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Planning Past Startup

ultrabook

Stephen Baldwin
CTO Livepage, Inc.
New York, USA

We’re all familiar with the recent successful IPO’s of tech companies or massive acquisitions of small startups by public tech companies. It seems every time you click on the tele, some small startup boasting millions of users is being picked up for billions, not millions… Putting 1 and 1 together, we conclude that the name of today’s game is „users“, right? Yes and no.

 

Too many tech startups today are attempting to replicate the results of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, etc. Creating a sustainable startup company is an incredibly difficult venture. There is much more to a company than simply getting users and page views. The tech industry is littered with failed startups and many of them were successful in the early startup phase with gathering users. However, sustainable companies understand the importance of structuring their data to build a long-term brand. If you navigate through the usual startup obstacles and manage to create a startup that has the basic funding, sound business plan, and human resources, we offer a few suggestions on how to successfully move from startup to something more lasting. If you’re going to deliver a software application or a user-based web application and you want to make your fortune using your product as your vessel, make sure you invest early and often in your database. It is important to remember that „scalable data“ refers to more than simply adding hardware to accommodate an increasing user base, as data will play an important role throughout the phases of your startup. Properly structuring your data not only increases the valuation of your company, it also dictates the speed at which you can move forward. Peter Drucker has a famous saying, „You can’t manage what you can’t measure“; nonstructured and ill-formatted data is un-measurable and eventually becomes a liability.

 

Once your service is live, it is crucial to obtain real time feedback as to the usage of your product; where are your customers focused and where aren’t they? Understanding the focus of your customers provides the greatest opportunity to monetize your service. The customer’s focus is often not the obvious, logical spot where all of your initial planning was directed. The real web user always seems to abandon logic with their usage of applications. Your illogical user base matched against your competitors continuous enhancements make it mission critical to be able to extend and restructure, while still introducing cutting edge features into your product. Maybe you need to mock up a new registration page for a new tier of users on your site in order to stay relevant to a competitor with a similar feature. At the same time, you might need to address a massive traffic-leak you’ve uncovered through your usage analytics. You might need to offer additional reports your users yearn for because you didn’t foresee reporting as a feature that would be utilized. Whatever the task may be, you need to implement it, stage it, test it, and get it into production in weeks or even days.

 

The only way to do this in a timely manner is to properly structure your data from the beginning. Think about it first. Draw it out. Visualize it. Create a mockup of your database using tools like OmniGraffle, or even my personal favorite, pen and paper. Split up sections so that they logically make sense and create relationships with different data points so that you can mix and match that data to make sense for what you’re trying to accomplish today, and what you’re going to need to accomplish tomorrow. As your application evolves there will be need for modifications… But a modification to a well thought out database differs greatly from attempting to restructure the entire database due to poor initial design. There is nothing riskier than restructuring your entire database in a live production environment and nothing more difficult than doing it without experiencing major downtime. Keep in mind that „restructuring your database“ is not limited to just refactoring the schema. The developer must also update all existing code to use the new schema and then migrate all of the data from the old schema to the new one. Usually the inferior schema didn’t collect the necessary data to populate the new one without manual intervention. All of this before you can go live and start collecting information again.

 

Taking your product offline for this procedure can be detrimental to the long-term success of your business. While your product is in an unusable state your competitors are advancing. With proper planning you can minimize that downtime, but downtime should always be avoided when possible. Starbucks goes as far as performing maintenance on their coffee-shops while keeping them open to ensure their customers don’t break habit and venture off to another local coffee-shop for even just a day. Applying the same tactic to your application will help ensure your users stay just that – your users.

 

A well-thought-out, well-structured database that has the ability to respond to your needs with clean, verbose data is going to be your key to maintaining your current user base, expanding on that user base and furthering the distance between you and your competitors. Technical resources and in-depth examples of how LivePage puts data to work for them at HorseShows.net can be found at blog. horseshows.net/data



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