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7 stages to

a startup
A framework of practical steps for launching a
bootstrapping e-business start-up
By

Asad Aftab Iqbal

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/asadaftab

Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

Abstract |i

Abstract
The purpose of this project is to identify and present a framework of practical steps required to launch a
web-based tech startup. The research has been conducted and presented in a way so that the results are
relevant for non-technical founders starting from just an idea and going through the lifecycle of the startup
in a bootstrapping capacity.

To gather credible and accurate data for developing such a framework, an actual web startup was launched
by the researcher to document the real-life findings for this project. Starting from a set of assumptions,
the project was guided by academic advice and the practical requirements that came up during different
phases of the project.

Based on the outcomes of the research, a framework titled 7 stages to a startup has been proposed.
These seven stages are: (1) Direction: refining the idea and developing a possible business model (2)
Initiation: a roadmap of developing the product/application (3) Implementation: organizing the requisite
infrastructure and resources for development (4) Execution: managing the day-to-day routine of the
development phase (5) Inauguration: introducing the startup to the market (6) Monetization: steps and
processes related to revenue generation (7) Optimization: the ongoing process of improvement and
adjustment leading to a transition into a mature business entity.

The hope is that this framework benefits budding entrepreneurs looking to develop new e-businesses and
addresses the perception people have about launching a new tech startup.

Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

A c k n o w l e d g e m e n t | ii

Acknowledgement
For this dissertation, my heartfelt gratitude goes out to my project supervisor Margaret Low for first
accepting to supervise me with my very vague and disjointed project proposal and then working with me
all throughout the year to refine & expand on the concept, all the while allowing me the freedom to
experiment. Thank you for attempting to make me an academic researcher!

I am truly thankful to the people who collaborated with me on the actual implementation of the startup.
Their involvement during the different stages enabled me to gather valuable data for this dissertation.

A shout out to all my professors, classmates and friends who I met during this year, thank you for making
this journey enjoyable and for the memories that I will cherish forever.

Its also important that I acknowledge my friends who have been with me through my entrepreneurial
journey in the last 9 years and who have helped me hone my instincts and find my place as an
entrepreneur.

Last but by no means least, I would like to mention my father for being an inspiration, my mother for her
infinite encouragement, my brother for the support that he has always been and my sister for being
responsible for the best news of the year.

Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

T a b l e o f C o n t e n t s | iii

Table of Contents
Abstract .................................................................................................................i
Acknowledgement ...............................................................................................ii
Table of Contents ...............................................................................................iii
List of figures .......................................................................................................v
1
Introduction ...............................................................................................1
1.1

Objectives ............................................................................................................................ 2

1.2

Methodology and Structure .................................................................................................. 3

Internet Startups .......................................................................................5

2.1

The bootstrapping entrepreneur .......................................................................................... 5

2.2

Defining the term Startup ................................................................................................... 5

3
4

The startup idea ........................................................................................7


The startup lifecycle: Literature & Results .............................................8

4.1

Brainstorming and Conceptualization .................................................................................. 8

4.1.1

Implementation .................................................................................................................... 9

4.2

Wireframing ........................................................................................................................ 10

4.2.1

Implementation .................................................................................................................. 12

4.3

The programming approach, open-source and other resources ....................................... 15

4.3.1

Implementation .................................................................................................................. 17

4.4

Finding development partners, co-founders & more ......................................................... 18

4.4.1

Implementation .................................................................................................................. 19

4.5

Outsourcing platforms ........................................................................................................ 20

4.5.1

Implementation .................................................................................................................. 21

4.6

Project collaboration framework & tools ............................................................................ 23

4.6.1

Implementation .................................................................................................................. 24

4.7

Working with remote teams ............................................................................................... 25

4.7.1

Implementation .................................................................................................................. 26

4.8

Website Development ........................................................................................................ 27

4.9

Information Sharing ............................................................................................................ 28

4.9.1

Implementation .................................................................................................................. 29

4.10

Interface/ Layout design ..................................................................................................... 30

4.10.1 Implementation .................................................................................................................. 31


4.11

Development ...................................................................................................................... 34

4.11.1 Implementation .................................................................................................................. 34


4.12

Testing and Delivery .......................................................................................................... 36

4.12.1 Implementation .................................................................................................................. 37


4.13

Launching........................................................................................................................... 38

4.13.1 Implementation .................................................................................................................. 39


4.14

Alpha Phase ....................................................................................................................... 39

4.14.1 Implementation .................................................................................................................. 40


4.15

Beta Phase......................................................................................................................... 41

4.15.1 Implementation .................................................................................................................. 42


4.16

User feedback response strategy & Iteration Mechanism ................................................. 43

Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

T a b l e o f C o n t e n t s | iv
4.16.1 Implementation .................................................................................................................. 45
4.17

Initial marketing, searching for early adopters ................................................................... 46

4.17.1 Implementation .................................................................................................................. 46


4.18

SEO .................................................................................................................................... 48

4.18.1 Implementation .................................................................................................................. 48


4.19

Viral Marketing & Social Media Campaign ........................................................................ 49

4.19.1 Implementation .................................................................................................................. 50


4.20

Online Advertising .............................................................................................................. 52

4.21

Growth analytics and performance metrics ....................................................................... 53

4.21.1 Implementation .................................................................................................................. 53


4.22

Deployment of the monetization model ............................................................................. 54

4.22.1 Implementation .................................................................................................................. 55


4.23

The future: review, refocus, revitalize ................................................................................ 56

4.23.1 Platform .............................................................................................................................. 56


4.23.2 Company ............................................................................................................................ 56
4.23.3 Money ................................................................................................................................ 56
4.24

End of Chapter 4 ................................................................................................................ 56

Analysis and discussion ........................................................................57

5.1

Analysis of the steps .......................................................................................................... 57

5.2

The proposed Framework 7 steps to a startup ................................................................ 61

5.2.1

Direction ............................................................................................................................. 62

5.2.2

Initiation .............................................................................................................................. 62

5.2.3

Implementation .................................................................................................................. 62

5.2.4

Execution ........................................................................................................................... 62

5.2.5

Inauguration ....................................................................................................................... 62

5.2.6

Monetization ....................................................................................................................... 62

5.2.7

Optimization ....................................................................................................................... 62

Conclusion ..............................................................................................64

6.1

Limitations and Future Work .............................................................................................. 65

6.2

Some ending remarks ........................................................................................................ 66

References .........................................................................................................67
Appendix A ...........................................................................................................78
Appendix B ...........................................................................................................89
Appendix C ...........................................................................................................97
Appendix D .........................................................................................................110
Appendix E..........................................................................................................119
Appendix F ..........................................................................................................127
Appendix G .........................................................................................................138
Appendix H .........................................................................................................147
Glossary ...........................................................................................................151

Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

List of figures |v

List of figures
Figure 1: Revenue growth of 7 successful online businesses during the first 5 years [66]..................... 1
Figure 2: A graphical representation of how the framework has been synthesized from this research.4
Figure 3: An example of a clothing business charted on the BMC (Source: Link) [68] ........................... 9
Figure 4: A Mindmap created by the founder for the index page of the website. ................................. 9
Figure 5: A customized BMC for the actual startup .............................................................................. 10
Figure 6: An example wireframe of Facebooks newsfeed section (Source: Link) *69+ ........................ 11
Figure 7: A wireframe of one of the internal pages of the website, hand drawn on paper. ................ 12
Figure 8: The electronic version based on the hand drawn wireframe in Figure 7 .............................. 13
Figure 9: A more detailed wireframe of the communication feature. ................................................. 14
Figure 10: Open source statistics in terms of overall usage. (Adapted from Source: Link) [70] ........... 15
Figure 11: Logos of some of the open source plugins being used on the startup website. ................. 16
Figure 12: Graphical depiction of the LAMP architecture. (Adapted from Source: Link) [94] .............. 17
Figure 13: Screenshot of oDesks time tracking work diary feature. .................................................... 22
Figure 14: Screenshot of Gurus project details page. .......................................................................... 23
Figure 15: Screenshot of Open Atrium. (Source: Link) [78] .................................................................. 24
Figure 16: Icons of different tools that make up the Google Business App Suite. (Source: Link) [79] . 25
Figure 17: Icons of different tools used for collaboration. ................................................................... 26
Figure 18: List of tasks assigned to different people on the issue tracker on BitBucket ...................... 30
Figure 19: The initial logo design for the Startup .................................................................................. 32
Figure 20: The initial website design (Index Page) ................................................................................ 32
Figure 21: The initial website design (Index Page) with feedback comments ...................................... 33
Figure 22: The final website design (Index Page) .................................................................................. 33
Figure 23: Screenshot of an FTP client connected to the startups server ........................................... 35
Figure 24: Graphical representation of launch marketing (Source: Link) [85] ...................................... 38
Figure 25: Screenshot of the Alpha Invite page hosted initially on hbuddy.net ................................... 40
Figure 26: Screenshot of the Google Analytics data for the Alpha Invite page .................................... 41
Figure 27: Screenshot of the live website hosted on hbuddy.com ....................................................... 42
Figure 28: Screenshot of the UserVoice utility to highlight it different available features [107] ......... 44
Figure 29: Screenshot of the startup featured on Betali.st (Source: Link) [98] .................................... 47
Figure 30: Graphic of the social media sharing plugin used on the website (Source: Link) [95] .......... 50
Figure 31: Screenshot of the startups blog (Source: Link) *96+ ............................................................ 51
Figure 32: Screenshot of the introductory video hosted on YouTube.com (Source: Link) [97]............ 51
Figure 33: Screenshot highlighting the founders experience with Google Ad Campaigns .................. 52
Figure 34: Screenshot highlighting the founders experience with FB Adverts starting in 2008 .......... 52
Figure 35: Screenshot of Google Alerts (Source: Link) [93] .................................................................. 54
Figure 36: The proposed framework, 7 stages to a tech startup .......................................................... 61

Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

Chapter 1 Introduction 1

Introduction

Broadly speaking, the internets 3 core functions are information sharing, communication and data transfer
[1]. In the last decade, we have witnessed the tremendous success of companies that have been able to
create business models around these functions by introducing various tools and products. There are many
examples, but perhaps the most evident are companies like Google, Facebook, DropBox, Zynga, 37Signals
etc. The potential of such tremendous growth [2] has given rise to an eco-system of web entrepreneurs
launching innovative web-based startups.

Figure 1: Revenue growth of 7 successful online businesses during the first 5 years [66]

Although all web entrepreneurs have their individual circumstances and end up producing starkly different
end results; a closer look at these tech startups showcase a number of similarities, which has led to a few
generalizations and expectations [3]. Startups are stereotypically expected to comprise of 1 to 3 people
working on an idea with very limited resources, also known as bootstrapping [4]. These rags to riches
stories have become a part of popular culture [5], inspiring budding entrepreneurs to try their luck much
like the gold rush phenomenon in the 19th century.

Looking at the potential of such startups, many governments around the world are initiating state level
programs to promote innovation and entrepreneurship [6]. The missing link however is the lack of relevant
information about practical steps required to launch a tech startup. A very simple and basic web search will
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

Chapter 1 Introduction 2

prove that there is indeed an abundance of literature covering the subject areas of general business advice,
entrepreneurship and e-business, but there does not appear to be a lot of work done specifically for small
bootstrapping tech startups.

There is not a lot of literature that exists for bootstrapping startups, the currently available and popular ebusiness related academic books talk about processes that have been synthesized from big business
operations and therefore in most cases, only applicable for big businesses. On the other hand, the bulk of
material written on entrepreneurship usually includes motivational/support material, biographies or is
focussed on a single aspect of the entrepreneurial journey.

This lack of relevant source material can be attributed to 2 logical factors. Firstly, the internet itself is in a
state of constant innovation much like most entrepreneurial initiatives [27], so it is very difficult to
document standard recommendations, which are in constant danger of becoming outdated very quickly.
Secondly, the circumstances of every individual entrepreneur are different and hence their approach is
unique as well [3]. This makes it very difficult to isolate the processes that might be more or less universal
and present them in the form of a workable framework.

This dissertation hopes to bridge this gap and provide a framework of practical steps synthesized from the
experience and learning gained by attempting to launch an actual web-based startup.
1.1

Objectives

The aim of this project is to:


1. Review the literature concerning practical steps related to taking a tech startup idea from concept
to completion.
2. Attempt to launch an actual startup to document the real-life data of the progress.
3. Identify a framework of key processes and practical steps required to launch a web-based ebusiness startup in a bootstrapping capacity.
To narrow the scope of this undertaking to a manageable extent; legal or managerial aspects of starting a
business are not covered. There is lots of literature concerning startup advice for new entrepreneurs,
which covers topics like funding, resource acquisition, incorporation etc.

