Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Cracking Social Networking on a shoestring -BuzzE App launches today!

Name of your company?

Frendz LLC

Date started?

April 2010

What is your product or service?

Frendz LLC is a mobile software development company releasing its first product called BuzzE on the IPhone on April 20th 2011. BuzzE is a proximity based social networking application that lets users interact with people in their immediate vicinity in social venues such as bars,clubs, parties, sporting events etc. More information on BuzzE is available on the BuzzE website at http://www.buzze.com or the BuzzE Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/BuzzE/104892272912819

Why did you start your company?

I was attending a mobile development conference for my previous employer and there were a number of companies presenting mobile applications that utilized the GPS capability embedded in phones. This got me thinking about new things that could be done with the GPS feature. A couple days later I walked into a restaurant and looked over in the bar area and noticed that there was a room full of people with their heads buried in their smart phone. It occurred to me that people were at bars to interact socially and they were already playing with their phones. Why not marry the two? The original idea was to provide a way for people to send each other virtual drinks but over the course of development evolved into an application that provides user chat, games, gifts, and a social events directory. The goal is to give people a way to interact and make friends with the people around them in a way that is casual and laid back.

How was it financed ?

The company was financed with $10,000 dollars of accumulated savings.

Date officially launched?

The company was started in May of 2010 with BuzzE launching on the IPhone April 20th 2011. TODAY!

What free online or offline tools do you use?

We used a number of free tools in developing BuzzE. One of the more useful things we were able to do was take advantage of a free Microsoft program for startups called Bizspark. Among other things Bizspark offers free Microsoft software for startup technology companies. This allowed us to download and use a number of common office tools free of charge including staples such as Microsoft Office and Visio. We use free open source software for our company mail server and used open source software extensively in the product itself when there was proven open source software available. This helped us cut down significantly on development time. We also utilized license free clip art for some of the images embedded in the software itself where it made sense. One example of this is the images we used for our virtual gifts. Many but not all of those came from free sources. The overall philosophy was to spend money where money made a significant difference to the quality of the end product and compromise on costs in places that were less visible. Working with a limited budget forces you to be very practical about where money is spent and really weigh cost verse benefit.

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)?

BuzzE currently has 1 full time employee, 2 part time employees, and sources graphic design as needed from another firm.

What is the best advice you never got?

Manage your project like a real business does. Early on we lacked the structure of a formal software development cycle. It took some time before we started following a real process using proper tools and project management. Things really got on track when we implemented agile development using a fantastic and inexpensive tool called Jira. The one strange thing about this is we are from a software background and we managed development teams. We already knew the value of this stuff when managing other people. I imagine we thought we were completely above any process. There was some sense of “hey this is us we don’t need to be managed!”. Process can definitely be overdone and excessive bureaucracy is a bad thing in a large or small organizations. It took us awhile to find the compromise between too much process and no process at all. Rational planning and expectation setting is not the same thing as stifling bureaucracy.

What almost killed your business in the start?

Where we really made a mistake was in jumping right in and writing code immediately before we had a full idea what the product was ultimately going to be. That led us to throw away quite a bit of work that just didn’t make sense as the product started to take form. That early energy was a good thing but it needed to be channeled into things that were more productive.

BuzzE New Design

What is the one thing that you did right?

The best decision we made was to hire outside expertise to do the graphics design for our application. This wound up being a big piece of our overall budget but it was worth every penny. If you are doing a startup you are going to have to do some things that you are not necessarily good at. Those things should not be the things that are most visible to your customer. The difference in quality was like night and day when we had a professional do the visual design. We started out by asking him to rework a few screens we thought were a bit rough. He gave us one sample screen and as soon as we saw it we said “Oh my we need to redo the whole application don’t we?” So that’s what we did. We let him rework the whole thing and then we spent about 6 weeks recoding pieces of the app to fit his visual design but it was completely worth it.

 

 

BuzzE OLD

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?

The most challenging aspect was working in an environment when there was nobody to hold you accountable. When you are a startup there are no customers or bosses looking over your shoulder. Once that initial energy fades you have to act as your own boss and drive yourself to do what needs to be done even when its not something you enjoy doing. Accounting is one thing that comes to mind.

Are you currently in the black or red?

The company is technically in the red however with no fixed overhead costs we can continue to develop the software and build our user base for some time.

What would make your business more “Successful”?

The obvious answer is more money. We certainly have limitations in terms of advertising and other media strategies to get the word out. It would also help to have more professional expertise in house. Our very small team really consists of software developers. I would love to have a good graphics design person and a permanent marketer as part of the team. When you are a small organization you wear a lot of hats and the funny thing about hats is not all of them fit right.

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?

I think this is a question that everyone has to ask themselves at some point. Everyone has a level of responsibility that is simply more than they wish to take on. I don’t believe I want to run something the size of a fortune 500 company so there is definitely a point at which you start to think an acquisition makes sense. Early on I think we would be willing to consider a partnership with a larger entity. The possibility of finding funding from a larger partner is definitely interesting as it would allow us to roll out more features more quickly. I also believe that starting a company on a shoestring creates a culture of frugality that carries over even when you do find a funding partner. My hope is these early experiences continue to serve us well and remind us of the value of a company dollar.

What do you think your projected annual revenue will be

This is a rather difficult question to answer as it depends on the extent to which the product gets traction in the market place. Ultimately our goal would be to get to an install base of 1 to 2 million users and annual revenues of 3 million dollars. As we get larger we hope to find additional opportunities to monetize BuzzE in ways we are not currently so we will always be on the lookout for ways to increase the per user revenues.

How long do you think it will take you to get to your projected annual revenue?

17 minutes J Seriously though that is another tough question. BuzzE as a product depends on a critical mass of users in a geographic area. To that end our strategy is to focus our marketing effort on a single market at a time, determine what works and repeat those efforts in additional geographic areas. We hope to eventually hone that marketing plan into something that can be somewhat of a cookie cutter approach to building a user base city by city. My hope is that we have a strategy that we think will work within 12 months and I would like to be well on our way to implementing that goal before we are popping champagne and ushering out 2012.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

Shoestring Book Reviews

Shoestring Venture Reviews
Richard Hooker on Jim Blasingame

Shoestring Fans and Followers


Categories

Archives

Business Book: How to Start a Business

Shoestring Book

Shoestring Venture in iTunes Store

Shoestring Venture - Steve Monas & Richard Hooker

Shoestring Kindle Version # 1 for e-Commerce, # 1 for Small Business, # 1 for Startup 99 cents

Business Book – Shoestring Venture: The Startup Bible

Shoestring Book Reviews

Shoestring Venture Reviews

Invesp landing page optimization
Powered By Invesp
Wikio - Top Blogs - Business