Internet startup risk management. Part one

    Written from personal experience and impressions. This is not complete material, rather a small squeeze.
    Please note what you liked, write comments and questions in a personal.

    The risks
    • Failure to reach the target audience
    • Incorrect target audience definition
    • Inadequate audience activity
    • Bad business model
    • Disruption in development time
    • Non-involvement of project participants
    • Projects with a budget of less than $ 1000
    • Design
    • Missing Trend
    • Burn Theme
    • The youth is pale, with his eyes burning
    • The invention of bicycles

    Universal methods
    • Strategy
    • Analysis
    • Interview
    • Prototype
    • Non-core prototyping
    • Reviews
    • Strong solutions

    The risks

    Failure to reach the target audience

    In order to determine as accurately as possible whether the project will be interesting to a specific group of people who will pay or click on banners, it is enough to conduct a little research.
    Firstly, as accurately as possible to determine the target audience. As a rule, this is one or several groups of people who are distinguished by a certain age, gender, geography of residence, social status, cultural characteristics, legal details, and most importantly - the area of ​​interest.
    To understand that the definition of the target audience is unsuccessful is very simple - when it contains the word “everything”.
    It is also not difficult to see a successful definition of the target audience - as a rule, it contains specific data, and it contains very detailed descriptions of several groups.
    Good material on this subject can be found in the books of Philip Kotler.
    Once the target audience is determined, the next super-interesting task becomes. Find these people. We live in the century of highly developed social networks, so there will be no problem finding community forums on interests.
    Please also note that real groups that fit your specific requirements may not be found in thematic communities. The conclusion about the size of one of the groups of people who will be interested in your project can be made by evaluating projects that may be far off topic, but coinciding on the target audience.
    By counting the number of participants in the groups you actually found, you can get an idea of ​​the projected size of the future audience of your project.

    Incorrect target audience definition

    It is revealed through interviews among representatives of Central Asia. Details are below.
    A simple way to insure against this error is to collect enough information, study opinions, and interview key participants. Take into account the opinions received! Not only to listen to yourself, but also to critics. It is not necessary to accept their position, but listening to and recording information is in your own interests.
    Both here and hereinafter, one of the fundamental principles is the principle popularized by Suvorov "It is difficult to learn, easy to fight."
    Well, or a raven from the cartoon "Wings, Legs and Tails" - "It is better to lose a day, then fly in five minutes."
    I understand that laziness. I understand that in scrap. I understand that it’s difficult in places. But in fact, the observation of numerous startups - then it will be even more difficult. And even lazier. And with a huge degree of probability - "it's too late."

    Inadequate audience activity

    “There are 3 million of us,” and there are no more than three to five hundred active participants on the site who use and pay money. A frequent case, well known to many of the readers.
    Audience loyalty should be worked on as a separate project. To help - means of "socialization", a gentlemanly set, the creation of groups on social networks and topics in close forums, be sure to several strong copywriters or involved participants.
    An important point is convenient feedback. The startup should often take the initiative, and ask participants about the service, about how they use it.
    Competitions, meetings and entertainment, partisan work on the development of social groups contribute to increasing loyalty. You can also simply upload photos from meetings and events. It works, verified.
    It makes sense to make friends with the most active participants, and regularly consult with them. Ask them why they pay money? What you hear is likely to be far from the goals that you considered and worked out at the planning stage of the project, but will be excellent material for further development.

    Bad business model

    The most popular diagnosis. Surprisingly, adults and very serious people invest startups with money and their own time, without devoting enough attention to the business model.
    There are literally thousands of cases when an online project is hyped, there is an audience, but no money.
    What is a business model? This is literally the method by which a project receives money. Often called the term "Monetization." When developing a business model, the data obtained as a result of marketing research, taking into account conversion, can be used to calculate profit.
    There should be answers to two questions: “how” and “how much”. Moreover, the profit plan may be relative, but must be calendar.
    In the general case, business models are successful:
    - calculated;
    - popular, or correlating with popular methods of "monetization".
    Calculating is very simple. In spreadsheets, calculate the amount of net money received from one satisfied customer, multiply by the predicted number of visitors (you should not take a conversion of more than 1% in the calculations, oh no ...), and calculate the schedule schedule. What revenue is expected per month, quarter, year?
    Complicated schemes make sense to prefer the traditional:
    - monthly fee;
    - direct revenue from sales of goods / services;
    - frimium;
    - sale of advertising;
    - others.
    Complex schemes work when they are implemented in an existing project, in the process of optimizing the underlying business model. I do not know of a single Internet project that could survive with a complex monetization scheme from the start. I know dozens of projects with sophisticated schemes that have not paid for hosting.