The focus of this project is purely the identification of practical steps on how to proceed with a tech startup
in a bootstrapping capacity. Efforts have been made to document the findings in such a way that the
proposed framework remains relevant and pursuable by non-technical founders universally. By recounting
and analysing the steps taken for a real-life startup, this document hopes to serve as a useful guide for
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

Chapter 1 Introduction 3

people with a web-based idea but who dont have any prior technical or business understanding to
proceed further. The framework provided herein may also prove to be valuable for current entrepreneurs
to streamline their own processes and perhaps will offer a starting point for future researchers to test and
extend this framework.
1.2

Methodology and Structure

To verify certain logical assumptions in pursuit of identifying a systematic framework of practical steps, the
researcher will take on the role of a bootstrapping founder and undertake steps to launch a tech startup
during the course of this academic year. As a sole non-technical founder, he will attempt to gather the
required resources, go through the different stages of the startup and execute plans to gather data, which
will help in formulating a framework based on tangible outcomes and firsthand experience.

Traditional data gathering methodologies, like conducting surveys or sending out questionnaires to collect
general opinions about the topic, would not have been useful for this project. Additionally, it would have
been very difficult to collect and consolidate data by approaching a large enough sample of successful
bootstrapping entrepreneurs to substantiate the framework. It was hence decided, to pursue qualitative
data backed by real-life results to validate and propose a credible framework.

Our approach is based on the argument, that the successful completion of every step will produce a
tangible outcome, which is either required for the next step to begin or contributes in some positive way to
the overall progress of the project. By highlighting this inter-dependency and inter-connectedness of steps,
we would be able to identify the flow of processes that make up the startup lifecycle. It is hoped that this
logical approach will produce relevant data that will be helpful in shaping and presenting a framework of
successive practical steps.

Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

Chapter 1 Introduction 4

Figure 2: A graphical representation of how the framework has been synthesized from this research.

Having the data from an actual startup helps establish credibility for the recommendations presented in
this document. It is worth clarifying at this juncture, that the scope of this project does not include
measuring the efficiency of the framework or to provide any sort of comparison between processes or
strategy, the project is only focussed towards identifying a set of necessary workable steps.

After this introduction chapter, this dissertation is structured in the following manner: Chapter 2 deals with
expanding on some key concepts and terminologies concerning bootstrapping internet startups, which will
help provide the context and focus for this project. Chapter 3 briefly explains the concept of the startup
that is being used as the basis of this research. In Chapter 4, we move on to the actual steps taken to
develop the startup. Each Heading in Chapter 4 will provide a detailed literature review of the step being
discussed, followed by a brief critical analysis and the actual implementation data.

That is followed by Chapter 5, where an Analysis of all the steps is presented leading up to the proposal of
the framework. Lastly Chapter 6 presents a final review, discusses the research limitations and ends with
some recommendations for future work.

As mentioned above there is not a lot of literature that deals with identifying practical steps for developing
a startup in a bootstrapping capacity. Therefore, in this dissertation a number of references are taken from
online resources to help depict the most relevant and current thoughts about the topics under discussion.

Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

Chapter 2 Internet Startups 5

2
2.1

Internet Startups
The bootstrapping entrepreneur

Seth Godin wrote the book on bootstrapping aptly named The Bootstrappers Bible. The key
characteristic of a bootstrapping entrepreneur is that they create businesses that sustain themselves and
do not rely on external funding [7]. This is all the more important in the current investment climate, where
investors have become increasingly cautious when it comes to investing in the pre-launch stages of tech
startups.

With so many open source resources available and hosting costs getting cheaper, there is no reason why
workable prototypes cannot be created for most web or mobile based business ideas [81]. Many investors
are looking for startups to get some form of traction before they consider investing. This means that more
and more people have to bootstrap to reach that stage [8]. This dissertation is specifically intended for
people who find themselves with an idea and need to know, what steps to take to get their startup off the
ground.
2.2

Defining the term Startup

In this section we will define tech startups in the context of this dissertation. We will talk about the kind of
startups that fall within its scope and which do not. There are many variations of the term used to describe
a web-based tech startup, so it becomes all the more important to give a precise definition of the kind of
startup that we will be focussing on in this dissertation.

Technically any business that is in the initial stages of its operation is a startup. The term was first
popularized in the late part of the 90s, when a lot of dotcom companies were being started. This made the
term Startup synonymous with internet based businesses [10]. There does however remain some
ambiguity about this term and people infer a lot of different meanings, there is in fact even an ongoing
discussion about whether it should be spelled Startup or Start-up [65]. To avoid all of this, over time,
other more specific terms such as web startup, tech startup, ebusiness startup and internet startup have
been introduced to stress upon the various variations but primarily to distinguish themselves from physical
brick and mortar startups.

More so than the technical definition of the term Startup, its the implication of the term and the mental
picture it conjures, which has in some way become more important. To start a business, a spirit of
entrepreneurship is required. To pursue an untested business model, an entrepreneur needs to have
courage and passion to see things through. With limited resources at hand, the entrepreneur has to be
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

Chapter 2 Internet Startups 6

innovative in their utilization and finally to be successful there needs to be commitment, perseverance and
a long-term vision. These are some of the qualities that are attributed with this term, which is why many
big companies like to be categorized as startups or of having a startup culture [11].

For the purpose of this dissertation, we will be focussing on tech startups, which by definition do not
involve moving of physical inventory and solely rely on the usage of their virtual platform by users to
generate value. Examples of such ventures include websites like Facebook, Skype, Zynga, Groupon etc. This
research may also be relevant for launching iPhone/Mobile applications and other off-the-shelf software
solutions. To keep the scope of this project in check and to maintain the universal applicability of the
framework; e-shops and other such business models that require the exchange or storage of physical
products or real-life services, have not been considered and the recommendations here might not be fit for
them.

Now that we have established the context of this project and defined the terms, the next chapter will give
an overview of the startup idea, which is being used as the basis for conducting this research.

Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

Chapter 3 The startup idea 7

The startup idea

In the pursuit of identifying all the steps required to develop an internet startup; meant that there was a
need to start from scratch. This also meant coming up with a workable startup idea *12], which had the
potential to be developed into a proper e-business. The business idea used as the basis of conducting this
research is of a social bartering platform for students named Help Buddy1. The following passage gives a
technical abstract, covering very succinctly the overall features and functionality of the website:
University/College students will be able to sign-up on the website by selecting the institution that they
belong to and after verifying their university email address. Upon a successful sign up, the user will
become part of the selected institutions network. The user will be able to post what they need and what
they can give in return, only people belonging to the same institutions network will be able to see the
posting and respond. The website will have features that handle all the communication and selection
process. There will be a second section on the websites called the Shoutbox, where members will be able
to post and share multimedia content like links, videos, pictures etc. Other members will be able to
interact with that content in different ways. The networks will be private but outsiders will be able to see
the public content on the Shoutbox of all universities. This way people would be able to see what kind of
content is being shared by members of different universities. The website will be monetized by
implementing an advertising model.
The team at the start consisted of only one person, the founder; who being a full-time Postgraduate
student had a number of time constraints and financial limitations to contend with. The founder was also
non-technical i.e. did not have any programming or designing skills. The founder has had to identify and
learn all the tools that have been used in the different processes during the course of this project. This was
the setting that the project was initiated in, which in some ways closely mimics the situation of a
bootstrapping entrepreneur. The founder invested a certain amount, the details of which will be shared in
later sections and the process was started. The initial steps were all completed by the founder alone till the
team building stage.

The following Chapter elaborates on the practical steps that were taken to develop this startup. Each
heading includes a brief literature review of the topic being discussed followed by the actual
implementation data and results.

Help Buddy is an independently owned venture by Borialas Enterprises (company of Asad Aftab Iqbal) and the data is only being made available
to facilitate this research. This does not constitute any grant or transfer of rights. Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

Chapter 4 The startup lifecycle 8

The startup lifecycle: Literature & Results

In this chapter, a logical progression of steps is being presented the order of which was borne of some
initial assumptions, online research and for later steps by the requirements of that particular stage. The
topic headings have been broken down into two parts, the first part presents a brief literature review of
the topic followed by the results of the actual implementation.
4.1

Brainstorming and Conceptualization

Brainstorming is traditionally thought of as a group technique, used to develop new ideas and come up
with innovative solutions. The term Brainstorming was first used by Alex Osborne in a business context;
he argued that by using brainstorming techniques the amount of ideas generated could be doubled and
would be of a better quality [13]. This hypothesis has since been challenged by many researchers and in
fact research shows that people produce better results in an individual capacity when it comes to idea
generation than in groups [14]. This has been further reinforced by research conducted by Adrian
Furnham, which states that although group brainstorming may serve other kinds of purposes and benefits
in an organization, individuals are better at generating creative ideas [15].

The need
As an individual founder starting from just an idea, it is important to refine the concept as a whole, think
about the individual features and create a roadmap of how to proceed further. The results of individual
brainstorming sessions also need to be recorded and converted into something tangible that can be shared
and communicated with others. Techniques such as mind mapping, concept mapping and tools like the
Business Model Canvas [67] offer an avenue to record, structure and visually represent those thoughts.

The tool
Mind mapping is the visual representation of thoughts/ideas and the connections that exist between them
[16]. Mind mapping also helps in organizing thoughts and creating graphical representations that can be
shared with others, opening the work to further collaboration.

From idea to business model


Osterwalders Business Model Canvas (BMC) is a valuable tool, which helps focus on the critical aspects
and value propositions of a business idea to work out a viable business model [67]. The template is easy to
use and available free online at http://businessmodelgeneration.com/canvas

Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

Chapter 4 The startup lifecycle 9

Figure 3: An example of a clothing business charted on the BMC (Source: Link) [68]
4.1.1

Implementation

The first step was to create a mind map to structure the thoughts about the startup and work out the
features of the website. Creating a mind map is very simple and can be done on a simple piece of paper;
The Mind Map Book by Tony Buzan [16] offered a lot of useful advice in getting started. There are many
free desktop applications to create mind maps such as FreeMind and XMind. Mind maps can also be
created in Microsoft Visio. A comprehensive list of free and proprietary tools can be found at
http://mashable.com/2007/11/03/mindmapping/

Figure 4: A Mindmap created by the founder for the index page of the website.

Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 10

The free template of the BMC available online can be edited in any graphics package including MS Paint.
The BMC format made it possible to focus on key aspects of the idea and create a business model around
it. The end result was an identification of key value propositions, customers, competitors, cost structure,
revenue streams etc. Most importantly though by identifying the Key activities and Key resources, an idea
of what was needed to proceed further could be formed.

Figure 5: A customized BMC for the actual startup

For the purposes of this project, the founder chose to create a mind map of the concept and used the BMC
to refine the business proposition. Optionally a business plan was also developed to forecast the finances
and apart from informal peer-review, the founder also participated in a business idea competition to
validate the business concept [124].
4.2

Wireframing

On the internet, it is common for a number of terms to be used interchangeably to define a similar process.
The same is true for Wireframes, which with slight variations are also referred to as, prototypes, low
fidelity mock-ups, page schematics etc. Wireframing is a very basic technique that helps create a visual
representation of the website/mobile app. Rapid Prototyping is the same visually but has a layer of
functional elements usually to create a simulation of navigation or showcase the graphical animation
effect. Mock-ups are more detailed cross-sections of the prototype [17].

Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 11

In this section, we will be focussing on the Wireframing technique and later in the implementation stage
talk about certain tools that have both wireframing and prototyping features.

Its purpose and importance


Wireframing is a design method used to outline websites at the structural level. The methodology is used
mostly to layout the main structure and functionality that a website will have, by taking users needs and
possible interactions into consideration. Also, due to the increasing importance of mobile applications for
devices such as the iPhone, iPad and other smartphones/tablets, wireframing has gained even more
significance as a tool that is essential for making the development process faster and more collaborative
[18].

