The 5 Most Common Startup Technology Mistakes

The 5 Most Common Startup Technology Mistakes

For the uninitiated, it’s a steep learning curve when trying to break into the Startup space. Technological decisions made in the early stages of product development often have a lasting impact throughout the entire course of a project. The majority of Startup founders look back on their experience, and can count many situations where they would have made a decision differently.

But hindsight is 20/20. The best we can do is to leverage the experiences of others, and to try learn which problems can be avoided altogether.

So, let’s look at some of the most common technological mistakes that Startups tend to make.

1. Sticking with WordPress for far too long

WordPress is a great platform. A blogging CMS that takes up 34% of websites on the internet is bound to be good. But to build your product offering using WordPress is risky.

Startup founders often use WordPress. It’s familiar to them and so it is naturally the go-to for getting an initial minimum viable product (MVP) up-and-running. And this isn’t a bad idea. It’s cheap and can provide all that you need to get that early product version into the hands of some early adopters.

But it is important to have a clear roadmap for eventually migrating away from WordPress,  depending on whether your product gains traction or not. WordPress is built for blogging websites, and it hasn’t been optimised for hosting bespoke product developments that most Startups are gunning for.

Although these things can eventually be worked around with enough funding, it’s typically not worth the performance bottlenecks in the short term. The suggested way is to build the core of a product from scratch, using one of the many software development frameworks out there. Also, to keep costs down, you can leverage third-party services, where appropriate, through an optimised application program interface (API). This removes the constraints imposed by a CMS platform and allows for greater scalability in the future.

2. Outsourcing blindly

Outsourcing product development has become important in reducing the costs of any Startup venture. There is an abundance of online services that connect freelancers with founders in ways that didn’t exist a decade ago. The biggest issue is typically the quality and reliability of these freelancers. The lack of adequate checks and balances in this space is another common mistake Startups can make.

There are many ways to tackle this problem. One is to spend more time on the interview process. Freelancer platforms often have ratings and reviews available, but these are not always reliable. Asking your shortlisted candidates to sit for paid online coding tests will help with validating their skills level. Also, giving a new freelancer smaller projects to begin with is a good way to establish whether or not they’re reliable.

Another option (or addition) is to have a “hands-off” independent third-party involved during the development stage. Their role is to review and report on the development progress, as well as suggest improvements. At the same time, they can gauge the skills level of individual developers and inform you of any performance issues.

3. Lack of research on your own stack

Professionally, it’s no longer acceptable for a non-technical founder do be complete the technology stack that their product is built on. There’s no need to go too far into understanding what makes up your product offering, but knowing too little is thwart with danger.

For instance, when potential investors ask about your product, how will it look if you don’t know what type of database is used to store your customers’ sensitive information? And, when delegating work to a new developer, one of the first questions they will ask is what the technology stack is made up of. Knowing a little about the languages, frameworks and infrastructure that your product is built on will help significantly with communication, management and trustworthiness.

There are several ways to research your technology stack.

The first and most obvious is to ask your current developer or development team. If they haven’t already mentioned it, ask them:

  • which main programming language they use, and
  • which development framework the stack is built on.

Another quick way to determine your technology stack is to run it through a service such as BuiltWith.

With this information in hand, it will be time to put your search engine to work. Researching the basics of your tech stack, along with its advantages and disadvantages, will be a good investment of your time.

4. Not starting in the Cloud from Day 1

Cloud hosting providers such AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud have changed the way software is hosted. Traditionally, software used to be installed on a fixed number of servers, adding new servers as the need arose. With the advent of Cloud hosting, new servers can now be spun up immediately and automatically in response to surges in website usage.

There’s a number of benefits to Cloud hosting. These include

  1. product scalability,
  2. reduced costs,
  3. business continuity,
  4. collaboration efficiency, and
  5. automatic updates.

Therefore, hosting your online product in the Cloud is now the best way to ensure that it can handle existing user activity and those sudden influxes of new users. Also, by starting in the Cloud from Day 1, there won’t be the need to migrate from a traditional infrastructure later, which will save time and money. Your product can scale gradually, with minimal changes needed from your development team.

Furthermore, when a website crashes, it doesn’t look good, and your customers will notice it. So, do your best to ensure 100% uptime of your product – specifically instruct your developer to build for the Cloud from the onset.

5. Failure to embrace existing online products

There’s no point reinventing the wheel. Building a Startup from the ground up is an expensive and time-consuming process. Leveraging existing products and services to complement what you have built yourself is a great way to keep or bring your costs down. Only when the costs to use the third-party platforms outweigh the benefits should you consider looking for an alternative, or build your own.

More and more platforms are being opened up via the exposure of Web APIs. You can think of these as interfaces that allow your product to communicate directly with others.

Examples include:

  • payment gateways,
  • maps,
  • weather reports,
  • stock information,
  • email and SMS,
  • food ordering and much more.

Most online services make use of APIs. They increase connectivity to the Web and add value to users.

So, instead of spending your budget early on building components from scratch, consider leveraging existing third-party services to begin with. Then, when the time comes, you can swap them out for your own service. This will ultimately keep your costs low when you need them to be, and you will give yourself room to upsell new products later on.

Learning from the mistakes of others is a long-established principle in all walks of life. In the Startup space, this principle is even more profound than normal. Although the options for Startup funding are increasing, mistakes made early on can inhibit the growth of a startup well into the future. Hopefully, the ones discussed in this article will help smoothen the decision-making in your venture.

Daniel Boterhoven

Developer and Founder @DenimDevAU. I create #apps for the web and mobile.

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