So we had a great idea, we developed the core system for 4 months, raised money and even gathered our core R&D Ninjas. Like every startup our focus kept shifting both before we launched and before starting our Lean circle. I don’t know if the more experienced founders face this problem (I’m quite sure they do) but we are now facing the biggest problem a startup in 2011 has -‐ on which platform should we build our service?
This question may sound a bit funny to some of you but trust me it isn’t. Ages ago (3‐4 years) it was very clear which platform to use for your startup – and for the majority of us the answer would have been “yourGreatIdea.com”. In 2011 all the different platforms are evolving at an exponential rate and you can’t ignore them. Just think about it: web, iPhone apps, Facebook apps, Android apps, Twitter apps, tablets and probably a few more I’ve left out. (BTW there is a really interesting video with Mark Zuckerberg talking about this,forward to 4:30).
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So we are in the office brainstorming (playing Wi , but don’t tell our investors) and suddenly my co‐founder, Omri, is saying how great our product would be on mobile devices and starts talking about the advantages. Suddenly we find ourselves in a 2 hour debate discussing Yotpo’s Android app, the tablet version and so on. So we realized we can’t ignore all the platforms but on the other hand we are just 5 people and like many smart people have said: “Do one thing but do it good”.
We were really confused and I decided to do a little research about the main platforms and to tell you the truth didn’t get a clear answer. The pros for the web is that it’s been around for a long time (since 1996, the minute Google launched) so the development and marketing methods are well known. There are a lot of great videos, blogs and even books about companies that have been successful with or without spending money on Google/Facebook ads.
The cons, regarding Yotpo, is that we felt the web itself is not where a startup in 2011 should be built. I know some of you may laugh or think we are stupid but that was our feeling. We felt that if we’re not using all these amazing platforms properly then we’re doing it all wrong. For those of you who like numbers: the use of desktop computers is down 35% for iPad users, there are 975 million mobile web users expected by 2012, the average iPhone User Downloads 9 Games, Spends $7 On Them a year! And regarding Facebook and Twitter we all know the numbersyou just can’t ignore them and feel good about it!
I believe that being a mobile/tablet startup requires something different. There are a lot of really cool companies who have done amazing things with mobile devices (Yelp and Amazon are two which pop into my head) but let’s face it, none of us are Amazon or Yelp for now (give us 3‐4 years). Even if mobile devices have great advantages for your startup I would consider collaborating with an existing mobile app or service. Building a mobile app for your startup is not just another thing you develop, it has to be in the company DNA. Think of it in the eyes of a user. What it takes for you to download an app to your temple?? (never mind if it’s an IPhone one or Android) and what it takes for you to go visit a new website. Also, you need to think of development, UI and support.
Eventually we chose to build our product for the web but built the system architecture in a way that integrating with mobile devices/tablets/social networks will be much easier. Take what you like from our experiences, but what I can stress is the importance for a founding team to think and research platform options and only then continue to development.