Figure 6: An example wireframe of Facebooks newsfeed section (Source: Link) [69]

Wireframes guide the design and development team by giving them visual cues of the general structure
and feature set. If we were to define the importance of wireframing in the website/application
development process with just one word, it would be Planning. Wireframing helps developers plan well
ahead not just the structure, but every feature and piece of content that their intended website/app will
have, all before they even start coding. In fact, a wireframe empowers developers and designers by giving
them a birds eye view of the entire project and its desired result, thus providing them with a much-needed
sense of scope and scale before the development process starts [19].
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 12

Another benefit of wireframing is that while creating the User Interface (UI) elements they allow one to
focus on the User Experience (UX) as well. Bereft of any graphics, colours or actual content the layout is
pretty much a skeleton and one can focus on how the information will be presented, how important
features will be aligned and how the user will be taken through the different sections of the
website/mobile application [20].

Its not rocket science


The best part is that there are no technical requirements to be able to create wireframes. You dont need
to know how to code or design to create a wireframe, which could be created on a simple piece of paper,
basic graphics editors or the easy to use wireframing tools discussed later in this section. The only thing
required is the ability to visualize the final product; although having some prior knowledge of UI and UX
design fundamentals can be helpful.
4.2.1

Implementation

To communicate effectively with interested partners and developers, we needed something tangible that
would illustrate what the web application would look like. The initial wireframes were drawn on paper,
which helped identify the overall structure of the website and the features that would become part of the
application.

Figure 7: A wireframe of one of the internal pages of the website, hand drawn on paper.

Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 13

Drawing upon the already available mind maps, it was easy to chart the features; the difficult part however
was to consider the Usability and User Experience elements. Online resources like SmashingMagazine and
Quora were invaluable in learning about these topics. Wireframe Showcase gave a lot of useful examples
that helped in visualizing what a workable wireframe should look like. At this point we had the option of
using online apps like Balsamiq and iPlotz or Open Source alternatives like the Pencil Project. It was
however decided to use an Open Source vector graphics editor Inkscape, as that provided more flexibility
to create graphical elements. More details about a number of available graphics software and their Open
Source alternatives can be found at http://www.smashingapps.com/2009/02/18/11-free-and-useful-opensource-alternatives-for-designers.html

Figure 8: The electronic version based on the hand drawn wireframe in Figure 7

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 14

Figure 9: A more detailed wireframe of the communication feature.

Once we had the initial wireframes ready (See Appendix A), the jpegs were emailed to a closed group of
peers to discuss the general idea and get their feedback and input. The next section concentrates on how
these discussions and other sources helped us in identifying the technological architecture and the
programming approach.

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 15
4.3

The programming approach, open-source and other resources

Figure 10: Open source statistics in terms of overall usage. (Adapted from Source: Link) [70]

Perhaps the most important movement that has impacted programming and creating software is the rise
of open source software. The Open Source Movement is composed of individuals who believe that
software development should be a non-profit activity and that it should be shared freely in the hope of
continuous contributions by the people who use it, leading to a better more mature version of the
software that everyone benefits from [108]. This movement has brought some great free tools and scripts
to the world [21], like Jquery, Wordpress, Ruby on Rails, Joomla and more, all of which are used by millions
of people every day. Figure 10 shows a breakdown of the different open source tools/technologies and
their tremendous impact, making them the option of choice by the majority for web based development.
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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 16

The server-side architecture


Open Source Architecture is based on open source software components on the server side, which enables
users to create fully functional and self-sustainable applications. Of these, the LAMP solution stack
(acronym for Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl) is perhaps the most popular set of tools to build websites
[22], being even the foundation of juggernauts such as Facebook, Wikipedia and more.

Web development frameworks


In order to build websites and/or software, developers are increasingly starting to make use of
programming frameworks. Frameworks are code directories that enclose shared resources, which can be
accessed by different applications simultaneously [23]. PHP frameworks are the most commonly used
framework types out there since PHP itself is the most popular web programming language. Some popular
PHP frameworks include Code Igniter, Symphony, Yii and Zend etc. [25]

The world of free plugins, APIs and extensions


Another beneficial aspect of developing/designing with open source software is the abundant availability
of third-party plugins, APIs (Application Programming Interface) & scripts; which are basically small pieces
of code that can be added to the code of the original project to add extra functionality. One of the best
known examples of this is the Wordpress platform [100], which can be customized to show almost any kind
of interface element or functionality with the simple addition of a plugin. There is an ever-growing list of
very useful third-party utilities such as Google Fonts API, Facebook Connect and Google Analytics etc.

Figure 11: Logos of some of the open source plugins being used on the startup website.

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 17
4.3.1

Implementation

It could be argued that expert guidance would be needed after the wireframing stage to make the right
choice about the technological architecture, programming approach and the right tools that go along with
it. In the context of a bootstrapping startup controlling costs is a primary concern. That automatically
narrows down the options to a very great extent. We had to go for open source technologies as the
foundation of our website. To confirm that the right decision was made, we researched forums and looked
at popular approaches by successful startups.

We decided upon the LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL PHP) architecture and to make use of other open
source technologies like JQuery, Ajax plus many other readymade scripts that the active open source
community has to offer.

Figure 12: Graphical depiction of the LAMP architecture. (Adapted from Source: Link) [94]

The fact that Facebook was developed and still runs on Open Source technologies and uses PHP with
MySQL as the back-end database [24] helped the team feel comfortable with this decision.

The research about PHP frameworks and how they could be helpful in improving speed and re-usability of
the code led us on a quest to find which framework would be the best to work in. As we were making a
fresh start, the primary concern was to create a strong foundation and thus our search criteria
concentrated on what the programmer community was hailing as the best PHP framework. Based on the
online research [25] we finally opted to work with the Yii Framework for this project [71].

The next step was to register the domain and find the right hosting service. We toyed with the idea of
having our own server but that presented a lot of technical issues as well as an additional cost of inducting
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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 18

a network specialist to manage the hosting environment. Our financial limitations did not allow us to do
that and so this idea was dropped.

The next option available was to go for a cloud hosting solution provider like Amazon EC2, Rackspace,
GoGrid etc. [109] Cloud computing is quite the buzzword [110] but practically speaking most of the
solutions provided require a certain amount of technical expertise to manage. Furthermore calculating the
exact costs is difficult considering the many options available and that initially we did not have the usage
statistics to make a decision. Rackspace seemed like the best bet considering everything else but we
wanted a simpler hosting solution that was scalable, had a pre-installed LAMP environment and gave an
easy to use admin panel to manage the different aspects like setting up email etc.

Finally the decision was made to go for Mediatemple Grid Service [101]. It provided everything we were
looking for, came highly recommended from many different forums and was cost effective. It also provided
the option of registering the domain and the tools to manage the DNS (Domain Name System) settings.

The next section expands on the avenues we explored to find the right people to help with the
development of the startup.
4.4

Finding development partners, co-founders & more

A startup team is a group of people that collaborate with each other in order to execute a business idea in
an optimal way. A basic tech startup team has a Founder, who is the leader of the team and is usually the
visionary behind the business idea. A designer is an essential member of any startup, since he/she is the
person in charge of defining the look, feel and general style of the application. Lastly, the
Developer/programmer is also an integral member tasked with the technical implementation of the idea
[4].

Other external collaborators, which can be very useful depending on the requirements of each individual
startup, are as follows:

Co-founders
While the founder is the person who starts the overall process, a co-founder can be extremely helpful in
filling the gaps due to either lack of expertise or lack of knowledge on the part of the founder [26]. It is also
helpful to induct somebody new into the business and in a position of responsibility to bring in a new
perspective and fresh ideas. Co-founders usually have equity-stake in the company.
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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 19

Mentors
Mentors usually provide a great amount of experience directly related to the specific target market. They
can be instrumental in finding valuable contacts within the industry as well as a host of other benefits [28].
Mentor-mentee relationships are traditionally not based on monetary compensation but sometimes it
makes sense to offer a retainer or equity stake after some time.

Incubators
Incubators provide a much-needed element into the mix i.e. resources and services. Incubator programs
provide market awareness and potentially a better opportunity to find investors, leading to a higher
chance of success [29]. All most all incubator programs [111] ask for equity in exchange of seed capital and
services.

Networking events
It is also important for any startup to attend networking events, since these events provide excellent
opportunities for finding potential associates apart from the obvious learning and marketing opportunities
[30].
4.4.1

Implementation

The actual implementation of this step was greatly influenced by the particular circumstances of the
founder. This included him having a development team in his company (Borialas Enterprises) back in
Pakistan. Being a student, he was surrounded by business minded ambitious individuals willing to
collaborate, as well as experienced professors who could offer mentorship. Using the Entrepreneurship
society of the university, the founder helped co-found an incubator initiative, through which people with
the required skills could be identified and involved in the project.

As mentioned above the founder had a previously established software development setup [112], so the
obvious plan was to have the development done by the existing team but just as the project work was
started, certain difficulties with prior commitments arose which meant that the team in Pakistan could not
continue work on the project. This stopped work until further arrangements could be made after only a
few days of initial development. Efforts were made to find replacements for both developers and designers
through the Incubator but as that was in its infancy, only one part-time developer could be found who
worked on the project for a limited time.

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 20

Apart from the challenge of finding a new team, the prior decision about the framework being used for
development became a major stumbling block for the project. In hindsight, the decision to opt for Yii as the
programming framework may not have been the best choice. The Yii Framework indeed has an active
community but being one of the newer frameworks in the market, that community and plugin repository is
very small as compared to other more established frameworks. This also means that there are not a lot of
programmers available in the market with expertise in Yii. So the problem now, after the initial team was
no longer able to work on the project was to find good development partners that could work with the
previous code and were comfortable with taking the development forward. This predicament narrowed
down our options, when it came to searching for candidates on outsourcing platforms.

The team at this stage was again just the founder and a few informal collaborators; a dedicated
development team had to be formed again from scratch. In the next few sections we will look at how the
outsourcing worked, the project collaboration processes and the real-life implementation results that
came out of it.
4.5

Outsourcing platforms

Outsourcing has become an increasingly important element in global business ventures, primarily IT
related initiatives. Outsourcing allows business owners to hire people or companies to perform certain jobs
instead of their in-house employees [31]. In the past, outsourcing was a complex and cumbersome task
and was only undertaken, when the need to fulfil specialized demands arose. Nowadays, the web has
opened up a world of opportunities for both companies and professionals, to easily outsource their
requirements or services to interested parties across the globe.

Outsourcing can provide many advantages over having a job done in house. To start, outsourcing
provides companies the option to hire freelancers on an hourly or project basis depending on what is
convenient for the company. Additionally, outsourcing allows companies to find professionals that are
extremely capable, sometimes even the best in their respective fields or others who are difficult to find in
the local market. It is also worth noting that professionals from certain locations tend to charge
considerably less while still providing a satisfactory quality of work [32].

The options
Some of the more established outsourcing platforms in the market are Elance, Guru.com, Odesk and
99designs.com [72]. Each of these sites in their own slightly distinct way, allow for both professional
freelancers and companies from all over the world to register creating a marketplace of services.
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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 21

Differences among these platforms


There are certain platforms that have created a certain reputation for themselves over time and attract a
certain kind of talent [73]. vWorker.com (Previously RentaCoder.com) [74], Guru.com etc. are good for
finding professionals and companies who deal on project basis. Odesk.com is more focussed toward
freelancers that work on an hourly basis. For designers, new Crowdsourcing websites like 99designs.com
etc. are making waves, although more traditional designer community websites like deviantart.com and
behance.com [75] are still the standard where most designers showcase their talent and can be contacted.
A list of such designer community websites can be found at http://dailytop15.com/webdevelopment/13best-online-community-resources-for-designers-to-get-design-inspiration/
4.5.1

Implementation

There are a number of factors that had to be taken into consideration at this point. The first decision to be
made was to either outsource the programming on a project basis or hourly basis. Outsourcing on a project
basis means negotiating a price with providers for completing the entire project based on a set of specified
requirements. In an hourly working arrangement you negotiate the hourly rate and agree upon the
number of hours that the provider can commit to work per week. With hourly basis you have more
flexibility of making changes or additions and the project is not controlled by the initial specifications.
Whereas with the project basis, you are restricted by the initial specifications that were agreed upon and
incorporating any new changes usually means re-negotiating the terms and time-lines. The one drawback
of hourly basis is that without proper strict project guidelines the project can spiral out of control, both in
terms of time and cost.

In trying to bring something innovative to the market, we opted for hourly basis primarily because the
project scope was constantly evolving due to the input of new ideas and feedback. Furthermore, it was
anticipated that as the project is launched, a lot of iterations will have to be made, so engaging developers
without a preset time limit would be better in the long run.

Parts of the project were posted on both Guru.com and Odesk.com simultaneously, to test the water as it
were and see the kind of responses we got from both these platforms. Odesk.com was reputed to have the
best features geared towards working with freelancers on an hourly basis, and we did find the best
candidate on this website. The selection was made considering a combination of factors which included
ratings, cost and competent replies during the initial communication stage of selection.

