop as we would need to install some tools.
The workshop is being organized by GoFloaters. Your trainer for the day would be Mr Seetharaman. Seetharaman is an IBM certified Blockchain Consultant. He has developed many applications on Blockchain for global companies. He leads a team of 20 Blockchain developers at an MNC company based out of Bengaluru.
Before we get into the cheap ways of building an MVP, I think it makes sense to talk about what is an MVP and why a startup like yours needs an MVP in the first place. I think it is probably best also to say what is not an MVP. If you are someone who knows all of this and are just looking at ways in which you can build an MVP then skip ahead to the section “Cheap ways to build or make an MVP”.
What is an MVP?
For those who have not been hit by the Lean Startup advice, MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. Eric Ries, the author of “Lean Startup” book, defined an MVP as that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. The point to stress upon here is that of “least effort”. This also translates into “quick” and “cheap” in my mind.
Why do you need an MVP?
So you have a brilliant idea. Right? How do you now go about validating whether your set of target customer (s) would want your product or service? This is where you need to get to work on your MVP. I should clarify here that you don’t necessarily always “build” an MVP. I will elaborate this in a subsequent section.
Now why does a startup like yours need an MVP in the first place? The shiny new idea that you are working on would have customers adopting with a chance of it becoming a “hit” only when certain underlying assumptions become true. Lets take some popular companies in the recent times and look at some of the assumptions they made:
AirBnB : AirBnB made a very big assumption that home owners would open up their house to complete strangers to earn some money.
Dropbox : Dropbox made an assumption that users would be comfortable uploading their personal files from their computer on the cloud.
Zappos.com : Zappos made the assumption that people would be willing to buy shoes online. This is a big assumption that they made as people usually would prefer to wear the shoes, touch and feel the shoes before buying.
Your startup idea also would be having some underlying assumptions that need to be validated first. A simple way to look at these assumptions is to look at what “questions” your customers would have that need to be answered before they take their purse out to pay for your service or product.
How do you know that the customers are comfortable with the assumptions that you are making and have their questions and apprehensions answered? How do you even know for certain that you have identified all the assumptions and questions? This is where an MVP really comes in. An MVP lets you take your idea to your target customers and lets you validate your assumptions, lets you get customer feedback and lets you understand the apprehensions that your customers have. An MVP also lets you really validate whether you have identified the right target customer for your product and service.
Some examples of MVP
Now I would like to elaborate on what would constitute an MVP? Going back to the definition and the objective of making an MVP, we need something that is cheap, quick, least effort and gives us the maximum learning. The other point that I want to clarify that you don’t have to necessarily always “build” an MVP. You can easily put together an MVP too with things that are already available in the market. Lets take some examples of MVPs built by companies to validate their idea.
AirBnB : AirBnB just put together a simple website and targeted a very narrow target audience to get their idea validated. The website did not have options to select multiple dates, locations or prices. They just targeted one demographic: tech conference attendees at a single sold-out conference. You can read more about AirBnB’s MVP here.
DropBox : The founding team of Dropbox just put together a 3 minute video that walked a customer through the concept of cloud based file storage and how the product would look like. This is all that was needed for them to get 75,000 customers interested without even writing a single line of code. At GoFloaters we had to create a simple product video for our launch in a new city. We neither had a lot of time nor the budget to outsource the work. Biteable video maker tool is what we used to create a quick 1 min video for the launch event.
2. Zappos.com : Nick Swinmurn, the co-founder of Zappos just put together a simple website with pictures of shoes from shoe stores near his house. When an order would come from a customer, Nick would run to the store, buy the shoes at full price and ship it to his customers.
As you can see from the three examples above, each of the companies adopted an MVP strategy to validate the assumptions that they had made before they made bigger investments. The other point to highlight is that DropBox did not build any piece of software even though their idea was a technology based idea! This is why a MVP need not be built. It can be put together with things that are available.
Another example to quote here is that of GoFloaters. I agree that we are not in the same league as the giants mentioned above but it is a good example and is worth sharing. GoFloaters made a big assumption that startups and freelancers would be comfortable working at cafes and would be willing to pay for the space usage. We needed a simple MVP to validate this and get customer feedback. With the inputs of my mentor Mr Sukumar Rajagopal, we decided to launch our service on WhatsApp. We built a simple website and put our WhatsApp number out there and asked users to send their space requirements to us. We would then respond back to them with locations and pictures of the place. If they liked it and wanted to book, then we would send them a InstaMojo payment link. We ran this MVP for about 2 months to validate our assumptions, perform pricing experiments and to gain customer feedback.
Each iteration of your MVP has to add some value and it should allow you to get customer validations and feedback. This image below illustrates how you should approach building / making your MVP and how you should not think about it.