    Disruption in development time

    First, give priority to prototyping. Details are below.
    Secondly, before real development planning, get opinions on the schedule from several outsourcers. Multiply the time and cost you get in two - it's better to act with a margin than to detect problems after they have occurred.
    Popular sign - all really successful startups in development have been staying no more than three months. Let’s not discuss the reasons, it’s just a sign.
    Thirdly, it makes sense to make a calendar schedule with periods of no more than a month, and track its implementation. If the time has passed for two periods, but there is still no release - obviously, it makes sense to radically change something in the development.
    Highly detailed technical specifications, which is surprising, are not a panacea in this case. Very often there are solid-looking documents described in which the programs do not work. The descriptions are simply not self-sufficient, but abound with references to techniques and commonplace aspects.
    Make a concise description of the business logic, and describe the most important aspects of the interface. You should not draw forms, and schemes with dozens of arrows, if you are not an experienced developer. It will be a waste of time.
    Get advice on technical issues not from one, but from several professionals. Moreover, the degree of professionalism of the interviewee is worth evaluating, studying reviews and reputation in thematic communities, and not just the opinions of relatives and friends who are far from the topic.
    If you consider yourself prosaranny, take the advice of one of the ancient thinkers, I don’t remember who said it: “Doubt it!”. Just discuss technical aspects of implementation with colleagues who are smarter than you. Even if it’s hard to admit, find those and have a chat. As a rule, most professionals are open to contacts, and do not shy away from consulting their colleagues privately. On all forums there is a PM.

    Non-involvement of project participants

    Many startups are looking for investment just to get it. At the same time, the actual fate of the startup is on their side. It is possible to identify such as a result of the interview, by some of the following questions:
    - they are ready to sell the idea and project at any stages;
    - they easily move the project budget under the investor's capabilities;
    - they are not ready to sign investment agreements, exchange personal data and so on.
    Of course, the list of questions is not complete, and people are changing, and they are changing their opinion and position - this is completely normal.
    But the determination of positions and some diagnostics will completely help get rid of the development of events where you find yourself alone with a "broken trough."
    The smaller the team, the better. Sometimes, it makes sense to buy the idea and the loyalty of its author for a small amount, and responsibly engage in implementation as part of a small sabotage group - where the fighters fight shoulder to shoulder, and there is no fear that a comrade can fail.
    Practice shows that the most loyal and involved are the employees. Surprisingly, but true.

    Projects with a budget of less than $ 1000

    If you reliably personally spend at least half of your time on the project - then it can shoot.
    If not, you will soon find yourself in the huge statistics of unsuccessful experiments, which are quite a lot in the portfolio of each freelancer.
    There is such a thing as a "level of entry into the market." Hundreds of thousands of micro-budget startups praying for a dozen leaders, this very level of entry, actually raised.
    There is a widespread belief that the level of entry into the market in IT startups is low. This is true when it comes to unsuccessful projects. There are a lot of them to madness.
    Read project management literature at least diagonally. There are many, and almost all books are good.
    After all, it is advisable to learn from the mistakes of others, and not from your own. How do you think?


    There are no comrades for taste and color. The vast majority of inexperienced startups who perceive projects as design invest more money and attention in it than they should. At the same time, they rely on Steve's experience.
    Yes, Steve was very careful about design. But he was operating with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, and was engaged in optimizing existing projects. Not experiments at an early stage, but less than 1% of the budget of promoted projects.
    As a result, create designs in which there is a lot of "meat". Often they turn out to be difficult to make, because designers obediently listen to the customer, and draw what they are asked. Naturally, such layouts do not take into account the development of functionality, and most importantly - they tend to inspire only their authors. They are bright and colorful, so they naturally distract users from what they should pay attention to. Of course, the result is predictable - the interfaces just “don't work”.
    Another problem is the obsessive design that one likes and dislikes the other.
    It is easy to insure yourself - to minimize design work, focusing only on the main details (modular grid, palette, signs, style, asceticism), to make a fully functional prototype that provides everything that should be provided, and give the designer a working program.
    This strategy hides another phenomenon.
    The fact is that designers, as creative personalities, are very suspicious and even touchy people. The vast majority of designers request to remake something is almost perceived as a personal insult.
    A simple way that will help to avoid problems with design, and with the need to change the designer, is to give him a working program not for design and sketches, but for a working program. Inspiration will be on top, checked repeatedly!