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 22

Figure 13: Screenshot of oDesks time tracking work diary feature.

For the design aspect, we had decided to work on a project basis but finding the right designers presented
a tough challenge. Websites like deviantart.com and behance.com do contain impressive portfolios of very
good designers. The downside of these platforms is that they are primarily designed for sharing among the
designer community and since these websites dont provide a feature that informs of the current
availability of the designer, it is very difficult to find and initiate a meaningful dialogue with somebody who
has the time and would be willing to work on a project. If they do happen to reply they have the leverage
since you contacted them in the first place and they can quote whatever price they want.

In the end, a designer through Guru.com in the US and one from the founders team back in Pakistan were
finalized for the project. For the programmers, 2 people were selected one was through the Incubator
contacts as mentioned above and the other was hired on an hourly basis on Odesk. The team was now
finalized with 1 business head (Founder), 1 Animation Designer (Guru.com), 1 Graphics Web Designer
(Pakistan) and 2 PHP programmers. The Animation Designer was hired on a short-term freelance project
basis, for creating an Introduction Video [97] for the startup and left in a month. So the team going forward
were 4 people in total including the founder. It is also worth mentioning here that due to financial and time
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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 23

constraints, all the team members were working on a part-time basis, committed for less than 18 hours a
week. This is further expanded upon in the Limitations Chapter.

Figure 14: Screenshot of Gurus project details page.

Next, we look at how the collaboration between this distributed team took place and what tools were used
to streamline the workflow.
4.6

Project collaboration framework & tools

Project management is the process through which a team organizes all the elements involved in the
development of a new product or service. A project has a predefined duration, a limited budget and
specifically allocated resources, in contrast to normal ongoing business operations [33]. Project
collaboration deals with the processes and tools, which enable team members to work together effectively
and provides a mean to organize the tasks pertaining to the project.

Agile Development and Scrum


Project development frameworks are a good way to organize and manage software/website development
projects. Agile development is an incremental software development framework that evolves through
cross-collaboration of the projects team members. It encourages teamwork and fast adaptability. Scrum is
a widely used development framework based on agile software development concepts [34].
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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 24

The tools of the trade


There are many project collaboration tools available online [76], which allow for online collaboration,
making it very easy to keep track of projects. Online project collaboration tools allow companies to have
team members located anywhere in the world and still maintain productivity. Additionally, these tools
allow users to easily and quickly generate all sorts of reports, making it easy for all project stakeholders to
keep track of the progress.

The options available


There are many software scripts and SaaS (Software as a Service) offerings out there that provide project
collaboration tools [76]. 37Signals was one of the first companies that brought in Basecamp as one of the
first SaaS project collaboration tools. Since then there has been tremendous growth in this industry which
largely corresponds to the number of new startups forming and requiring such solutions. New tools such as
Huddle and Rule.fm merge a lot of business processes into their solutions. As a first choice it was
attempted to get beta access of Asana for this project but after failing to do so we decided to look for an
open source script that could be hosted on our own servers.
4.6.1

Implementation

Open Atrium is one of the most flexible and open collaborative project management tools in the market
[77]. Based on Drupal, it offers many useful features such as project spaces where each different project
can be managed separately. Open Atrium also offers users blogging tools, task tracking, calendars and
information dashboards to facilitate collaboration between several team members.

Figure 15: Screenshot of Open Atrium. (Source: Link) [78]

As Drupal is written in PHP and the Open Atrium script required MySQL as the back-end database, it could
readily be hosted on the same server that had been acquired for the website. Google Business Apps were
implemented using an alternate domain (borialas.com) to provide all team members with email, document
sharing and calendars, which could be synced with certain features of Open Atrium. During the lifecycle of
the project, we have used a number of other tools available on Google Apps Marketplace.
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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 25

Figure 16: Icons of different tools that make up the Google Business App Suite. (Source: Link) [79]
4.7

Working with remote teams

As the term implies, a remote team is a team of co-workers that belongs to the same company or works on
the same project but the team members themselves are not physically in the same location. Therefore, a
remotely situated team has to make use of a series of tools and technologies in order to collaborate
efficiently.

Working with remote teams presents a series of challenges, but also several important benefits.

Benefits

When hiring remote team members, companies are not limited to their geographical location,
which potentially allows them to hire talented people from anywhere in the world.
When operating a remote team, companies can save a substantial amount of money since they do
not need to lease or rent additional office space.
Operating a remote team means schedules can be far more flexible.

Challenges

Working with remote teams makes it somewhat difficult to express emotions and intentions.
Depending on the location of each member of the remote team, managing the different time-zones
can be quite difficult, especially when one or two essential team members are 12 or 15 hours apart.

According to Chris DeVany, in his book 90 Days to a High Performance Team [35], two critical elements to
get right, in order to successfully manage a remote team is firstly to use the right technological tools and
secondly to communicate the companys expectations clearly and upfront. Now, while the latter depends

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 26

entirely on the communication style of each company, there are some essential tools already mentioned
above, which can be used to make working with remote teams, easy and efficient.

The important 3 tools


Some of the more important collaboration tools include Skype, a free voice/video calling service, Google
Docs, which allows team member to create and edit documents live and online, Social networking websites
that offer small business features like Facebook Groups as well as a wide variety of other open source and
free tools like messengers, email services etc.
4.7.1

Implementation

The development team was primarily using Open Atrium and Google Apps to coordinate work. With
regards to the programming team, we also had to use a Subversion repository; details of which are given in
Section 4.9.

Apart from the development team, there were a number of collaborators and a few mentors that were
participating in the project in an informal capacity. This required a platform where feedback could be
sought and recorded, ideas could be discussed and some promotional activity could be coordinated.
Facebook Groups afforded all the features required for this by making it easy to make separate groups of
inter-related individuals, allowing for quick collaboration and discussions.

Figure 17: Icons of different tools used for collaboration.

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 27

The most important tool however, for working with designers, developers and collaborators alike was
Skype. The primary function of Skype is to enable people to make cheap calls using Peer-to-Peer
technology, via a desktop application [113]. The program also has a messenger that allows free voice chat
between contacts, additionally it has a host of plugins called Extras that can extend the functionality of
the program, like enabling remote desktop sharing etc. thus making it an invaluable resource for
communicating and collaborating with remote teams.
4.8

Website Development

Before we go deeper into further details about the development phase, it is again worth mentioning that
Legal, Accounting and Management practices differ from region to region and should be looked into when
starting any commercial enterprise but as previously established, the scope of this project is about
discussing the practical steps in the context defined in Chapter 2.

Non Disclosure Agreements


A relevant topic of discussion at this juncture however, is the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements (also
known as NDAs) because of its practical consideration for startups that are outsourcing parts of the project
and working with a geographically distributed team. An NDA is a legally binding contract signed between
two or more parties in order to share knowledge or other type of information that is confidential and not
intended to be divulged to the general public. Non-Disclosure Agreements are especially important in
companies that work in the field of information technology, and companies that are in the early stage of
development. Startups that want to safeguard against sensitive information being leaked, should have all
their team members and other employees sign NDAs upon start of employment [80]. A copy of the NDA
template used during this project is attached in Appendix H.

Summary of steps covered so far


Up to this point the steps completed included refining the idea, creating the wireframes, making platform
decisions, finding and acquiring the necessary human resource etc., which had all been accomplished by
the founder himself. This is an important point in the context of this research project. Although the overall
progress of the project was slow, many errors were made and things had to be re-done again, the fact
remains that all of the steps above were achieved by a single non-technical person working with lots of
limitations. This reinforces the fact that many important steps of launching a tech startup can be done by a
single person.

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 28

The following few sections contain information about the processes undertaken with additional people in
the mix i.e. developers, designers and collaborators. The management of the team, execution of other
business related ideas, creating and managing the overall startup milestones still remained the duty of the
founder.
4.9

Information Sharing

Courtesy of a series of collaboration and project management tools that make communication and
information sharing between remotely situated team members extremely easy [36], startups have an
opportunity to develop innovative web applications and compete directly with bigger more established
companies [82].

Use the right tools


As emphasized above, a startup team needs to deploy the right tools that can help streamline
communication, which is an obvious requisite of information sharing

Have the right structure


A team has to be properly structured with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, which makes the
information flow smoothly and helps avoid any bottlenecks. Most startups refrain from creating a
conventional corporate hierarchy, which makes the proper designation of roles and responsibilities all the
more important [114].

Create milestones
An effective way to mange and measure important achievements within a project is by setting milestones.
Milestones help breakdown the entire development process into smaller manageable and measurable
objectives; for example a milestone could be the successful completion of the design phase, or the release
of a new software update etc. Setting project Milestones also enables the management team to allocate
resources accurately and to communicate the tasks and responsibilities to individual team members
efficiently. [37].

Audits
There need to be regular information audits to verify that the tools and processes are being appropriately
used, and to ensure effective information sharing [99]. Considering that most startup teams are just 3-4
people, a communication bottleneck is easily discovered and resolved, however an informal audit might

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 29

prove to be useful, especially when working with offshore remote teams is the core development strategy
or at times of growth.
4.9.1

Implementation

As mentioned in Section 4.7 working with remote teams, we had decided upon the set of tools that we
would be using. Now, there was a need to create detailed requirement documentation and define a certain
roadmap of how to proceed.

Using Open Atrium, different virtual work spaces were created for designers, developers and one that
could be used by everyone including collaborators and mentors. This was done so that teams could be
transferred relevant information and as the design/development teams grew, they would also have
relevant legacy information to train new entrants. The mutually accessible work space was primarily for
communication and to upload random information that would be relevant to the startup team members in
general.

As the programming team was remotely based, it was necessary to have a central repository where the
code files could be stored and shared. Initially we tried creating a work folder on the server but a lot of
problems were faced with files being over-written and excessive bandwidth usage. We then opted to go
for a Subversion (SVN) repository. SVN allows developers to maintain historical versions of code and each
subsequent change is identifiable separately [83]. SVN comes as part of the Apache server that was already
being used but after some experimentation, finally the decision was made to use BitBucket, which uses a
distributed version control system called Mercurial [102]. The choice to host the source code on BitBucket
was made because of its easy to use interface, which is user-friendly and convenient for even non-technical
people to use. Furthermore, the basic plan allows for 5 users to uses the system free, which suited this
project perfectly.

Skype was again a key tool to manage and share information real-time, primarily because of its features
like Video Chat and Screen Share etc. Google Docs was used to create and maintain business related
documents. For quick file sharing DropBox was invaluable [115]. The bulk of the collaboration with the
programming team was done through the issue tracking feature on BitBucket.

During this step, with people coming in and going out and because we tried different tools and methods
along the way, the process steps we were using for managing the project changed many times. The

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 30

collaboration for the most part was not that structured and as alluded to in the analysis chapter, things
would have been much easier if the communication and collaboration tools were more appropriately used.

Figure 18: List of tasks assigned to different people on the issue tracker on BitBucket
4.10 Interface/ Layout design

When it comes to launching a startup, perhaps the most important team member in the beginning stages
is the website designer. The website designer holds great responsibility since he/she is the person in
charge of putting together an image that represents the essence of the startup in the most effective way
[103]. Furthermore, the designer is tasked with the important job of creating an innovative design for the
application, while conforming to basic usability principles.

The importance of this step


In order to work with web (or application) designers in an effective way, clear and precise requirements
have to be communicated. There needs to be a constant back and forth of ideas and deliverables.
Founders/team leaders need to insist that their vision is perfectly translated into the design and should not
settle for anything less than perfect, as it may very well be that the success of the entire venture might
hinge on this step being done right [103].
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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 31

During this important initial stage decisions about the final colour schemes, fonts, transition effects and
more are made which should not be taken lightly as they will stick with the startup for a long time [38].

A collaborative approach
Once the initial design mocks have been created, the whole team will need to work together with the
designer, providing him/her with feedback that would result in further iterations to the design. This
process will need to be repeated until all the desired website elements are incorporated and the final
design chosen.

