Well, turns out if you have any form of life – it’s really hard!! Today’s lesson was that balancing trying to build a startup & keep your existing life going at the same time provides some challenges! My “real life” got in the way of my ambitions to gets lots done on Picknic today! My 5 year old was up half the night, then I was in back to back meetings all day at work so didn’t even get to take a second crack at my wireframes before 4pm this afternoon! So all in all I am exhausted and not able to happily report as much progress as I would like – but don’t be too distressed – lots still happened! Smile

The first thing was that late last night (actually it was the early hours of this morning) my computer crashed as I was attempting to build my wireframes and so I decided the computer was going to win that battle & called it a night. But over night my data researcher was busily collating data for the parks, and the app designer was doing a good job of getting his head around the requirements. I also had the creative genius of Alex & Xamling thinking about a cool logo that we could use for the business and his thinking was very productive – but more on that later! Smile

And before leaving the house for work this morning I also used the Freelancer system to set up payments for Outsourced work with the agreed milestone payments for data research set up & I paid initial deposit to iOS app Developer to get him kicked off.

Get Visibility any way you can!

I have been telling everyone I know that I am doing this. I have used my existing twitter & Facebook contacts, my real networks (including reaching out to friends who are journalists & PR types).

I have also learnt over the last few years that you should try to get recognition wherever you can find it! I know so many founders that know they should apply for things like the AIMIA awards, the AIIA awards, Innovation awards etc but the application process is time consuming, so often ends up being put in the “Things To Do (That Never End Up Getting Done)” bucket. I decided to take my chances with my 1 day old company & see if we could get ourselves any awards for what we are doing. Fortunately, the Anthill online Cool Company award nomination process was extended so still open (check it out here: http://anthillonline.com/cool-company-awards-2/).

So… during one of my many meetings today (Shhhh – it was one that I didn’t have to contribute a great deal too) I nominated Picknic for the Cool Business Awards – Social Capitalist Award. We were limited to which categories we could apply for because we are less than 1 year old (by about 354 days!), and although the other categories had a small cost to enter – I am already at budget for our expenses till we start to make revenue. Fortunately – the Socialist Capitalist Awards were free to enter – but it also made me rethink of how I would pitch the coolness of what we were doing – with a slant to how we are impacting the current economies social challenges. BAM! The idea hit me that we have yet another un-addressed benefit of what we are doing. I should have realised it when the market research unanimously told me that people would be more likely to take their children to more parks with the information we are going to provide at their fingertips. New marketing campaign is now being conjured up around how Picknic is going to be helping to address the growing national challenge of Childhood obesity! With that new idea ignited I completed our application! Wish us luck! Smile

One other interesting thing was that my initial post got some interest & a stack more people ended up completing my Market research survey. There was so many benefits to this, as now I was able to determine the minimal features required for launch. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover how many people would pay a small token amount for the app itself. These two factors alone have been invaluable.

A friend (thanks Matt!) who saw post 1 has noticed an alignment between what I am doing and a business a friend of his has, so will be giving some introductions. That could be very handy indeed and an unseen benefit of sharing what I am doing!

Agree on the Minimum Feature Set BEFORE you start to build!

I put a hold on any development before I could nail the minimum viable feature set that we were going to launch with. Yesterday raised more questions than answered ones around which functions we should include and how to monetise them. The extra Market research has allowed us to solidify our feature set and the priority of each feature so we know the ones we can and can’t leave if time/budget becomes an issue.

My minimum Launch Feature Set now includes:

First Priority:

  • Search for local parks
  • See a map of where the park is located

(Which btw were unanimous for all respondents as being required!)

Second Priority (which I ended up being surprised by) was:

  • Add your own park (if its not listed)

Followed closely by our 3rd level priority items of:

  • Rate your experience (1-5)
  • Search for parks by facility (i.e. Public toilets)
  • Get directions to the park from where you are now

It’s time to Wireframe!

It’s all well and good to have your feature set nailed down… but as I quickly discovered, taking those “basic” levels of functionality and turning them into a functioning app isn’t as easy as I had foolishly thought.