Cheap ways to build or make an MVP
In my prior corporate avatar, I was running an innovation lab at a large MNC. Our job was to re-imagine the future of insurance at this innovation lab, take it customers, get their feedback an explore possibilities of doing a pilot. We tried various ways to build out MVPs. What I am sharing below are some of the “cheap” ways in which we have put together simple MVPs and what I have seen other startups do.
Simple sketches : Simple sketches will do sometimes. Just bring your team together, brainstorm on the idea, visually represent the idea as sketches and take it to the market to get feedback. Don’t worry if you are straight lines are not straight or your sketch of shopping cart does not look like a cart. The beauty of a simple sketch is that customers and even your friends dont hesitate to provide feedback as they know that you are showing them something that is in its raw form and that you have not invested too much time and that you wouldn’t feel bad if they gave you feedback.
MS Powerpoint (or better even KeyNote) : This idea could be an extension of the previous idea. You can take the sketches that you have drawn and put them into a slide deck. You can create your screens using Powerpoint and Keynote templates for web and mobile and create a mock of your application. Powerpoint and Keynote also give you the ability to create hotspots that on tapping which you can take the user to another slide. The best thing about Keynote is that you can export the presentation as a clickable HTML files. The links work too! This essentially means that you have a clickable prototype MVP ready with just Keynote.
Videos : Videos are another simple and cost effective way to show your idea to someone else visually and get their feedback. Hey this is what Dropbox did and it worked for them. It may work for you too. MS Powerpoint and Keynote decks can be saved as video files. This is the cheapest way to create a video. This is how we created GoFloaters’ first explainer video. You can also use free version of tools like Biteable, Powtoon and Vyond to create videos of various kinds. Yes there is a small learning curve but it still would need less time and money than what you would need to put together an app.
MVP ideas for eCommerce startups : Like Zappos if you want to test if your customer would buy “X” online then you certainly need to go a little bit further from sketches and videos possibly. Before you put in lot of money on your slick mobile app or build an ecommerce site with the latest and greatest of technology, you can do this first. Use services like Shopify, Woocommerce or Magento to set up your first version of ecommerce site first. You can also look at website builders like Wix or Squarespace that also provide you with ecommerce plugins. For a hackathon that I was part of, we used Shopify to build an ecommerce site for selling customized headphones for audiophiles. You may think that these options often limit you when you want to do many features. Well, that is true but you dont need all the bells and whistles to be in place to know whether your customer would buy “X” online. You can set up an ecommerce site using some of the services mentioned above very quickly. If you are not a techie then these services are a blessing.
MVP ideas for service startups : If you want to test out your service startup idea, then you could potentially go the GoFloaters route. You don’t need to build an ecommerce site even. Just give the customers a channel through which they can request the service you are offering. This channel could be email, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Facebook Page or even a simple telephone number. If enough customers request your service and are ready to pay for it, then you can built a slightly more sophisticated MVP using WordPress or Wix or Squarespace.
One question may be bothering you at this time. Let me try and preempt it. Are you thinking how would a simple website with a WhatsApp number or how would be email based channel scale? The simple word of advice that I received from my mentor when I asked him this very same question was “In the early stages of your startup invest time and effort only on validating your assumptions and whether your idea is adding value”. He said “Only when you have crossed this stage should you think about value.” Think of it this way. You have two boats that you can travel in. The first boat is named “Value”. The second boat is named “Scale”. You cannot travel in both the boats at the same time. Can you?
If you just distill the approaches taken by many successful companies, you will get the core concept that you need to validate all of your assumptions, validate your idea and get customer feedback in the cheapest and simplest possible way. Only have you have completed this stage should you go about investing more money on your product or service.
There is much more to talk about this topic that I cant possibly do it one article. To read about what are the broad categories of MVP you can read this article.
If you like to know more about other tools that you could use to build your MVP, then get it touch with us.
I would also strong encourage you to watch Three Minute Thursdays videos where my mentor Mr Sukumar has talked about Learn Startup.
If you have taken an interesting approach for your MVP, kindly share that as a comment to this post. It would be helpful for others who come across this article.
As a entrepreneur I struggled to find places to sit and work to use the time productively in between meetings or to get that “me” time to focus on the work to be done. I did not want to take up an office space and end up spending huge sums of money on rental costs and lock up working capital in security deposit.
So I was on the look out for cheap ways to work. Here are some of the options that I have tried and this may be of use to some who have a similar need.
1. Cafe Coffee Day
This list has to definitely start with this option. I guess many of you have worked or had meetings at CCDs. This omnipresent option is the defacto place for entrepreneurs and freelancers to meet or work. If you are into CCD hopping pleases don’t forget to install the CCD app and use the rewards (which they call beans) and the offers that they keep doling out. You could save upto 50% on your coffee cost sometimes.