    Missing Trend

    The IT industry is amazingly young. It is developing extremely dynamically, but in fact it is not even 30 years old in the world, 15 years in our country.
    Trends in the IT industry are very short. Literally - 3-6 months. Compare with 3-5 years in advertising (industry about 80 years), 100 years in construction (oh old ...). Everything changes very quickly here.
    Themes quickly spread. e-Magpies on their tails throughout the week spread every new idea to everyone who is interested. We often observe this from the inside - when dozens of authors of the same “new” idea simultaneously begin to search for resources and outsourcers for their “unique” project.
    There is a popular fashion - repeat famous western startups. In most cases, only super popular projects that opened several years ago fall into fashion. Thus, repeating them, the authors obviously find themselves in retrospect, fall out of the trend.
    An affordable method for successful copying is to correlate the developed business model with current trends. At the same time, I beg you to make sure of the relevance of the trends that you are considering. Habr will help!
    The biggest problem is time wasting. It often takes an indecent amount of time from an idea to a discovery. This has a serious impact on the success of the project from various angles. We will not list them, since there is a sufficient amount of remarkable literature on these issues. I note only briefly that this is very bad.
    One way to avoid this disaster is to plan preparatory work for the opening of the project in such a way as to complete them within the average duration of the trend. Namely - no more than 3-6 months.
    In the memory of the author and many of his colleagues are dozens of projects, work on which lasted longer and substantially longer. None of the projects fired without significant changes. Again, this sign ...

    Burn Theme

    The most popular fear among startups! And, honestly, justified.
    Burning a theme is quick and easy.
    • When searching for investors. There are hundreds of pseudo-investors whose main purpose is to collect topics. It is very easy to run into such.
    • When searching for artists.
    • In a relationship with partners and performers. Especially when they are the same people. You want your idea to be realized for the idea.
    • With insufficiently dynamic development.

    Interestingly, it is not difficult to insure.
    1. Make development dynamic. Open the project and start its work ... after you do it for the first time, you will find that 70% of the actions were off topic.
    2. Do you need investments or a profitable project? Honestly, these are two different things. In search of investment, it is easy to lose a project.
    3. Limit the circle of those involved. For information and feedback it is absolutely not necessary to talk about the project. The project has details, and you can examine them individually.
    The first commandment of the Japanese samurai "Do not tell anyone about your intentions." Think about it. Banzai!

    The youth is pale, with his eyes burning

    Well clever after all! Such a great idea. Well done!
    And where did you get the idea that he would also be able to successfully fulfill the role of director of a small enterprise?
    If, pah-pah-pah, you need to do yourself a surgical operation - do you trust the young man? With brilliant eyes and great ideas?
    Even if you are that very young man, heed the mind! Hire a manager. An experienced who reliably knows how to develop projects.
    At least - the so-called mentor.
    Secret: do not look for a profile mentor. As a rule, in fact, they do not care about the results. I don’t know why, just stating the results of observations.
    Find a successful entrepreneur who has achieved success in various areas, possibly far from information technology. The fact is that the principles of successful business in all sectors are the same. And about IT, due to the popularity of the trend, a lot of amateurs and laymen gathered. Even from the village of Skolkovo or the like. Moreover, most of them are difficult to determine ... An entrepreneur operating in more traditional areas will give you much more useful advice than a conventional average IT manager.
    The author of the project will be an excellent consultant. But do not assign administrative work to him if he does not have the relevant experience.
    Well, why in other sectors do everyone perfectly understand the absurdity of the opposite?

    The invention of bicycles

    It's about development.
    Let's compare with the auto industry. If there are successful decisions on the organization of production, when the assembly line is the basis, there is established logistics for it, which ensures the production of components.
    If automobile concerns were engaged in the production of steel, sheet hire, electronics development and other low-level tasks from scratch, we did not know anything about these automobile concerns. A good strategy is to focus on the main aspects, and for their implementation to actively seek and select proven solutions.
    In analogy with programming, we are talking about the fact that the duration and cost of development can be significantly reduced:
    • Using popular libraries and frameworks;
    • studying technologies of similar solutions (there are almost everything on the github and bitbucket);
    • Using stable, proven technologies, ignoring fashionable chips;
    • how to escape from fire from those who, with reverence in their speech, use the phrase “their own framework”.