A last hurdle, sort of


Lastly, if the web designer is not able to work with HTML [39], the team will need to contact an expert
programmer in order to convert the resulting PSD or Ai files into HTML. Once the conversion is finished,
additional elements can be added (such as CSS & Javascript) to polish the look & feel of the final design
even more.
4.10.1 Implementation

The design process was initiated with the designer by sending him the initial wireframes and a few design
references. There were lots of long Skype sessions throughout the design process, where screen sharing
was used to monitor and comment on the designers work real-time. The first step was to identify a design
theme based on the target audience and the nature of the startup. We came across advice on the internet
that the website should be designed directly in HTML/CSS from the wireframes [40]. We found the advice
to be somewhat impractical when it comes to geographically displaced teams, especially when the decision
maker (founder) and the designer are not in the same place at the same time. We found it to be much
easier to work on a graphics editor to finalize the design, as the changes were rendered much faster
making it easier to experiment with the layout and other visual elements.

Efforts were first concentrated on creating a logo, which would in many ways dictate how the rest of the
website would look like and also establish a general sense of the colour scheme for the overall template.
There were quite a few options made and we decided tentatively on the following option:

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 32

Figure 19: The initial logo design for the Startup

At this stage, the team was a bit overzealous and we wanted to create something very innovative. We
wanted to bring something new and different that would deliver a totally unique user experience. The
usual design team meetings at the time, revolved around finding design related articles on Smashing
Magazine, going through the best designed startup websites on Quora and looking through many design
portfolios on Deviantart.com & Dribbble.com, in an effort to find the right inspirations and identify the
trending patterns. This led to a lot of information overload and a paralysis by analysis sort of situation, but
we did end up with our first completed design option. Complete Screenshots of all the web pages of the
initial design are attached in Appendix B

Figure 20: The initial website design (Index Page)

The first design, which was finalized, took a lot of time and ended up not getting a lot of positive feedback
in the initial reviews by peers and collaborators; See Appendix C for complete screenshots. At this moment
in time, because we already had the development team on the payroll, there was constant pressure to give
them work, which resulted in mistakes that wasted a lot of time in the long run.

In due time, it was decided that the first design option, on which a lot of programming had been done due
to the reason cited above, was deemed not workable and it was back to the drawing board. This went
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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 33

against a lot of general advice from mentors and online articles [116], but still a re-design was sanctioned
because of such abysmal feedback.

Figure 21: The initial website design (Index Page) with feedback comments

There were quite a few design options produced in the process but were rejected for one reason or
another. Some of the rejected design options are attached in Appendix E

The finalization of the second design took quite a lot of time, the founder and the designer worked
together to create a design based on familiar UI elements and a very minimalistic structure. The logo was
changed as well and the design shown in Figure 22 was finalized. For the complete screenshots of the final
version, see Appendix F.

Figure 22: The final website design (Index Page)

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 34

It was felt that an introduction video should be made to make it easy for people to familiarize themselves
with the startups functionality instead of reading a lot of text. As already mentioned in the Outsourcing
Platforms section, this was posted as a project on Guru.com and after the selection process, the designer
was given a rough storyboard draft and a script for the voice-over (see Appendix G). The video was
completed and has been uploaded YouTube [97].

For the programmers to be able to start work on the website, they require HTML pages. The process
includes converting the PSD (Photoshop) files into sliced image file and mapped on an HTML page in the
appropriate places. Fortunately for us, the designer that we were working with was proficient in doing and
had agreed to make the HTML and CSS files for the design, this made things considerably easier for us.
4.11 Development

Web Startups are at the end of the day bits of code. The development of the main website/application is a
sensitive stage and an error in communication or a delayed or lost piece of feedback can seriously harm
the final outcome. Because of this, both big companies and small teams alike are increasingly relying on
project management tools to manage their projects [41].

A lean startup strategy


According to lean startup thinking, an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) strategy calls for a startup to launch
with the minimum necessary features required for it to perform its primary functions [42]. Two main
advantages of an MVP strategy are that it allows startups to break down the entire development project in
chunks and encourages releasing parts of it incrementally over time. This way companies dont have to
worry about releasing an entire application all at once and can test different features and modify them
according to user feedback.
4.11.1 Implementation

The first order of business for the development team was to create the virtual work infrastructure, which
included the installation of Open Atrium and conducting other preliminary server related tasks.

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 35

Figure 23: Screenshot of an FTP client connected to the startups server

As previously mentioned, we were off to bit of a rocky start. The design phase took longer than expected
and because of that the developers did not have much work to do. So as soon as we got the HTML files for
the first design, the coding was initiated. At this stage, the developers were working in pure PHP and were
not using the Yii framework. Once it was decided that the old design will not be used, a lot of the code was
rendered useless. This is one of the primary reasons that encouraged the decision of going for a PHP
Framework, so that going forward; we could rely on the re-usability aspect inherent in such frameworks to
accommodate any new additions or modifications, which might be needed in the future.

The developers were given a complete breakdown of the project requirements and the milestones were
created in the form of issues on BitBucket. Due to the fact that the development team was situated in
different time zones, real-time communication was difficult but still group meetings were arranged on
Skype at least once a week.

After each milestone was achieved, the code was uploaded on a test server and also on the BitBucket code
repository. An issue intimating the entire team about the change was created on BitBucket and the
founder plus any collaborators monitoring the progress could then test the functionality and report their
feedback.

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 36
4.12 Testing and Delivery

Whenever designing and developing any kind of product, especially software, it is of utmost importance
that the final product is rigorously tested before it hits the market because word travels fast on the
internet and the impression that your early adopters share may make or break the startup [117]. Best
practice principles dictate that any and all websites/application should have periodic Quality Assurance
(QA) tests right through all stages of development [43].

It is important
This necessity has given rise to an entire discipline related to Quality Assurance and the growing software
testing industry. Fully resourced projects in big IT companies have quality assurance personnel as a
permanent feature of teams throughout the lifecycle of the project. Startups may not be able to afford
hiring a designated QA expert or using a professional service, but still need to make an effort to follow
certain common sense protocols [84] before launching.

Types of software tests


In the field of software testing, we have functional test and non-functional tests. Functional testing ensures
that the system performs according to the requirements set out for it. The non-functional tests gauge
other quality aspects, which may impact how the system performs under different conditions for e.g. OS or
browser compatibility etc. [44]

Some important tests to perform on any website or application before launch are [84]:

Performance Testing: Determines how fast a website loads on different browsers and platforms
and how well it can handle traffic, as well as how it responds to search engine queries and
keywords.

Security Testing: Evaluates any security flaws that the site or application might have both in the
frontend and in the backend, as well as determining how vulnerable the code is to malicious
hacking attempts.

Usability Testing: Determines how easy a site or application is to use and understand.

A word of advice
In case the team works with an outside designer or developer, it is highly recommended to have the
assistance of an IT expert at the moment that the final code of the applications source files and databases

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 37

is received, to verify that nothing is amiss. It is further recommended, that a series of tests be performed
before final implementation is done on the live server.
4.12.1 Implementation

The Performance Testing of the server configuration was something outside the teams control, as the
website was being hosted on a third-party shared hosting server. This meant that we did not have root
level control and had to rely on the performance metrics that MediaTemple provided, without the option
of improving on them.

From the code perspective, The Yii Framework architecture is inherently quite fast as indicated by a
comparison test mentioned on their website [104]. On top of that, special attention was given to keep the
MySQL query structure simple and optimized. We also periodically used online tools such as NetMechanic,
apart from regularly using software utilities like FireBug to test the code structure and remove any browser
compatibility issues as well as incompatibilities with W3C standards [105]. During the development stage,
these tests were not being carried out rigorously as the main aim at the time was to complete the majority
of the important milestones. It was planned that a certain amount of care would be taken before the
website goes live, after which code optimization would be addressed at a higher priority.

Similarly, standard security measures would be taken and PHPIDS will be implemented before the website
went live. PHPIDS is an open source tool that helps in detecting and thwarting malicious attempts.
Fortunately a Yii PHPIDS Extension already exists and can be seamlessly integrated. Using a professional
security testing service like Kraysis was considered but due to financial limitations it was not pursued at the
time.

As mentioned previously, a lot of importance was placed on perfecting the UI and UX elements of the
website. This mandated a rigorous regimen of usability tests, which were conducted internally before any
page was given the green signal to go live. This included a preliminary Quality Assurance test to see if
everything worked as per the requirements. Next the collaborators and alpha testers recorded their
feedback and comments based on their initial reactions on usability or if they encountered a bug. We used
different tools including email and UserVoice [88] to record suggestions and rate ideas. This gave us a good
sense of direction on what needed to be improved and helped in prioritizing tasks based on user input and
guidance. After the open beta is launched, it is planned to keep a feedback plugin constantly placed on the
website.

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 38
4.13 Launching

Startup launch marketing utilizes different tactics depending on whether the startup is at the pre-release,
release, or post-release stage. Launching tactics often include press releases, pay-per-click campaigns,
blogging, viral videos, submission to internet directories, publishing expert articles online with inbound
links, and the use of social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.

Figure 24: Graphical representation of launch marketing (Source: Link) [85]

Defining a Stealth Startup


However, not all startups want to publically launch. Stealth startups are those companies that look to avoid
public attention. Most often, this is done as part of a marketing strategy to manage their public image. In
other instances, startups launch in stealth-mode to hide important information from their competitors,
until they reach a certain stage of product development [86].
Software release lifecycle
The Software release lifecycle is composed of a number of phases indicating the maturity of the software
being released, as it makes its way from the planning stage through to development and then finally to
release and support [45]. These phases include the alpha phase, beta phase, and the release candidate
phase, sometimes known as the gold or gamma phase. When launching a new web application, numerous
startups tend use the same software release lifecycle terminology to refer to the state of their startup.
Many startups publically launch in the beta phase, as it provides them with an opportunity to work on any
unforeseen errors and make the necessary changes, so that the final version complies with what the target
market wants.

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 39

The next few sections cover the steps related with these launch phases and afterwards provide an
overview of our implementation.
4.13.1 Implementation

It is important to mention here that as the website has not been fully launched while this document is
being written, we do not have implementation data of the final version of the website, as it still remains in
the closed beta phase. We did however launch an alpha invite page, which included its own launch strategy
and promotional activity. The following topics cover the literature, in some instance the implementation
data of the full website but mostly information about the Alpha Invite page. The results of the actual
website launch would arguably be different, but the processes concerning the launch and the promotion
would pretty much be the same. It is hoped that even with the certain limitations hindering the progress of
the actual startup, as discussed in later chapters, the overall data acquired is sufficient to formulate the
framework which is the aim of this research.
4.14 Alpha Phase

When a business website is in alpha phase, all the primary functions of that website are complete and just
about ready to undergo internal testing as well as evaluation. Usually startup websites in the alpha phase
are not open to the public. Once the website is fully developed and launched to the public, the startup
website is considered to be in the beta phase. An alpha phase tends to have three different sub-phases
[87]. In the first sub-phase, the core components are done and the first round of integration may occur. In
the second sub-phase, the website is ready to be internally tested. In the last sub-phase, the internal
testing is complete, all bugs are fixed, and some users are invited for performance testing.

How startups use the Alpha Phase


There are a number of marketing goals that business startups can achieve while their website is in the
alpha phase. At an early stage, the alpha phase provides the opportunity to begin building brand
awareness with core customers, which can in turn help them define their launch strategy by listening to
what the core customers and end-users are saying. Thus an alpha phase may potentially provide startups
with valuable data to create a solid plan to reach and fulfil the needs of their core customers and identify a
monetization strategy. Startups also get a chance to get both quantitative and qualitative data about their
users and product application [46].

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 40

Lastly, the alpha phase gives startups the time to develop relevant marketing collateral, define a social
media marketing strategy and develop the content that will be used on platforms like Twitter, YouTube
and Facebook.
4.14.1 Implementation

We launched the alpha phase with two aims in mind. The first was to find people willing to test the system
and mitigate the lack of human resource that we had in the Quality Assurance department. The second
was to acquire contact details of people interested in the application and promote the web startup even
before it was launched.

We created an Alpha Invite page and hosted it on our server. The page was a simple PHP page with a
MySQL database at the back-end. The page gave some general information about the kind of startup this
was and asked for the university email address of the visitor. There were no checks in place to limit access
by mandating that the email address belong to any particular university/college, as we did not want to
complicate things for our visitors and to get as many email addresses as we could.

Figure 25: Screenshot of the Alpha Invite page hosted initially on hbuddy.net

We also implemented Google Analytics on the page and created a goal funnel to gather normalized data of
the visitors, who gave their email addresses among the total number of people who just visited the
website. We also wanted to gather data about where the visitors were coming from to inform our
marketing and promotion strategy.