2. Anna Centenary Library
No membership is needed. You can just go in and get going. This is an ideal place if you need that pin drop silence to have your neurons to connect and work.
Starbucks is a slightly more customer friendly place as compared to CCD in my personal opinion. The number of choices are fewer as of now in Chennai. I also found Starbucks to be more occupied that CCDs most of the times. Hence if you are lucky you may get that spot that gets you cracking.
4. Pile on or be shameless
Being shameless is an option too! On so many occasions I have requested the host or the mentor I might have gone to meet for using their office for a few hours before I went to the next meeting. More often than not the request is accepted.
5. GoFloaters (my personal favorite for the obvious reason)
The challenges that me and my team faced in finding affordable spaces for working lead us to create GoFloaters. We wanted to solve for affordability, reliability, flexibility and availability. Why gulp down a coffee when your body and brain don’t need it? GoFloaters let you book a seat at a cafe with access to WiFi and power points to connect your favorite devices for as little as Rs 25 / hr. The best thing about this is that you are not mandated to order food.
Media too has recognized the unique and innovative offering that we have brought to the market. YourStory Tamil, LBB Chennai and DTNext have all written about us. We also enjoy the patronage of 400+ users who have used our service to book themselves affordable office space.
So, you want to become a freelancer- to strike out and to join the workforce of more than 150 million people who experience so much of ups and downs of contract work. Many of the people have the advantage of starting their freelance careers in an innovative technical world where freelancing pitfalls are few. Some of the tedious tasks like searching for clients, tracking hours, invoicing are streamlined by powerful tools. The evolution of tech tools now lets freelancers earn more than ever before. So, if you want to work smarter, try these top 10 freelance tools:
Weebly is one of the most important tools which is used by freelancers nowadays. It is a very popular platform to build beautiful websites in a very short span of time. You need to drag and drop things with no coding involved. It has a wide variety of themes to choose from, plus it also provides a platform which also involves SEO, email marketing, and an e-commerce website.
Being organized is one of the essential keys to the success of freelancers. You need a to-do list management which ensures that nothing gets left for a day. Wunderlist is used to do list trackers which can be sync with all the devices. The list can be set for actual reminders, or you can send them to other to collaborate. There is also an option to email Wunderlist reminders so that you can set list for yourself without risk of leaving any task.
You may be required to work on projects which require collaboration with other individuals as well. To be successful, it is important to communicate with others in real time and create a database of all important files. With the help of trello, the clients can easily track that what has to be done, what needs to be done and what are you doing now.
If you are in the field of digital marketing, then you need a reliable tool for sending successful emails marketing campaign. Mixmax is a highly reliable email marketing tool for creating emails that can easily integrate with Google, Inbox, and Salesforce. It also helps to track the behavior of the viewers and thus makes it a powerful tool for a freelancer.
This is a refreshed web-based and mobile friendly invoice and expense tracking software which is designed especially for freelancers and entrepreneurs. It is fully integrated with payment options, provide reports for profit and losses and is easy to use and customize. In a nutshell, Sighted offers everything you need.
One of the important aspects of freelancing is the ability to manage the communication with the client. Streak is a tool which can be used easily for client expectation management, lead tracking and project information management directly from Gmail inbox. This tool also offers customized solutions which also address business scale and requirements.
When freelancing, time is money and freelancers must need to track the amount of time they have to spend on every task. Moreover, sometimes freelancers get distracted due to the nature of their online work. Rescuetime helps freelancers by recording the amount of time they spent on work and other activities performed at the time of working. It also provides the detailed report of time spent on every website visited, which helps in time management throughout the day.
One of the most stressful parts of freelancing is to keep on the top of cashflow and plan the future projects. The cushion is a great tool for projecting future income, seeing where you have gaps in cash, and to manage projects to minimize overlapping.
Tagove is an innovative live Instant Messaging software which enables a freelancer to provide live video, chat and voice call support with the help of a browser. The tool also allows screen share facilities between both the remote devices, which makes it possible to collaborate on live projects and in real time without downloading any additional software. With a host of a latest innovative features and reliable video calling support, Tagove enables freelancers to provide extensive support to their clients whenever there is a requirement.
Toggl which is an alternative of RescueTime is a time tracking app which aims to help you in tracking time with a single click and to switch between different task easily and create reports so that you can get things done and make the time productive. This tool is available as a Chrome extension as well and can be easily installed in your browser for use.
You face multiple challenges while working on projects so you can find solutions with the help of these online tools and resources which allows you to achieve a higher level of efficiency. These tools, helps you to scale heights and become one of the highest paid freelancer.