I found myself a whiteboard & jotted down some initial ideas in between 2 meetings:

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Not only was it once again a reminded that I should never ever do any graphic design or useability style role – it allowed me to think in terms of screens, functionality & flow. What became immediately apparent was that I would have 2 distinct user types. The “known” users who would be able to add their own parks, add ratings and reviews. The second group is the “unknown” users who can open the app, see local parks & read others ratings & reviews. This raised some other issues – I hadn’t planned to include user accounts in the first version. I have also not worked out yet if we will enforce the Facebook integration. I raised both these issues with a smart app developer & the developer working on the iPhone app – both came back with great suggestions and I am happy that the app developer has come up with a great solution on how to manage it Smile

Apart from that confusion, I was pretty happy with the flow of screens & useability – now it was time to start to play with creating wireframes on something a bit easier to understand.. I once again opened Balsamiq. I played around for a little while & in my first hour managed to come up with a few screens (Again – ignore the design – its to convey the functionality)

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One of the nice things about Balsamiq is that I could add post it’s & steps to my mock ups to explain what I had really meant, and things I couldn’t work out how to articulate in the tool. The other benefit is that it is ultimately readable, unlike my whiteboard scribbles!

The developer is now working through the basic functionality for the first screen and the login and giving me tips on how to better use Balsamiq as well Smile

Supporting Infrastructure Tasks

I did manage to set up a few more services today that will come in very handy:

I signed up for the Microsoft Cloud Partner benefits I get as part of the BizSpark program: https://www.microsoftcloudpartner.com/Enroll.aspx

I then signed up for Office 365 7 set up the business – I could now set up other users accounts, email, etc but as its only me I don’t really need to do that just yet.

I signed up for Win Azure https://www.microsoftcloudpartner.com/GetBenefits.aspx So now I have a server provisioned in the cloud with little less than a click of a button & no cash outlay!! Woot! :)

I applied for the token to get developer account on AppHub for WP7 (free tokens with BizSpark can be applied for here: link)

I signed up to get a developer account for Apple http://developer.apple.com/programs/ios/ – this one costs $99.

I set up my Mailchimp account & list for pre registrations of people wanting to be notified when the app is ready to launch:

The overtired circle of doom

I always tell the startups I work with that the number 1 rule of being in a startup or small business is to look after yourself! If you aren’t getting enough sleep, exercise, eating well and having time away from the business with family/friends – your body will suffer. Unfortunately as a Startup entrepreneur or small business owner – this ultimately means that your business (and health & relationships) will also suffer.

I have learnt this lesson the hard way in previous ventures and it seems I plan to ignore my own advice yet again! After very little sleep last night and a long day at work I tried to work on a new challenge that arose today – the realisation that (i believed) in order to maintain users accounts I would need a website that they could log into to set up accounts, maintain their preferences, link to Facebook etc – and this little panic was also fuelled the reminder that I still didn’t have a launch page! Unfortunately I spiralled into the overtired circle of doom. Instead of focusing on getting a simple launch page up and running, I started looking at (the very cool but totally unneeded for something so simple) LightSwitch. I downloaded it while I read through some of the examples, opened it up & started to kick off building a website from scratch! Thankfully I ran out of time and had to go get my son from daycare.

image_thumb3While sitting & having dinner with him I realised I had completely dived into solving a problem that I didn’t have yet and was probably unlikely to have anytime soon. I already had WebMatrix Installed on my computer. I went in, clicked create new Site – from Web Gallery, clicked next a few times & I had a WordPress blog downloaded installed & ready to configure! I followed this simple video (roughly), downloaded & hacked this (free) Launch theme and had created a launch page, with Facebook & Mailchimp integration in less than 20 minutes. I thank goodness I had to get up & go to get my son otherwise who knows what I may have tried to build and probably would still be building now!

But, alas – the overtired Spiral of Doom was to kick in yet again. As I now had my new shiny Azure instances ready to play with I decided I wanted to deploy the Wordpress Site to Azure… which is certainly possible but as I started to read the steps included I got about half way through before I decided I was just too tired and it was going to have to wait till tomorrow… so as a result of the lack of focus (and my ease of being distracted with yet another new shiny!) we still don’t have a launch page up collecting potential customer details.

We Have a logo!

The last thing that we did get our hands on tonight is the concepts for our new logo thanks to Alex Knight of Xamling who has agreed to do the logo’s to help us out. He has helped me do logos for the Women in IT awards I run and I have always loved his design work so had high expectations from him. But I was absolutely blown away by the awesomeness of the logo’s he came up with based on my few ideas & discussion of the app functionality. Seeing these has left me feeling so excited about this app & seeing it all come together!

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I have a feeling my initial plans of taking the weekend off may not be fully realised! Smile