    In order to succeed - it is necessary to narrow the controlled area. What do you want to develop? Your project, or their "own framework"? The latter, believe me, is expensive and simply meaningless - there are available analogues where thousands of human hours have already been invested, which have huge groups where you can get support. No self-written framework can compete with, for example: the jQuery family of solutions, Adobe products, the base libraries C ++, YII, CodeIgniter, Drupal and hundreds of others.
    To the thesis “our framework will help you” it makes sense to ask again - and to whom has he already helped? And to evaluate not the design of sites, but the dynamics of the development of projects. So all amateur offers are eliminated.
    Before writing any modules, for example, acquiring, has to search for existing ones. They can be used as is, either with refinement, or used as the basis for the design and development of a new solution.
    To write everything from scratch is even worse than “your own framework”. Delayed deadlines and "unpredictable", in fact, spontaneous budget increases are guaranteed.
    This also includes premature optimization. Experienced programmers are aware of the so-called harm principle of premature optimization. Optimization is not meaningless when it is applied to an already running program. The main optimization method is to search for bottlenecks, for example, by unit testing, and then refine it using the objectively found one.
    Many beginners begin to optimize even before they get something workable. In 100% of cases this does not bring any benefits - it takes a lot of time, but they do not guess with bottlenecks. It's nonsense to guess, instead of exploring and making decisions based on objective, real, not imaginary information.

    Universal methods


    The following phenomenon is familiar to experienced designers. Scrupulously designed and balanced easily spoils one or two wrong actions.
    The best idea is easily spoiled by so-called bottlenecks. As a rule, at the design stage they are not noticeable, and only after the fact are detected.
    In order to insure the project against failure, it makes sense to do the following.
    1. Narrow the subject area. Throw away all unnecessary, leaving only the most important details.
    2. Perform the design! In fact, the degree of elaboration is of secondary importance. Initially, the very fact that the idea, strategy, tactics and details are stored not only in your imagination, but on paper is important.
    Imagine that you want to build a house for yourself. Will you work without a drawing? That's right - at least some, but you will make both a drawing and an estimate.
    It is completely incomprehensible why startups ignore design. It is absolutely not necessary to hire RBC consulting for this. Start with notes in a text editor or in everton.
    Make two documents: “Everything” and “Basic”. Thus, you can fix all ideas, improving the quality of further analysis, and separate the grain from the chaff, choosing really important facts.
    Understanding whether the selected aspect is important is simple. Make the document “Basic” in a two-column table format. In the left write the factors. To the right is what these factors influence. Objectively, and with an explanation of how it is affected. If the cell in the right column is empty, or written unconvincingly, this is a potential candidate for postponement for later.
    Structure and simplify the action plan until it becomes amazingly simple, and you can put relative dates near each of the points - thus obtaining a schedule for the implementation of the project.
    Tracking the implementation of the schedule will be your main goal in the near future.


    Analytics is considered the lot of nerds.
    Well and good! While your competitors are thinking about destinies and nerds - you will secure your money, time and energy by conducting a self-sufficient reconnaissance before the outbreak of hostilities.
    Adequate analysis costs are easy to determine. They should be less than the cost of opening a project.
    Tip one: write everything down. And draw. The logical (abstract) thinking of a person is designed in such a way that it works very quickly, but is able to process only 3-7 facts at a time.
    By recording and sketching even the obvious, you achieve two goals. First, you capture data for subsequent conclusions. Recorded - not forgotten. Secondly, you free your own abstract thinking for more useful than trivial thoughts.
    An important point - in the recorded form, thoughts look more clearly than in fantasies and in words. It makes sense to record everything. By the way, all successful businessmen do just that. If you are too lazy to write, use a voice recorder.
    Then you can re-read, and think again, making useful decisions. Your results will be brilliant.


    In addition to Internet readings, interviews are also useful for collecting data.
    You have a definite opinion on specific issues. Clear and convincing. But in order to reduce the number of errors - this opinion should be objective.
    As Einstein proved, everything is subjective. Therefore, in order to reduce the number of errors, it makes sense to collect opinions. The decision to make is all the same to you, but! The more opinions taken into account, even frankly “wrong” ones, the more points of support for your decision. The more relevant and successful your decision.
    You can interview both colleagues and hypothetical users. To ensure the relevance of the results, include bright and medium representatives in the structure of the interviewed.
    Use well-known copywriting technologies:
    1. Make a brief. The more the better. Only upon completion of the brief do not forget to highlight the most important aspects, and include them in the short version. Make two versions of the brief - short, and complete, for those interested.
    Brief questions should be open. A lot of recommendations on this subject are in the literature for advertisers and marketers.
    2. Engage the polling service.
    3. Conduct personal interviews and interviews, independently and diligently impartially filling out a brief on the results. Mark all ideas and thoughts that you did not foresee.
    In this case, the idea of ​​burning is not necessary. You can create anonymized polls by separating them and formulating questions in such a way as to study opinions, but not to hint at the topic.
    I’ll show you a good way to ensure security against unauthorized dissemination of ideas - to pretend that you have a different topic. Feel unconsciously, only parametrically similar to what interests you. Parameters and fix - in total you get a rather bright and self-sufficient picture.
    Use the information received and to revise the idea and its individual parameters.