In the first 3 months we had 641 visitors from 57 countries leading to 153 goal conversions.
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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 41

Figure 26: Screenshot of the Google Analytics data for the Alpha Invite page

So, the most important outcome of this exercise was that we were able to collect contact details from
many university and college students, which is our target market.

The Alpha Phase was a success as far as the project aims were concerned. We were able to get the alpha
testers, create some buzz online and in the process create a credible image of the startup, as onlookers
could see something tangible, even if it was at the time, a single page.
4.15 Beta Phase

Prior to the final release of a web startup, it usually spends a little time in what is known as a beta phase. It
is during the beta phase that the website is tested for any inconsistencies, errors and other problems. The
release of beta software is incomplete; however it is supposed to perform as the final version but without
the guarantee of stability of features and consistent availability of user data throughout the different
stages of the beta phase [47]. Google and especially Gmail are well known for remaining within the beta
phase for a long period of time [48].

Types of Beta
There are 3 types of beta open, closed, and perpetual beta. Open beta is a version released to the
general population and intended to offer the functionality of the software, but also to provide the startup
team with the opportunity to fix any unknown errors that may exist within the system as well as continue
work on known issues that are still scheduled for release further down the line. Closed beta, on the other
hand, is only released to a predetermined group. However, it is released for the same purpose as open
beta [106]. Perpetual beta is maintaining the software within the beta development phase for an indefinite
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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 42

or extended time period. Some startups choose perpetual beta as they continue to develop new and
release not fully tested features into the market as a business strategy.

Why be a Beta
While beta phase means the website is complete enough to begin external testing by outside individuals
and is feature complete, it still may have a few limitations. However, numerous startups opt to remain in
the beta phase rather than moving on to the gold (or gamma) phase, where the website is finally complete
and moves into simple maintenance mode. Many startups choose to remain in beta because they are not
yet sure how to finalize the software. They are still changing it, upgrading it, and determining how to best
present it to the public. Google is a good example of a company that is in perpetual beta [48].
4.15.1 Implementation

At the time this research is being documented, the project is in a Closed Beta stage. The project website is
hosted online at www.hbuddy.com but the access is password protected. As discussed in the Limitations
section, the development has been slow because of financial and other reasons, so we have a limited
number of people that have access to the website. Currently, the development team is pushing changes on
the live server and beta-testers can test the system and report any problems through Uservoice [88].

Figure 27: Screenshot of the live website hosted on hbuddy.com

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 43

Being in closed beta, means that we cannot promote the website for the time being. This is actually good
for us at this stage, as we have limited resources at our disposal and this restraint actually allows us to
focus on finishing the product to a satisfactory level, after which we can shift our focus to promotion and
marketing. In the startup communitys blogs and forums, the emphasis is very much on bringing products
to market as soon as possible making speed the number 1 priority for startups [118]. For bootstrapping
startups however, financial and other constraints govern what kind of strategy is employed and an
entrepreneur is tasked with doing the best that he/she can in their particular circumstances.

In the foreseeable future it is planned to move into an open beta soon and continue improving on the
application even after the monetization stage is achieved.
4.16 User feedback response strategy & Iteration Mechanism

While many businesses use web analytics tools, like Google Analytics, to gain quantitative insight on
website visitor behaviour, they do not provide the direct qualitative feedback that many startup websites
are looking for. Qualitative feedback such as suggestions, bugs and enhancement recommendations are
vital in taking the websites pulse and seeing how it is doing on the internet. Feedback is essential as it
tells a business what does and what does not work and how to improve with fresh ideas [49].

Uservoice.com: A functional review


Feedback mechanisms provide an avenue that empowers customers to speak and the businesses to listen.
Bug reporting and feedback gathering mechanisms like UserVoice.com and GetSatisfation.com are
extremely valuable. UserVoice [88] focuses primarily on innovation, such as website and product
suggestions. UserVoice permits users to discuss as well as develop ideas and whenever there are any
updates, all interested parties are notified. UserVoice.com has a voting mechanism offering an
advantageous way to implement all received feedback. UserVoices voting mechanism provides a limited
number of votes to each individual. Therefore, they have to think about how they want to distribute their
votes, which automatically makes the user intimate the priority along with their suggestions. They have to
decide which topics are most important to them to vote on and which are not relevant to them. Unlike
like buttons on other feedback mechanisms where users can click on every idea that appeals to them,
UserVoices system requires additional prioritization. This makes it a strong feedback mechanism because
startups that use UserVoices voting mechanism are really able to identify the topics that are of most
concern to the people who visit the website [107].

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 44

Figure 28: Screenshot of the UserVoice utility to highlight it different available features [107]

Using what the tools make possible


There are plenty of other such tools but the more important thing is that startups need to have a defined
strategy and plan to use these feedback mechanisms successfully. Startups must determine which
feedback tools are most beneficial to them and plan their implementation. Not only that, but the startup
needs to then determine how they will successfully follow-up on the feedback they receive and how to
notify changes to the entire community. Bug reporting, user feedback, and analytics are extremely
important to web startups. These mechanisms work hand-in-hand. While analytics provide the who,
where, and when, regarding customer behaviour, user feedback and bug reporting provides the why,
assisting businesses in improving conversions, product development, and overall user experience. It allows
startups to determine what they are doing well, identify areas where improvements can be made,
generate new ideas from customer comments and identify areas which need more careful planning. All
these things assist web startups with learning, how they can increase traffic to the website and generate
more sales [49]. However, to do that, these startups need to heed the data and implement the changes.

The benefits
There are numerous benefits of using feedback mechanisms for a startup. Feedback provides vital insight
about how the startup can change for the better as well as attract new customers. Using the tools provides
an opportunity to engage the users and form a community that benefits the startup in the different ways
mentioned above.

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 45

Communicating with the community


When implementing changes based on feedback, bug reports, analytics and other measurements, it is
important to make customers aware of the change. If they know a startup is proactive when it comes to
user advice, they will tend to be more engaged in the development and success of the startup. Ways to let
customers know about the changes include posting it in a blog or by making a video and relaying the
information via a social networking websites, press releases or newsletters.
4.16.1 Implementation

A lot of emphasis throughout the process and through the Alpha/Beta phase has been placed on getting
and reacting to user feedback. Internally, we implemented a set of processes to take that feedback and
make the most out of it to benefit the end product.

The feedback was distributed in 3 categories; bugs, ideas and general comments. It was perhaps a good
decision to invest in Uservoice, as that did the bulk of the work for us.

During the Alpha Stage, we expected to receive a lot of bug reports and so every bug report was filed as
top priority and the first available resource had to address it. In some cases ongoing development was
stopped and resources were deployed to rectify the error report. In the Beta Stage still, a bug report is
taken very seriously and still addressed as the top priority.

Ideas and suggestions for enhancements are a bit tricky to handle. In some cases what is being suggested is
a feature that is already a part of the roadmap but is to be developed later and if that is the case the
commenter and the community at large is notified. Some suggestions threaten to take the startup idea in a
completely different direction. It is important to keep focussed on the internally agreed upon roadmap but
still maintain a lively discussion within the community. Such feedback is rare but still attention needs to be
paid to each and every input to avoid being trapped in a sort of tunnel vision, which a team working on a
project for a long time can easily fall prey to.

General comments like praise etc. are also very important. Working on a startup can take its toll and
outsiders taking the time to post a positive comment, prove to be very uplifting for the entire team.
Encouraging comments can boost the morale of the team and give significant insight on how the
customers are reacting, which could validate the direction that the startup team is taking. It is important to
respond to such community members and make sure that they are engaged or offered special
considerations along the way.
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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 46
4.17 Initial marketing, searching for early adopters

Internet marketing strategies form the cornerstone of any online business. Beneficial strategies outline
what businesses are required to do to become successful, such as driving potential clients to the website,
known as traffic. To consider internet marketing strategies, it is important to understand the terminology
often associated with this form of marketing. Internet marketing has its own industry specific lingo and
acronyms.

Advertising terminology
Impressions is an advertising metric indicating the number of times a certain advertising link is displayed.
A keyword is a search term individuals use in search engines to find something. Social media
marketing refers to the utilization of social media websites, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to
increase brand awareness and engage users. Other terms that are important to understand include
organic search results, niche marketing, link building, and conversion trends. *50+

Early Adopter
The term early adopter refers to people who are more inclined to adopt new innovation and
technologies. Early adopters in the startup sense are people that actively look-out for new startups and are
willing to give them a try. For startups the most important goal is to find early adopters that are trendsetters and who can help promote the startup within their own social circles. This is the crux of what the
social media marketing paradigm is all about and what successful campaigns are intended to achieve, a
viral effect that originates from the source, is carried outwards by opinion leaders/trend setters and
reaches the majority of users [51].

SEO: A brief look


One critical aspect that startups need to get right is search engine optimization, or SEO. Proper SEO
ensures that the website is placed toward the top of search engine pages and maintains its spot. As many
studies concluded individuals do not move past the second page of search results, having a website appear
at the top of the first page is extremely advantageous [52]. SEO is further discussed in detail in the next
section.
4.17.1 Implementation

As indicated previously, the project is in a closed beta stage and therefore we are not doing any large scale
marketing or promotion. We did however conduct a small scale promotional campaign for the Alpha Invite

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 47

Page. One of the aims of creating the Alpha Invite page and promoting it was to search for potential
adopters of the system and to get the word out about the startup.

After the Alpha Page was up and running, it was submitted on Betali.st, which is a micro-blog that
aggregates information about startups that are in the preliminary stages of their launch. Getting featured
on Betali.st brought a lot of traffic from their website as well as from Twitter which they use to keep their
followers informed of new additions. Startupli.st which is a similar website also featured the project which
was helpful.

Figure 29: Screenshot of the startup featured on Betali.st (Source: Link) [98]

At this preliminary stage it was decided to create a Twitter Account for the project. As there was not much
activity relevant for outsiders at that time, it was futile to make a Facebook Page, as we did not have the
amount of content to keep the audience interested. Twitter on the other hand is easy to update and you
can create a healthy following in a relatively shorter period of time [119].

The project idea was also submitted in an Annual Business Idea Competition organized by the University of
Warwick Entrepreneurship Society. The project idea was declared the winner of the competition and got

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 48

first prize. This gave the project quite a lot of credibility in the immediate circle and the founder was able
to direct that interest into people becoming part of the Alpha stage.
4.18 SEO

SEO, short for Search Engine Optimization, is known as the process of utilizing various methods and
techniques to increase incoming traffic from internet search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. The
goal of SEO is to get a website at the top of search engine results organically i.e. without the need to spend
money on online advertising. The higher up a website is on search page rankings, the better the chance of
receiving increased traffic to the website. In numerous studies, most individuals using search engines do
not go past the first page or two. If a website is on the third or fourth page, it has little chance of being
seen [89].

SEO as a strategy
SEO is a vital business strategy. A high ranking on a search engine provides businesses with access to more
visitors and potentially more sales. SEO reduces the overall cost of customer acquisition through the
internet. Working along with paid search marketing efforts, such as Adwords, businesses can see an
increase in free traffic, assisting the website in increasing the percentage of search engine-based traffic.
Importantly, SEO provides more qualified and targeted website traffic, which can result in greater lead
conversion rates and finally sales [53].

The technical side of things


There are two types of SEO, on-site and off-site. On-site SEO refers to changes made to the actual business
website and assists in getting a higher search engine ranking and targeted traffic. These include items like
keywords density, title tags, body text, keyword density, the URL and H1 and H2 texts [90]. Off-site SEO
techniques are both online and offline initiatives that are implemented to bring traffic to the website.
Some of the cornerstones of off-site SEO include, using social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook,
blogs, RSS feeds and link building that promotes external and in-bound links [120].
4.18.1 Implementation

The founder has some previous experience with Search Engine Optimization primarily because of his other
online businesses and felt comfortable in deciding to keep the SEO in-house. Since development began, a
special emphasis was given in keeping the code optimized according to onsite SEO recommendations [90].
As mentioned previously we were using tools to make sure that the code being written was W3C compliant
and that onsite content would be Keyword rich.
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As the website has not been officially launched, we have not submitted the website to a lot of search
engines and directories. The Alpha Invite Page has been indexed by Google and Bing automatically. We
have set up Google Webmaster Tools to control which pages of the domain are indexed. The reason for
this is that being in stealth mode and with real-time changes happening on the servers, we do not want
incomplete pages to be indexed and to show up in search results.

