How We Launched a Startup From Our Software Shop on a Lean Budget

Ever wonder why the best software shops can’t launch a product? Products are hard and it can be harder to launch new products from within a consulting company. Consulting generates quick revenue whereas products are long-term investments, which may or may not result in big returns. The quick revenue always takes precedence over long term investment for development shops. Let us share how we spun off a new startup, Flyta.ca, from our development shop, Grype. We will highlight five key points in the process that are critical to getting your product to a minimum viable stage.

1. Idea and focus

Before a start-up can be born, there must be a solid idea. We invested plenty of time and effort in brainstorming sessions, gap analysis, market trends and water cooler chats. The key is to find a problem important to the founding team, in a market big enough to make it a worthwhile investment. Once you decide on the idea, you need to be laser focused on the problem to find different ways to approach it. We wanted to solve the problem of international shipping. It’s tedious and expensive to send gifts to our loved ones overseas. We wanted to make international shipping affordable and painless for everyone. Our goal was to disrupt the market with a simple yet profound idea. What if we could significantly lower the cost of shipping using spare airline cargo space and pass the savings to customers? The idea resounded and Flyta was born.

2. Separation

Our core business was significantly different from what we were about to take on. How can a Drupal development shop have anything to do with shipping? How do we make sure that our Flyta team members will not be pulled away from developing the product when there is a critical support request from a consulting client? We needed to define a clear separation between our main company, Grype and the startup, Flyta. It was hard to focus our efforts without a distinct line between the two. One of our developers dedicated his efforts full time to do app development for Flyta and the management team set aside dedicated hours to work on the business side of things. Others in the company put in whatever time they could spare after finishing their consulting projects. Creating this separation worked like a charm and allowed us to give the startup project the focus it deserved. It was not just about working hard, but working smart.

3. Cheap market validation

We wanted to fail fast, so we crafted a short questionnaire to identify the needs and wants of our target audience. The results were remarkable. Within a few weeks, we went from a couple people answering the questionnaire to over two hundred. At that point we realized that the problem was real and Flyta began to take shape. The simple questionnaire we created for market validation cost us zero dollars. We then took the project to Startup Weekend Ottawa to see how people react to our idea. We received great feedback and met some remarkable people at the event. One of them eventually joined our core team. Industry research also played an important part in market validation. Whether it is looking into who the competition was or other companies working on similar ideas, thorough research helped keep our cost down by avoiding some of the mistakes others have made.

4. Acquiring resources for the start-up

In terms of technical resources, the first step is to look within the company to determine valuable resources that can be used for the start-up. As previously mentioned these resources must be completely devoted to the project and not teeter between different projects. We knew early on that the founding team would make or break our project. These should be people that are smart, passionate about solving the problem, go-getters and also close friends who will have each other’s back. We reached out to our vast network of friends and had numerous coffee meetings with potential recruits. It was an arduous process; nevertheless a team of people that shared the same vision and were willing to invest their time and money came together and formed the core team of Flyta.

5. Minimum Viable Product

The faster a minimum viable product (MVP) is in place, the faster the company is able to collect feedback from the market to decide on the next iteration. In the case of Flyta, our first validation was nothing but a landing page to allow people to sign up. The moment we saw some interest from our audience we quickly cooked up a functional MVP using Drupal. Within months we received tons of feedback, which allowed us to tweak our model until we launched a proper web app. Currently our web app continues to evolve and improve as more and more people join and use Flyta.

Sounds simple, eh? Not really, we left out countless details that brought us to where we are today. We also left out our amazing story of pivoting our idea during the International Startup Fest 2015 in Montreal. Let us know what you think about our experience and if there is anything you would have done differently.

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