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Four Rules for Navigating the First 90 Days of a Software Startup

“I moved from Australia to the Silicon Valley to learn the ways of startups,” said Cathy Edwards, Founder and CTO of Chomp, and speaker at the Women 2.0 Pitch Conference and Competition this past Valentine’s Day. Her startup, Chomp, is a mobile application database. Before founding Chomp, Edwards worked at Friendster and 3jam. What she learned was the following four rules in the first 90 days of a software business:

  1. Overinvest in user research upfront. First, speak to customers and understand their true need. Do not embark on prototype and usability testing until you have discovered their true need. Then read Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug and design your web usability with users in mind.

  2. Size the market and make sure you are building something big enough. A back of envelope check is all you need.  You must convince yourself that that you are investing your energy in the right place.

  3. Put just-enough processes in place. The most important process to use is version control.  If you can, also set up commit emails, a bug tracking tool and a wiki for documentation. Do not, I repeat, do not track bugs using emails.

  4. Even if you are not the technical founder, know what is going on inside your system. Leverage reporting tools such as Nagios, Ganglia, and Cacti to monitor time graphs and other infrastructure performance.

After the first 90 days, deliver a prototype. If you abide by the four rules above, your prototype might just be received by the ample mouse clicks of your intended audience.

Connie Kwan is the CEO of RealMealz.com in Silicon Valley, CA.  She holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School, and covers stories about triple bottom line businesses and projects. Follow her on Twitter @realmealz and @conniemkwan.

Connie Kwan

Connie Kwan is a Product Manager and Entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley, CA. She builds teams to deliver products that benefit people, planet and profit. She holds an MBA in Sustainability at Presidio Graduate School and blogs about sustainability and business at Sustainable Thinking: Applied (http://blog.conniekwan.com)

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