For offsite SEO, the strategy was to target relevant blogs and websites like Tech Crunch, Scobleizer.com
and others. After the website is launched the strategy is to spend considerable amount of effort to
promote the website on these mentioned platforms, to not only drive traffic but to be seen as an active
participant in the online startup scene.
4.19 Viral Marketing & Social Media Campaign

The term viral marketing [91], refers to the utilization of social networking in an effort to produce a viral
effect in terms of online business promotion. The objective of viral marketing is to employ existing social
networking websites and with little to no cost, disseminate the marketing message to a large-scale
audience *54+. This marketing strategy tends to rely more on the individual to act as a host to spread the
information.

The history of the term


The name viral marketing was first recognized when it was used by Hotmail.com, an email service, to
describe their marketing campaign. In all outgoing messages, an advertisement for Hotmail was included
on the bottom along with the website address. As one person emailed another, they were also providing a
platform to advertise the service. The email recipient could then click the link and sign up [55].

The viral process


Today, viral marketing [91] includes the use of videos, articles, blogs, as well as other multimedia content.
Numerous businesses use it because the cost of viral marketing is minimal. A business can post a video on
YouTube and at the bottom provide a link to the business. If someone sends the YouTube video to another
individual, they are simply passing along the message. The role of social bookmarking and social
networking websites in viral marketing is extremely important. It is a quick, effective way to get in touch
with a targeted audience and provide them with links to click and get sent directly to the website. For
example, on Twitter a business can post a message with a link others can click to go to a specific webpage.
If the person likes the link, they will usually re-tweet it on their own Twitter page, where it will be seen by
even more viewers.
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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 50
4.19.1 Implementation

The functionality of the website is such that the content shared by people on their respective Institutions
Shoutbox (a section on the startups website) is viewable not only by the members of the institutions
network but outsiders as well. Although more features are available to members of the network; both
members and visitors have the option to share content outside to their own social networks or social
bookmarking websites. The links created when the multimedia content is shared externally include the
return address to the startups website, which effectively means that any sharing done creates virility that
benefits the website.

Figure 30: Graphic of the social media sharing plugin used on the website (Source: Link) [95]

Furthermore the startup blog will be set up on Tumblr [121], which not only has a lot of sharing features,
but also because Tumblr functions as a community and the content posted on a Tumblr blog has the
potential to go viral if enough people re-post the content.

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 51

Figure 31: Screenshot of the startups blog (Source: Link) [96]

As we already have a Twitter account, any and all updates/improvement will be tweeted, which could
again potentially go viral. On Facebook, we do eventually plan to make a Page and make that an avenue to
share content with FB users.

We have an introductory video made and hosted on YouTube. We plan to make more videos about the
startup, but also general videos that might be of interest to our target market i.e. students and employ
different strategies to make them go viral.

Figure 32: Screenshot of the introductory video hosted on YouTube.com (Source: Link) [97]

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 52

One of the future plans includes creating a sharing widget, so that members surfing the internet can share
any external multimedia content on the web into their institutions Shoutbox, much like how Facebook
Share works.
4.20 Online Advertising

Once the website is fully launched, plans are to start an advertising campaign on Google and Facebook. The
founder already has experience in launching online advertising campaigns on both platforms for his other
online businesses. The founder is also a participant of Google Engage which allows him to use twenty 50
coupons for free to promote any campaign on Google Adwords [122].

Figure 33: Screenshot highlighting the founders experience with Google Ad Campaigns

Figure 34: Screenshot highlighting the founders experience with FB Adverts starting in 2008

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 53

There may be opportunities to advertise on other relevant websites but such avenues will be explored in
due time.
4.21 Growth analytics and performance metrics

As a budding young startup, one of the most important things to know is who your users/customers are.
But when you are talking about the internet where anybody in world can land on your page, keeping track
and making sense of it all is easier said than done. This is where Google Analytics (GA) comes in.

Why Google Analytics!


There are a number of analytics tools [92] and even before Google Analytics, small server side software
scripts were used to detect IP addresses and logged the data to be sifted through later by some other
program or in some cases a human. What makes Google Analytics all the rage is the fact that it is an
enterprise level software utility, provided free of cost by Google. Google Analytics is also easy to deploy
and gives enterprise level features and options, which not only collect information about visitors but can
also be used to ascertain online marketing performance by creating funnels and goals. Google Analytics is
also very useful is gauging traffic changes after a big change is pushed out.

The basic features of GA


For a startup in the initial stages of its launch; it is imperative to know where the visitors are coming from
i.e. what the Traffic Sources are. Knowing this, efforts can be made to either modify the current
marketing strategy or do more of the same. It is important to know what the visitors are doing while they
are on the website as well, so page views and goal conversions are important, especially if the website
wants the visitor to register or buy something. Bounce Rate, which shows the number of visitors leaving
the website after just visiting the index page, should be monitored, so that it does not deteriorate beyond
a certain acceptable level. Exit pages show a list of pages where people abandon the website and go
somewhere else, it is quite alright for people to leave after a desired process has been completed like a
sign up or after a sale, but if there is a page which is causing a lot of people to abandon the website, it
might indicate that some change is warranted to mitigate that [56].
4.21.1 Implementation

There could be a lot more written about Analytics tools in general and their value for any website. As far as
our implementation was concerned, we had Google Analytics setup from the time that the Alpha Invite
Page was launched. The preliminary data was quite useful in finding out what marketing channels were

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 54

useful for us and a full report since the date that the Alpha Invite page was launched up till the 16th of
August, 2011 is attached in Appendix D.

For our application in particular there is another Analytics tool that we will be using due to the fact that a
major part of our web application concerns social content sharing. The social sharing widget we are using
in different parts of our website is provided by AddThis, which also offer an analytics tool that monitors
what content is being shared and on which platforms [123]. This tool also helps in identifying the
influencers and measures the virility of the content.

Lastly and very importantly is using Google Alerts to find out what is being said about the startup across
the web. It is somewhat of an intangible performance metric but calculating and monitoring the amount of
buzz that one startup can create is something that the person responsible for the startups marketing
should be involved in.

Figure 35: Screenshot of Google Alerts (Source: Link) [93]


4.22 Deployment of the monetization model

Most tech startups exist for commercial gain and how they traditionally achieve this is by getting a good
amount of traffic and having a monetization model in place to make use of that interest. The monetization
model depends on the nature of the startup, which might use a subscription, utility, infomediary,
brokerage or advertising model etc. [57] Some startups may use a combination of more than one model.

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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 55

If one was to conduct a preliminary research online on the advice and content available on this topic they
will come across certain distinct themes. Firstly the overwhelming majority of people recommend getting
funding from Venture Capitalists and Angel investors as the first step in raising capital for the startup and in
a way monetize the potential of the startup. [58]

Getting acquired
Some founders even build, grow and position their startups in a way to get acquired by other companies,
have an excellent pay-day and move on to the next venture. This approach is further popularized because
of the change in attitude and readiness of big companies to go down the acquisition route [59].

The Freemium model


For most SaaS (Software as a service) offerings, the subscription model is utilized to make money in a more
traditional way. Freemium is a popular model, which concentrates on driving traffic through free but
limited use of its product for the majority of people, offsetting the costs and making a profit by charging for
a premium version of the product to a minority. Some successful examples of the freemium model are
Skype, Dropbox, Evernote etc. [60]

Web Ads
Lastly the Online Advertising Model, on which the likes of Google and Facebook rely on for the bulk of their
revenue generation. The advertising model is in somewhat of a decline [61] because of the lack of
innovation but still supports a lot of businesses both big and small to sustain themselves.
4.22.1 Implementation

Due to the nature of the startup, the plans are to deploy an innovative monetization model that will be a
combination of advertising, content syndication and elements of group buying. We cannot go into specific
details of the system because of the confidential nature of the information and as it is still under
development. The first order of business however is to reach a critical mass of users before the
monetization model can be deployed.

So the immediate future plan is to focus solely on getting as much traffic as we can within the constraints
of the startups bootstrapping capacity. It is also a possibility that if the startup can demonstrate traction,
the team can pursue angel or VC funding. Future plans also include trying to get into high profile Incubator
programs in the Silicon Valley like Y-Combinator or TechStars. These incubator programs not only provide a
limited amount of seed funding and mentorship but also help startups get the right sort of industry
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C h a p t e r 4 T h e s t a r t u p l i f e c y c l e 56

contacts and provide startups with an environment conducive to developing the startup into a more
mature business enterprise.
4.23 The future: review, refocus, revitalize

Constant innovation and responding to users is going to be the major strategy of how the startup evolves.
The primary focus in the immediate future is to verify the concept; gauge the traction and implement the
monetization model. Long-term future plans have been categorized into 3 different areas.
4.23.1 Platform

Firstly, there is the ongoing development and additions to the Platform itself. In the near future, we hope
to launch mobile applications for the different Mobile OS platforms to further augment the usability of the
web application. There will be an open API (Application Programming Interface) so that other developers
can build upon the platform and introduce further apps that might be useful for the users of our platform.
Based on the growth patterns, we might need to look at hardware infrastructure changes as well.
4.23.2 Company

There needs to be a lot of work done and decisions made in formalizing the legal nature of the company.
Starting from a bootstrapping sole proprietorship capacity, there is a need to evolve into a more structured
corporate entity for legal and accounting reasons. The decision about the location is also an important one
and would be taken keeping in mind where we would be able to hire the best talent and would afford us
the best growth opportunities.
4.23.3 Money

The first target is to start making money; the next is to breakeven and ideally after that to make profits.
Hiring more people, growing operations and infrastructure would mean more costs and as with most
startups, there could be a case of finding VC/Angel support for further growth. The monetization model
has to be worked at which would require substantial marketing efforts and would become the primary
focus of the top management.
4.24 End of Chapter 4

This here ends Chapter 4, where we have gone through the steps that were taken throughout this year in
the hope of covering pertinent literature and acquiring necessary data to help with this research. In the
next chapter, an analysis is presented of what has been done so far and a discussion of how all of this
translates into meeting the objectives of this research.

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Analysis and discussion

As per the 3rd objective set out for this dissertation, this chapter will focus on identifying the framework in
light of the data and experience gained firsthand by going through all the steps of launching a web based
tech startup.

The way that we approached this project was, firstly to consult the literature and pursue certain steps that
were deemed necessary based on logical assumptions to launch a tech startup. Those steps were then
practically implemented, which gave us credible data to propose a workable framework for non technical
bootstrapping entrepreneurs looking to launch a tech startup.

It is important before we delve deeper to reiterate, that the scope of this research does not include
measuring the efficiency of the steps undertaken. The only factor that was taken into account was whether
the step/process produced an outcome that was required, vital or beneficial to the start of the next step
and hence the progress of the overall research project. Another benefit was that by starting from scratch,
we were automatically able to identify the general flow and order of steps which is reflected in the
Framework diagram presented later in this chapter.
5.1

Analysis of the steps

As previously mentioned the framework does not include the idea generation process but the steps after
that, so the following recounts the analysis of the steps that were taken.

Brainstorming and Conceptualization (Section 4.1)


Creating the BMC (Business Model Canvas) was a very valuable exercise to not only think about the
business model in general but by having the BMC at hand throughout the later steps, the team was able to
keep its focus on what needed to be achieved and helped tremendously in making a lot of decisions. The
mindmaps were useful as a starting point for the wireframes but because the scope, features and
limitations were constantly changing, the initial ones got obsolete very quickly.

Wireframing(Section 4.2)
This was perhaps the most important step that the founder/visionary took and worked on. The original
wireframes are still what is guiding the project. There have been lots of changes and so the wireframes
have also been evolving to reflect the changes, whenever the need has arisen. Especially for a nontechnical founder, the wireframes are a means of communicating with the programmers and designers and
the most critical contribution that the founder can make in the beginning stages.
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C h a p t e r 5 A n a l y s i s a n d d i s c u s s i o n 58

The programming approach, open-source and other resources (Section 4.3)


The founder was able to make decisions during this step because of his previous experiences. It would
however be advised that some kind of expert help would be very valuable during this stage. What worked
for us was that we looked at tools and technologies that were being used most widely apart from the
selection of the PHP Framework, Yii. We have noticed throughout the later steps that the open source
technologies with the biggest community following might or might not be the best technically speaking but
are definitely the easiest to work with.

Finding development partners, co-founders & more (Section 4.4)


This step would very much depend on the individual circumstances however the advice outlined is pretty
generic and would be applicable in most cases.

Outsourcing Platforms (Section 4.5)


Something that was missed out was the use of online job portals but since the founder could not afford to
hire full time employees, the outsourcing platforms proved enough to find developers. However it may
have been good to explore job portals as well which might have helped avoid the problems faced with
retaining people to work consistently on the startup.

