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Custom Software Development for Startups: 7 Steps to a Successful MVP Launch

Victor Purolnik
7 min read

Your Go-to Guide to Efficient Custom Software Development for Startups and MVP Launch

In a customer-centric world, it’s impossible to attract attention and investments  without providing products, solutions, and services that are perfectly tailored for users’ needs. Even if you work on a unique , revolutionary idea, it will take you nowhere if it doesn’t meet customers’ expectations.

How can you build a digital product that meets expectations, helps to raise funds, and gets to the top lists and news on Crunch?

You may find dozens of tips on how to launch a startup, but there’s a significant one you may discover in this article.

Custom software development for startups is a proven way to build digital products customers love.

This is the decision you need to make from day one: custom software development for startups helps to validate an idea, identify ways to pivot or improve an existing software app, collect users’ feedback, and raise funds. At the same time, custom software apps may help up-and-running businesses and enterprises extend their borders, boost internal processes, and multiply revenue.

Wonder how to start custom software development for your startup? Find out in this article.

Custom software development for startups: start with why

There is a crucial thing behind every decision you will ever make for your business development.

This thing is that you should always start with why.

I still remember the day back in 2014 when I watched Simon Sinek’s TedTalk and learned how great leaders inspire action.

Eight years ago, it was a bottomless source of inspiration. So it is now.

Start with Why

  • All entrepreneurs on the planet exactly know what they do;
  • Some leaders understand how their companies operate;
  • And only a handful of founders and CEOs can clearly state  why they do what they do: why they’re launching their companies,  building their products, and  offering certain services.

So before you start a custom software development process, fill the why gaps in your vision, study the market and meet your potential competitors to answer why your product is worth launching.

Here are four basic steps you need to take:

Conduct market research

Every startup founder faces this question: who wants their product and who may be ready to pay for it?

To answer this question correctly, you may need to start with market research.

  • Define the key objectives of your research. By defining your expectations from the start, you can immediately improve the quality and efficiency of your research.
  • Put down market-related questions you’d like to answer after the research phase. How big is your target market? Who may want to use your product? How many established companies operate in the target market etc?
  • Choose methods for your research. You may employ online and offline market research to collect market data. If you’re an idea-stage startup founder, secondary market research may be the best to start with – browse the web and collect data available on websites like Clutch, Statista, Techcrunch, etc.
  • Collect and analyze data. It may be a challenging step in  startup market research as it’s time to put all data in a document, organize it, analyze it, and delete unnecessary details to clarify the results. Hire a virtual assistant, delegate this task, and save your time for the next step.
  • Make data-driven decisions. With market data, it may be easier for you to make risk-free decisions and build your custom software app from scratch.

Detect an existing problem and suggest your solution

Have you ever seen pitch decks of Airbnb, Facebook, or any other market giant? If yes, you may have noticed two crucial blocks in their decks. These blocks and Problem and Solution. After the market research stage, it should be simple to define a problem your startup will  solve and present a suggested solution for it.

Once you’ve successfully identified a particular pain point and come up with the idea of what the potential software solution could be, this is when you clearly understand where your product can fit in the market. In one of our Product Stories podcasts with Shane White, we covered this topic in detail.

Shane provided SaaS founders with many tried and tested tips for SaaS startup launch! Here’s one of them:

“If I were to start brand new today, I would look for what I think is really interesting. I would find a niche or a market where you see all these big, big players, but they’re only servicing enterprises. And you can’t get this tool, you can’t get this thing for smaller businesses without the budget. So as an example, such a free idea for anyone listening.”

Develop an ideal customer persona

Remember that list of questions you’ve created to start market research? Dive deeper into customer details: 

  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • What makes your solution beneficial for ideal customers? 
  • Why would they choose your product over another? 
  • What impact does it have on their business/problem and how much would they pay for it?

Need more insights on how to create a customer portrait? Gartner shares a list of questions for ICP development.

Meet potential competitors

Find your competitors. Browse their websites and study customers’ reviews on their products. Understand their strengths and weaknesses, and define what makes your unique selling proposition better than others.

