Idea to Version 1: How Do I Get Started?

B2B SaaS founders come in a variety of forms. Oftentimes, they’re not the tech geniuses who geek out on the pros and cons of the latest Javascript libraries and frameworks. In many cases, they’re not UX designers or product managers who decided to branch out to create a new product. 

They’re folks (this might describe you) from non-technical backgrounds who have seen an opportunity to serve their industry – be it finance, healthcare, real estate, logistics, retail, accounting, education – with effective technology. It could be you’ve had an epiphany about an open market for a workflow that’s not been touched by digital transformation, or it could be you’ve felt the pain of dealing with a terrible, overpriced incumbent software in your industry.

We all want to beat on our computers from time to time. (via Giphy)

Awesome. Identifying an opportunity is a great place to start. And obviously, you’ve been motivated enough to carpe diem it up and create much-needed change in your industry. The only problem is you don’t know where to begin. Building a software product – and a company around that product – is an immensely complex task to be sure, and if you’re a non-technical founder, it can feel like you’re entering into a different world with a different language a very different approach to how things are done.

No idea what I'm doing. (via Giphy)

With that, here are a few quick questions to consider:

1. Who am I building this for?


    Well, I’ll tell you this much: you’re not building your platform for you. Sure, you may have found a lot of problems with the current way of doing things in your industry and you may have a lot of great ideas about how to solve those problems. But there are a couple big assumptions here: 1) Your experience is nearly identical to that of your users. 2) Your solutions will solve the problems you identified near perfectly. 

Let’s face it – you’ve started this business with a great vision and solid ideas, but you’re also just one person and you’re not going to be paying yourself to use your product. Also, you’re already committed enough to your idea to have a bias towards it. It’s OK, that’s only natural. You’re a SaaS founder now. You’re no longer in the same shoes as your customers. So, we need to understand who the real customer is in order to refine the vision and make the solution even better and more valuable to the market. 

So who is it? Leasing agents at large urban apartment complexes? Winery owners? Sports event promoters? 

Now, you can begin to build a foundation of market and user research: What tools do they use? What are their motivators? What are their needs? What are their budgets? What are obstacles to adopting new technologies? 

2. What exactly am I building?

You’ve already come to the table with an idea worth researching and investing in. You have a long-term vision for a unique solution. But there are many details that need to be ironed out. Various forms of research, as well as some good understanding of feature dependencies, will help you bring definition to the vision at a low cost.

This is where product management and UX design come in. If you skip ahead to building, you run the risk of incurring significant design debt and spending a lot of money on an ill-defined scope. There are lots of things to think about that come up throughout the process of creating software: 

  • Which features should be included in the first release (hint: think small and focus on what you can learn)? 
  • What should happen when the user clicks this? 
  • What kinds of inputs will we allow in this field? 
  • How should the navigation be organized? 
  • What does the user’s workflow look like in completing the core task? 
  • How should different pieces of data relate to one another? 
  • What components will be needed to build the front-end, and what should they look like? 

Defining these kinds of questions can take quite a lot of effort, but doing so with the insights provided by research and within the parameters of a well-defined product strategy can save on costly development rework later on.

3. Who’s going to build it?

As you can see, building goes beyond development, and partnering with a SaaS product design team like Trailmerge can be valuable for taking some of the burden off your shoulders, guiding you to and through the development stage and launch of your first customer-facing piece of software.

As far as the development team itself, think about the tech stack you want to use, your budget constraints, time zones, and the terms of the relationship. You’ll want to find a team who knows the tech you’re targeting (For example, are you building a native mobile app, a desktop app, or a web app?), who you can communicate with easily in your daily workflow, and who fits into the long-term strategy for your business. We’re happy to help you think through these big questions as well.

Well, there you have it. You’ve found the opportunity, you’re going for it, and now you’re armed with some questions to ask yourself. So much of building a startup is learning, and the answers to these questions will help you move forward. Keep at it – we’re rooting for you!

Mark Tegtmeier

Founder Mark Tegtmeier brings years of design experience to Trailmerge. He has worked with early stage startups, design and software agencies, government, and enterprise, driving them further in their product vision. A husband of one, father of four, and urban homesteader, Mark loves developing tech talent and coming alongside founders with ambitious visions for their products and companies.

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