A few days after launching textme, I came across this post on why Indian internet startups need to get off their asses and learn to program.
It’s the usual debate about founders who can’t code (or rather founders should know code). Honestly, most Indian web startups suck. Sorry if I said suck, but what I meant is that they ‘really really suck’. Coincidently, these Indian startups are by those that have big MBA degrees and almost null tech experience. If you visit certain startup events in India, you will understand where I’m going with this one. Of course, there are exceptions, but here is what I feel Indian startups need to get right.
1. Set a budget and a timeline. Ship as soon as you exhaust your development budget or hit the timeline. Keep in mind that “The user experience of the product should be world class.” A prototype is important but it doesn’t have to look lame. Even if you can’t afford the most usable and tested design, build something that doesn’t make your users feel its our government website.
2. Scratch your own itch. It’s important to have a solution to a real problem. But I’d say, make sure it’s your own problem too. It is better to solve a boring problem in topic X that you know quite a few things about than to solve the worlds biggest problem in topic Y which you know nothing about.
3. Start in a garage and act like a garage. Don’t buy a pen or book unless you really need one. Even if you really need it, buy it just before the first time you are going to use it. Of course, I’m referring to employees, expensive technologies & services here.
4. Premature optimization is the root of all evil. It is important to have great code and optimizations; but spend time on aspects that will really help speed up the product. Just keep your code and project manageable + bug free. Scale up when you need to scale up. Build with less momentum so you can always change direction.
Lastly, try to be transparent. If you come in with preconceived notions, you are going to block out methods that actually come from you. Don’t fear competition, embrace it. Tell other Indian developers, designers and entrepreneurs about how you build your web app, share some internal code, ideas, research details, etc.
I don’t intend to talk in the air, but this is the idea on which we’ve built and launched our first product – textmewidget.com
p.s: We’ve neither broken even nor ‘boot strapped + successful’. But just wanted to share the mindset we started off with. If it ever fails, I’ll come back here and tell you what went wrong and I’m sure it won’t be a reason I mentioned above.
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