Brainstorm on how you can add more value to your minimum viable product, and proceed with the next step.

Define your requirements for custom software 

It’s impossible to set expectations without defining precise requirements.

Your requirements should be as concise as possible and answer two primary questions:

  1. What can your app do?
  2. How should your team build your app?

The first question may be pretty straightforward – you should describe your app’s key features.

The challenges appear as you go to the second question. What kind of app would you like to build? Do you want it to run in any browser and OS? What tools would you like to use to implement your idea in custom software? 

If you need any help with answering these or any other custom software development-related questions, let’s talk about it! I’ll provide you and your development team with a detailed consultation at any stage of your startup development.

When it comes to receiving estimations from developers, estimates can generally come from a place of dealing with similar projects. The majority of the time, these estimates can be inaccurate, and end up causing you either time or money. Together with the Trustshoring team, I’ve created a project estimate template to send to developers along with the documentation.

Bring together a fantastic custom software development team

Turning requirements into features is impossible without a skilled, reliable, expert team of custom software developers, with a deep experience in your domain.

“Every product begins with the people on the cross-functional product team. How you define the roles, and the people you select to staff the team, will very likely prove to be a determining factor in its success or failure.” – Marty Cagan, Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love

There are three options you may consider when choosing your software development team. You can cooperate with freelance developers from Upwork, build your own in-house software development team or outsource custom software development.

Hire in-house custom software developers

In a startup business environment, it may be an expensive challenge to hire an entire team of software developers in your city.

Having a dedicated team of specialists all under the same umbrella, working without distraction on one common goal would be ideal, but this is a very costly option in the US, UK, and numerous other countries.

Besides, hiring doesn’t just happen in one day. It may take weeks and months to find, attract and bring the right custom software developer onboard; you may need support from HR, recruitment, and interviewing specialists. You may need to review hundreds of irrelevant CVs and join multiple interviews that may turn into candidates’ failures.

Are you ready to invest months and thousands of dollars in a successful hire?

If your answer is yes, are you sure competitors aren’t working on the same solution? If they do, they may take your market share while you’d still be hiring for engineers’ roles.

Cooperate with freelance software engineers

There are millions of software developers on freelance platforms like Upwork. This is a deep pool of talents and a wide field of cooperation opportunities at the same time.

You can meet freelance engineers who work for $5 per hour and s specialists who charge $300 per hour. Some have deep experience in back-end technologies only, and others are like one-man-bands with 249 technologies listed in their skill sets.

Choosing a skilled engineer on Upwork may be difficult; choosing a reliable teammate may be even more challenging. Founders often complain that freelance engineers are hard to communicate with, that they disappear or deliver low-quality services.

This is often an option that presents itself as the most cost-effective, but also, the one that might present the most risks and quality issues.

You can find out more about the cost of software quality in Karl Wiegers’ article on Medium.

The real cost of software quality for your custom software development startup

Hiring a freelance developer may be the cheapest option; at the same time, hiring a freelance developer may be the most expensive option.

Outsource custom software development tasks

To keep costs down, avoid risks and speed up the development process, look for an outsourcing custom software development company that specializes in your particular niche.

Outsourcing allows you to hire an entire team at once  – you just contact a company, present your requirements and meet your team in 2-5 days. A team of custom software developers will work on your project solely, dedicate as much time and attention to your product as you need, and provide you with ready-made solutions and experience-based answers. Besides, outsourcing opens the door to a world talent fair. You may find much more experienced developers than local specialists.

Hire an outsourcing team of dedicated software development professionals with vast experience, enjoy the cost-effectiveness of this solution, and receive ongoing support for as long as you  need.

Build a custom minimum viable product

The MVP approach allows you to quickly validate your idea while keeping your costs at a manageable level. Beginning your startup journey with a minimal viable product gives you two main advantages:

  1.     Cost reduction
  2.     Shorter time to market

Unlike the full-featured solution, a minimum viable product contains the basic functionality of your software, allowing you to test the idea with minimum investments. MVP will serve as the base bone of your future product, and allow you to adjust your product to existing needs. 

