We get sold the bells and whistles when what we needed was simple.
How did it get this way?
When you start out building software you don't know what the end goal looks like. You have a completely skewed view of the needs of businesses and the way they've been addressed by other companies in the market.
You can't spend days on end gathering requirements from customers because they're busy people and ultimately you are trying to sell them something. Every software startup finds its willing first partners and we borrow buckets of trust from them on the promise we will come good and build the solution of their dreams.
Their dream often doesn't end up being our dream and it's easy to get pulled in the wrong direction. At Peoplevox we built the system very slowly. It felt painfully slow, building out a web app, then a mobile app in C# then eventually an Android app. All that happened over about 6 years and in between all of that we built god knows what else.
The main drawbacks we had were building solutions for great logos that didn't end up being anything like our ideal customer profile. We beautifully replicated a picking method to pick from bulk for one brand that did a mix of ecommerce and B2B. We spent months on it and they were the one and only customer.
Other things we built were like striking gold. When we designed and launched single-item batch picking for Surfdome in 2012 it was proper rocking horse shit as far as WMS was concerned at the time. No one had properly productised and marketed a single scan of an item at despatch and hands-free workflow to print not only the despatch note but also the shipping label. The magic was in the execution and Surfdome held us to a speedy label print. The innovation paid for itself about 1,000X.
When I started at SupplyCompass what struck me was how customer and niche-focused we were. Purely targeting fashion brands and their product design and development workflows. With the latest dev tools like React, we built insanely fast but without the old-school on-premise licence model we leveraged at Peoplevox we weren't bringing in money along the way.
The same problems with adding features that we had at Peoplevox repeated at SupplyCompass but it was like the tape was stuck in fast-forward. We'd built 80% of what we saw as the complete product compared to the established PLMs but in reality, an MVP would've looked completely different if we'd started again in February this year. An early indicator of what was to come, our VC pulled out last minute and the company was insolvent.
Just because you can build software fast now doesn't mean it is easier. My advice to any Founder is to make money along the way by building a profitable service that compliments your solution. Doing this has given me access to market research beyond anything you can imagine.
Maybe I'll start a software business one day.
– Thanks, Oliver