    Probnik is significantly cheaper than the bottle. The effect of the probe is the same, but the risks are less.
    The bottom line is that the prototype is fully functional. Choose the most important functions, think of a simple and understandable interface for a obviously wide (read-unprepared) audience, and implement it with a small budget. Launch a mini-project, and carefully examine all its characteristics - from statistics to single sales. Mandatory - you need user reviews!
    Interestingly, champion projects are born from prototypes. Often they even change insignificantly in the process of development. A striking example is Gmail.
    After some results are obtained from the prototype, 3-6 months after the launch, it makes sense to think about its development. But this time you will already have objective information about the most diverse aspects of the project. And your management decisions will be much more successful.
    The beauty of the prototype is that it allows you to try out ideas and strategies, not even in miniature, but with minimal investment. It makes no sense to share with someone and give large pieces of the future pie for modest participation at an early stage. In the vast majority of cases, a minimum amount of investment is sufficient. Make a working version of the project with a minimum set of the most important ideas, and start working.
    More on prototyping:
    • The super-fast essentially full-featured prototyping technique will allow you to quickly stake out a place in the sun and develop further;
    • Speeding up development and minimizing costs, you are more likely to get into a successful trend, and less likely to open simultaneously with many competitors;
    • fundamentally - give the project life. Instead of lengthy and unsuccessful searches for large sums, involving a huge risk of burning down the idea of ​​opening a project with obviously modest costs, and developing it relevantly, based on real objective data, and not on dreams and assumptions.

    Non-core prototyping

    Very conditional wording.
    It is possible to evaluate the success of a project by completing one or more experiments in an abstract format. The purpose of the experiments may be:
    - assessment of the target audience;
    - assessment of the relevance of the interests of the target audience;
    - a cautious assessment of the relevance of a startup idea.
    A copywriter will help with this, or you can do it yourself. Talk with people on the topic, posting articles and questions in communities and forums, and draw conclusions.
    Before investing money, personal time and effort into a large project, it may make sense to make a small but abstract. Not similar, maybe not even on the same topic, but working with the same target audience, with the same business model - you can try completely different aspects, and the cost of the experiments will be very modest.
    The results of the experiments can be used as initial data in the analysis and design of the perspective of the main idea.


    Bad reviews are one of the most valuable tools of a good director. Only a dissatisfied client will sincerely tell what, how and why he did not like it.
    Internet projects have such a feature that users are passive. They do not need to speak out loud, go somewhere or do something to use what is provided. They can use it absolutely silently. And, even if they don’t like something, they, quite cynically, can simply ignore what is proposed, or ignore the flaws, and you will never know about these problems.
    Dissatisfied customers, on the contrary - do not skimp on the details.
    The specificity of this business is that weaknesses often create more problems than strong solutions - they promote the project in front. Due to the "narrow necks" there is an outflow of visitors, a decrease in loyalty, problems in implementing front-end scripts and other troubles.
    It is an angry, dissatisfied customer who will help you learn about these problems. Down with the pink glasses! Train the staff of your technical support, engage in counseling and analysis of feedback yourself, take many effective measures, invest in receiving feedback, whatever it may be. And analyze each.
    Negative reviews are priceless. A dissatisfied customer can let you know how to get hundreds and thousands of satisfied ones. This is not my discovery.
    The worst mistake startups make is deafness. Successful entrepreneurs usually have their ears open, and they invest and develop projects to receive user feedback.

    Strong solutions

    In accordance with the Pareto principle, only a small part of the actions leads to the achievement of a potentially large part of the result. It works, it is physics, and it is a fact.
    Make a table. In the first column, in detail, thesis - all decisions, all functions, chips, lotions, features of the interface and design of your project. In the second column write what each thesis affects.
    Then, only then - in the third column with points, evaluate the degree of influence of the thesis on the result. Points should indicate relative importance, that is, how much a particular item is more important than a neighboring one. Do not philosophize, limit the scale to 5 or 10 points. Simplicity will play into your account, in this case.
    Sort the table by the third column. In theory, only the first 20% are significant.
    When planning, select them in a separate document. This is something without which the project will not be able to live and develop. It is these aspects that should be given the most attention.
    From the rest, select those items that directly or indirectly affect the engagement and loyalty of the audience, as well as those that inspire authors or key users of the project. Buttons for sharing and login via social networks without forms for registration got there?
    Form them them package "gentleman" - that which simply should be.
    Thus, you can identify useful concepts for the development of your project, and weed out the flog.

    Write in PM what you would like to know in the next article.

    Thank you and good luck to you!

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