It takes two to twelve months to release an MVP, while a full-feature product development never actually stops. This may be the key difference between MVPs and full-feature products:

  • You invest minimum resources in MVP development, launch a simple app quickly, and gather user feedback to decide on further improvement.
  • You invest in a full-feature product as long as you want it to stay alive. But before that, you have to make sure your business has a chance to survive. This is why you test basic assumptions with an MVP.

Pay attention to quality assurance

App testing should begin at the early stages of the custom MVP development cycle. The more testing is done early, the better! This is a proven rule to avoid software bugs and errors in the future, improve product quality and decrease unnecessary costs.

Underestimated software testing not only results in higher product cost but also causes launch date delays.

By ensuring early and regular testing, you can fix issues before they become big enough to disrupt your timetable. The sooner you’re able to push to market with a minimal viable product, the sooner you are able to get feedback from your target audience and reach the stage where your SaaS product is bringing in MRR.

Establish an Agile development process

How to develop a custom MVP fast and efficiently? 

You already know that you need to start with research, describe your requirements and hire a team of skilled software developers. But there’s another significant thing to keep in mind.

No matter if you would work with an in-house engineering team, or with remote software developers, you should implement the latest software development project management methodologies to launch a high-quality custom MVP fast.

In one of our podcasts, we discussed software development methodologies – be sure to listen to it.

Related Content

Build better products faster by learning the basics of product management with Enzo Avigo from Junedotso

Listen to the podcast

Atlassian provides a clear definition of the Agile concept:

“Agile is an iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver value to their customers faster and with fewer headaches. Instead of betting everything on a “big bang” launch, an agile team delivers work in small, but consumable, increments.”

As you can see, Agile methodology perfectly aligns with an MVP concept.

Optionally, you may consider Waterfall or Kanban methodologies for your teamwork.

The waterfall method divides the software lifecycle into phases that typically consist of gathering, analysis and design, coding and unit testing, system and user acceptance testing, and deployment. You won’t move to the next phase until the previous one is complete. This allows you to have a defined scope of work, dedicated resources for particular tasks, and straightforward deliverables. This, however, might not be ideal if you’re working on a large-scale software project. It also typically doesn’t allow for much testing.

Kanban is a mix of Agile and Waterfall.

Ask for feedback. Learn. Iterate

With an up-and-running MVP, it’s time to collect user feedback and make sure you’re on the right track.

Are users overall satisfied with your custom software app?

Are there any improvements they suggest?

Are there any inconveniences users experience?

What’s next on your product roadmap?

The point is to analyze user feedback correctly. In a recent Product Stories episode, I talked with Ferdinand Goetzen, Co-Founder and CEO of Reveall, about making custom feedback accessible.

After analyzing feedback, a different case may emerge, too. There may be simply no users interested in your custom software. In this case, you should go back to the very beginning, and again, start with why, analyze the market and decide what you should do next.

  • Improvement

There’s a way to reuse the existing code base while slightly modifying functionality, targeting another market, or adding a better USP.

  • Pivot

If you decide that improvement is not enough, you can change directions entirely and start the whole process all over again.

In conclusion: strategic advice on custom software development may boost your startup

You should make numerous decisions on your road to success. You should avoid pitfalls, assess and mitigate risks, and ensure your expenses fit the budget. You have to hire a reliable team, keep track of development progress, and deal with multiple other tasks, issues, and challenges on a daily basis.

Sounds intense, doesn’t it?

If you’ve already decided on custom software development for your startup, there’s one simple step you can take to heal your headache.

Delegate a substantial amount of your work to an outsourcing team. Outsourcing for a bootstrapped startup may save time and money: as you share your requirements with a team, you can delegate your attention to other tasks, while experienced developers will bring your idea to life.

You can get professional support, the best custom software development services, and tried and tested advice by simply delegating custom MVP development to an outsource company.

Do you have any questions related to custom software development for startups? I’d be happy to consult you on your way to an investment-winning MVP launch, help you choose the right custom development company, and provide you with answers to all software development-related questions.

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