Dogfooding is still in fashion
When it came to leaving a salaried and regular freelance position to concentrate on my own stuff, I gave myself plenty of time to adjust. I’m a massive believer in the 6Ps and by being hugely fail averse once upon a time, I felt that I’d possibly overcome some of that pit-of-your-stomach gloom that you feel when it’s all coming crashing down, and I’d learned from it.
After all, I have loads of strings to my bow. I don’t just make games and apps, I’m a consultant, a projects evaluator, a public speaker and a best-selling author. I took some time to think about what I wanted to do and develop. I took some business coaching and looked at inwardly as an employee and not just as a business owner. Having ticked all of the boxes and ready to burst out of the starting gate, I looked at my plans and realised I needed to go back to the drawing board.
I’ve developed two amazing apps as very fast prototypes and I have a small game in development but it took a while to realise that my target audience was wrong for me. I had literally no intention of doing what everyone else wants to do and because of that I needed to make a movement rather than follow it. So far so good, I can do that; I’m all about bending the rules, setting trends and being innovative rather than following the herd and yet, no one wants to invest in products that might be *new* or *revolutionary*, so I became my own investor.
Putting up the money for my app and after some amazingly ridiculous quotes from a variety of sources, I set about making something that for the first time in my life would be something that I would want to use, that I would want to back and that I would totally support. We call this dogfooding. “Eating your own dog food, also called dogfooding, is a slang term used to reference a scenario in which a company uses its own product to test and promote the product.” Apple does it, Microsoft does it, why shouldn’t I do it? And that is now my raison d’être: how can I innovate and make apps and games that I really want to use and not something that is like chewing gum and lasts for like 3 weeks.
And whilst everyone else is avidly reading articles about the best ways to pitch your product or how to present yourself in the boardroom, I’m walking around in broad daylight using one of my apps. Someone stopped me the other day and said “what’s that?” and I explained it in simpler terms than I could rely on from a marketing or PR company. That’s not to say that this method doesn’t work, it just isn’t working for me right now. I’m not ready. I’m ready to talk. I’m ready to share and I’m ready to learn from the woman in the street who stops me to see why I should have all of the cool gadgets. My answer was simple “I made it!” I told her. “Really?” she seemed surprised and I waited for a moment before asking her if she wanted to try it.
And that’s how it is from hereon: I ask me how I’d finance, how I’ll monetize and how I can turn a profit. I’m doing something that you aren’t in a marketplace that you can’t be bothered to target, because you don’t know how to, because you won’t take the risk and try. It’s not easy. I’ve hit some walls, but I’m not giving up. Why should I? If I give up I won’t have any apps or games in my phone that I need in my life….
And because of this, I’m kind of experiencing something of a living-the-dream moment. I told someone a couple of years ago that I’d love to invest in apps and games that innovate and inspire, but I had no idea where to begin or what to do. By actually going through the motions myself, by struggling with ideas and prototypes and by going for it; I set my mind to having a go. Fast forward a few years and I’m doing it in Malta by developing funds, using my experiences at the European Commission, by funding privately and correctly: by following up and supporting. By being a mentor and not some silent partner that just wants a return on investment.
So here’s six super tips to get you started:
- Fast Prototyping is just that. It shouldn’t last more than one sprint.
- Price up your demo/prototype carefully. Do you really want to spend 4k or 4 months on a demo that might not resemble the final product?
- Dogfood what you’ve made. Try it out for size. Do you like it? Are you the target audience?
- Be your own investor. Develop a back-of-the-cigarette-packet calculation of what you want to put into the full dev versus what your deem acceptable a return.
- Secure your idea. Trademark it simply through your local government or apply for patents. Copyright your work if you can. You’d be making IP lawyers the world over, very happy.
- Tentatively seek partners or licensees only when you’re ready. Don’t be pestered or pushed into selling, partnering or licensing your product. Especially if it’s a labour of love or a product you really like.
This article was first published over at Linkedin (November 2016). I’ve got literally no contacts there, so, no one reads what I write!