The 5 Things I Wish I knew Before Starting a Software Company
My name is Antonino Febbraro, and I run Atsap (the company that brings you this awesome blog). I started Atsap back in 2017 with the dream of bring my app ideas and the app ideas of others to life. There is no doubt the past few years have been the most interesting time of my life. There have been may ups and downs and a lot of things that I have learned. I am writing this article in hopes that I can help other entrepreneurs interested in the software industry learn some lessons that I wish I had know before I started a software company.
Enough chit chat let's get started! Here are the five lessons that I wish I had learned before I started a software company.
1.) The Legal Paperwork is Important
When I first started Atsap, I had what I thought was a great social media app called Pima: People, Places, Parties In My Area. Turns out that the app failed, but that is a story for another day. This failure however, taught me a lot of lessons about the software industry. One of the more important lessons I learned from this was the importance of a terms of service.
One of the things I believe most entrepreneurs under estimate is how important a terms of service really is AND how many laws and regulations there are when it comes to online platforms. For example, I had no idea about COPPA Laws, which restrict platforms from allowing children younger than 13 years old on an online platform without parental consent.
This sounds simple, but when you first start out, figuring out how to do this to ensure you do not break any laws is not as easy as it sounds. Figuring out how to solve this problem added an additional month to our development schedule. Plus the added need to now have an attorney review the application.
So, my advice to you entrepreneurs is to make sure that before you start developing the next big app, talk with someone who understands software laws and regulations. Once you have an understanding of that, make sure you build those regulations into your project design and scope. This will save you a lot of time (and maybe even money) in the long run!
2.) The Importance of Building a Great Team
The next lesson that I learned fairly quickly, was the importance of building not a good team, but a GREAT team! When I first got into the software business, I was doing everything by myself for the first year. I was designing, coding, and advertising everything on my own. This was great in that it saved me a lot of money, BUT it did not help the product and business grow because all of my time was bogged down.
I learned, that in order to make a successful product and business, that I needed to build a team with people who were not only better than me at certain things, but who were also interested in building something great!
Obviously there are different qualifications for different positions on your team, but in the early stages I think that the most important quality to look for in someone you are adding to your team is their willingness to want to be a part of a team and build something special. This is important because it shows that they are dedicated to the product and the business and want it to succeed.
I was lucky to have my uncle (James Gabriel) who helped me from day one and encouraged me to build a team and make connections with people who can help Atsap succeed. Without his guidance, we would not be in the position that we are in today.
Likewise, I was fortunate to have met Collin Dreher who showed early on that he was not just interested in building apps, but in being part of a team and wanting to help build Atsap into something special. Without his willingness to help build our development team, we would not be in the position we are today.
In 2019, we gave both Collin and James Co-Founder statuses of Atsap. I bring this up, because I truly believe that their qualities to want to not just build apps, but to be a part of building up Atsap is the most important part of finding the right members for your team. You do not want people who are just looking for a paycheck - you want people who are looking to be a part in building something special!
3.) Planning is Just as Important as Implementation
Another important lesson that I learned about a year and half into running Atsap, is the importance of planning. By planning, I mean keeping track of project requirements, development schedules, and resources.
It is one thing to have a good app idea and to be able to develop it, but if you do not plan out how you are going to execute the implementation of your product, you are bound to have an up hill battle. This is something that I wish that I learned much earlier on.
One of the ways that we tackle planning of our projects at Atsap is through automation, with a software we purchased called: Asana. To get more information on how we use this to our advantage when planning our projects, check out our other blog post: Automating Your Business.
4.) The Importance of Branding and Telling a Story
Another thing that we overlooked early on was the idea of branding and telling a story with our products and business. You can have the best app idea in the world, but if you do not have a brand and a story behind it to explain to the world what exactly your product does, then you are going to have a hard time getting people on board.
This not only goes for acquiring new customers for your software, but also in building a team. If you do not have a story or brand that explains exactly what it is you or your product does, you are going to have a hard time getting people to commit to helping you build it.
Keep it simple, it does not have to be very elaborate. It should simply give someone an understanding of why you are building it, and why they should use it.
5.) Be Prepared for Growth
Lastly, another very importance lesson that I learned over the past three years is to be prepared for growth. There is only 24 hours in a day, and on average about 8 in working hours. It is important that as you get new customers or users to your software that you have a plan in place to grow.
It would be awesome if over night your app went from 0 users to 10,000 users - but are you prepared for that? It is important that when you are designing your app that when you build it you build and plan as if it the app has a million users right from the start. Scalability is key in the software industry.
And I am not saying that this means you need to have multiple developers from the start. I just mean make sure you have a plan in place, and that your databases and infrastructure can be easily scaled. Be prepared for growth.