Project collaboration framework & tools (Section 4.6)


There are a lot of options as covered within this topic. In our implementation however, we did make a few
mistakes by implementing a number of tools, which were perhaps more than necessary, costing us
valuable time and effort e.g. we were simultaneously updating Open Atrium and the Issue Tracker on
BitBucket with the same information, apart from which the team members were also emailing each other,
this led to a lot of redundancies and confusions. Another problem arose when things were decided among
team members on voice chat on Skype but no written trail was produced, this caused problems with
bringing everybody else up to speed. In the end, we had to stop using some tools to consolidate our
efforts.
Working with remote teams (Section 4.7)
This was one of the more complex steps in the overall process. What helped was the in-built tools and
procedural guidance available on websites like oDesk and Guru. Communication and clearly documented
guidelines are absolutely necessary for this step. We faced some problems with retention of people but the
situations often were outside of our control, like family issues, technical glitches with remote workers
working environment and in one case a more lucrative offer etc., made it difficult to maintain a team.

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C h a p t e r 5 A n a l y s i s a n d d i s c u s s i o n 59

Website Development (Section 4.8)


The development process was initiated but was constrained because of the limitations of the founders
circumstances. A more fully resourced project would have required a lot more documentation and
preparation before they even contemplate starting. As far as our bootstrapping startup was concerned, the
development process was initiated after having a barely workable environment in place.

Information Sharing (Section 4.9)


As mentioned previously, we had the tools and some evolving rules of how the work was being carried out
with the team. This step took a long time but it was important that every team member knew exactly what
was expected of them individually, as well as having an overall vision of the startup. That is easier said than
done and so many things had to be repeated as new people came in. Mistakes were made with not
keeping a proper knowledge repository, which would have helped with new inductions.

Interface/ Layout design (Section 4.10)


Working with the designer and creating the website was a challenging but fun undertaking. A lot relied on
a good design but apart from just the obvious reasons, there was an essential requirement to create
mechanisms that could relay a lot of information and control options in very limited space without the
layout looking cluttered. The success of the startup relied on us delivering well thought-out UX elements.
The design was completely changed twice, so this step was about a lot of patience, perseverance and
settling for nothing less than perfect.

Development (Section 4.11)


As mentioned in the implementation details of this step, there were initial problems but were sorted out in
due time and the team is quite settled now. For a tech startup, the development is an ongoing process and
in hindsight better team management and a structured approach from the start would have saved a lot of
wasted time and effort. Although reaching the right equilibrium and team dynamics within a new team is
something that does take a certain amount of time.

Testing and Delivery (Section 4.12)


This is a standard procedural step and there was a proper process in place and adhered to before anything
was allowed to go live.

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C h a p t e r 5 A n a l y s i s a n d d i s c u s s i o n 60

Launching (Section 4.13)


We are still in the very early stages of launching and it remains to be seen how things proceed but the fact
that tangible results have been produced is both promising and encouraging. The Alpha Phase was an
important strategic step which has produced valuable results for both further development and marketing.
Because of some issues with development speed, as discussed in the Limitations section, we have been in a
longer closed Beta Phase than we would have liked. But that is where the User feedback response
strategy & Iteration Mechanism in place has allowed the startup to progress gradually towards a public
beta launch with a more stable version and better features.

Initial marketing, search for early adopters (Section 4.17)


As explained in the implementation details of Section 4.17, we have the fundamentals of SEO in place and
as demonstrated we have successfully experimented with a Viral Marketing & Social Media Campaign
albeit on a smaller scale for the Alpha Invite page, the results have been encouraging. For the public largescale launch a lot would depend on how creative, persistent and focussed our marketing campaign is. For
the actual launch we would also add Online Advertising to the mix to hopefully further extend our reach
and impact.

Growth analytics and performance metrics (Section 4.21)


At this stage, we just have the tools in place to collect data from the publically visible pages but with no
substantial efforts being made to mine user data primarily because the website is in closed beta. Obviously
actual relevant data would be collected and used once the startup goes into open beta and beyond. Efforts
would need to be made to make use of the data, especially to reach benchmark figures to impress upon
potential advertisers and investors.

Deployment of the monetization model (Section 4.22)


Again the actual implementation of our advertising offering is in the programming stage. There are
however plans to deploy Google Adsense and DoubleClick, once we reach a respectable amount of traffic.

The future: review, refocus, revitalize (Section 4.23)


There is a constant inflow of new ideas and interesting opportunities presenting themselves. As pointed
out before, it is of utmost importance to reach the MVP stage and fully launch the website to ascertain the
overall market reaction. Once the startup reaches a certain stage of maturity, we will have to go through
the processes outlined in section 4.23.

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C h a p t e r 5 A n a l y s i s a n d d i s c u s s i o n 61
5.2

The proposed Framework 7 steps to a startup

In light of what has been covered thus far, we present the following framework diagram followed by some
explanatory remarks:

Figure 36: The proposed framework, 7 stages to a tech startup

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C h a p t e r 5 A n a l y s i s a n d d i s c u s s i o n 62

The steps that were undertaken for the actual implementation of the startup have been categorized into 7
action stages making up the framework.
5.2.1

Direction

Setting a Direction refers to refining the idea into a well rounded business proposition. This includes the
process of Brainstorming and Conceptualization.
5.2.2

Initiation

This stage includes thinking about the roadmap of how the project has to proceed. This involves
researching all relevant topics; furthermore tangible communicable outputs need to be produced.
Wireframing and finalizing the overall approach fall within this stage.
5.2.3

Implementation

This stage is about making infrastructural decisions, gathering required resources and finalizing the project
milestones. Apart from Finding the development partners step, which has been covered in this document,
others will need to include steps such as renting office space, setting up workspaces, meeting any legal
requirements to set up a company, hiring etc. at this stage.
5.2.4

Execution

This is an ongoing stage that covers all the steps related to the actual development of the startups
web/mobile application.
5.2.5

Inauguration

This stage covers the steps dealing with introducing the startup to the market. This stage is overlapping
and may start as early as the idea generation stage. The Inauguration stage will vary from startup to
startup and may include many creative interpretations of the steps.
5.2.6

Monetization

This stage includes all the steps enabling the startup to make money and again as with the Inauguration
stage, the steps that make up this stage or the time that it appears in the startup life cycle would depend
on the individual startup and its particular strategy and requirements.
5.2.7

Optimization

This stage covers the ongoing steps after the startup has been launched. This stage is governed by user
feedback, competitors reactions, market dynamics and the need to innovate. This is a never-ending loop
and continues till the startup or any remnants of it exist.

This proposed framework sets out a general direction and further steps can be made part of the 7 stages
according to individual requirements.
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C h a p t e r 5 A n a l y s i s a n d d i s c u s s i o n 63

This here concludes our discussion and presentation of the framework, next we move onto the Conclusions
Chapter in which we review the progress made on the objectives set out for this project and the limitations
that constrained different aspects of the practical implementation and hence indirectly impacted the
research, followed by some recommendations for future work.

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C h a p t e r 6 C o n c l u s i o n 64

Conclusion

At the start of this dissertation, the term startup was explained and it was mentioned how a number of big
successful companies today, started as small teams with very limited resources. Looking at the actual
position of the startup being used as the case study for this research, the results do indicate that it is very
much possible and that the framework that has been proposed can potentially be used as a guideline to
launch a tech startup in a bootstrapping capacity by a non-technical founder.

The aim of this research project was to address 3 core objectives:


1. Review the literature concerning practical steps related to taking a tech startup idea from concept
to completion.
2. Attempt to launch an actual startup to document the real-life data of the progress.
3. Identify a framework of key processes and practical steps required to launch a web-based ebusiness startup in a bootstrapping capacity.
Entrepreneurship is a widely written about yet greatly misunderstood topic [62] and as established at the
start of this document, there is a lack of event driven research with 80% literature on entrepreneurship
based on collecting empirical data [63]. There is however, a continual stream of new content being written
about e-business and tech startups. Being as it may, this dissertation covers a substantial body of work
both academic and from online resources, satisfactorily meeting the first objective. The combination of
topics covered and the particular context in which they have been presented is also something quite
unique. The currently available literature does not recognize and present the inter-connectedness of the
steps as they have been presented in this dissertation.

Based on the fact that the first objective was met and building on the information that was gathered, we
were able to move on to the second objective. The data presented in Chapter 4 and the Appendices
showcase all the efforts made in meeting the second objective.

The startup is in the preliminary stages of its launch but as argued at the end of Chapter 4, enough was
done to meet our third and last objective. Chapter 5 presents the proposed framework and explains the
co-relation between the practical steps taken, which eventually led us to be able to propose a credible
framework.

By meeting all 3 objectives, this dissertation makes a sincere contribution towards adding to the literature
covering the topic of tech startups in particular and e-business in general. The additional dimension of
bootstrapping and emphasis on non-technical founders makes this relevant to a lot of budding and
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C h a p t e r 6 C o n c l u s i o n 65

potential entrepreneurs across the world. The proposed framework presented is in some ways universal
because of the common medium i.e. the internet and because the handful of technologies that make a
web or mobile startup possible have been directly or in-directly covered. It can also be argued that this
dissertation points at the importance and need for further work to be done in this particular area.
6.1

Limitations and Future Work

The fact that we pursued launching an actual web startup to verify our assumptions brought about a set of
challenges. It was of critical importance that the actual startup reached a certain level of maturity for the
findings to be reported as credible and workable. Initially, it was hoped that the startup would be further
along the way than it is but very early on it became apparent that we needed to be conservative with our
goals.

Time was a critical factor, the researcher was doing a Full-Time Masters Degree and involved in other
aspects of student life. There were also monetary constraints, which led to a situation where in the last 6
months the project has not been worked on for more than 12 hours per week by all members of the
development team combined. As the work was being conducted on a per hour or project basis, the
researcher/founder could start and stop different tasks to fit with a monthly budget of around 400 and
still keep progressing. Being the only one involved in this research project, the researcher had to spend a
lot of time with regards to the creative, planning, organizing and administrative aspects of the startup.

There were other setbacks created by factors like people leaving the project, questionable decisions like
changing the design and going for a new programming framework in the middle of the project etc. All of
this directly impacted the progress of this research in terms of the position that the startup is in currently,
although it needs to be said that by going through the difficulty, the research was able to benefit from truly
relevant and valuable findings.

The following are some recommendations for future work that might be done to further this research and
do more in the respective area.

The methodology of choosing a case study for this project was satisfactory for this level but if in the future
there is more funding and a bigger team of researchers, using the Action Research methodology *64+
would perhaps be best for this particular research area. It can be said that what was done in this project in
essence followed Action Research but since there was only one run-through of the entire framework, more

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C h a p t e r 6 C o n c l u s i o n 66

needs to be done to further authenticate the findings and for this to classify as a proper Action Research
project.

Future researchers need to verify this framework by executing different web/mobile startup projects to
confirm/deny the proposed framework or add to it. Future researches also need to concentrate on
improving the efficiency of the steps and make recommendations to optimize the overall process. Further
variables like idea generation, funding, management protocols, which were not included in this research
should be part of future researches. If at all possible it would be ideal to go deeper and further into the
tech startup lifecycle and add further stages using the findings of this research as the foundation to do so.
6.2

Some ending remarks

Personally doing this research project has been extremely valuable in reaching a better understanding of
the startup process. As both an e-business management student and entrepreneur, this research has
provided validation for certain prior thoughts and assumptions in light of academic theory and the results
achieved during the actual implementation.

Having practically gone through this process, there have been many findings for each of the steps;
documenting them here would be outside the purview of this dissertation but do provide a direction and
inspiration to further research, experiment and write about these topics, going forward.

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R e f e r e n c e s 67

References
[1] The Internet: Internet Basics. 2011. The Internet: Internet Basics. [ONLINE] Available at:
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http://www.tumblr.com/why-tumblr. [Accessed 24 August 2011].
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http://www.google.co.uk/intl/en/ads/engage/. [Accessed 24 August 2011].
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http://www.addthis.com/analytics. [Accessed 24 August 2011].
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Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

Appendix A
Wireframes
A collection of wireframes that were created to communicate the layout and
features with both the designers and developers.

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Appendix A: The initial wireframes created and used for the start-up website
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix A: The initial wireframes created and used for the start-up website
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix A: The initial wireframes created and used for the start-up website
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Appendix A: The initial wireframes created and used for the start-up website
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix A: The initial wireframes created and used for the start-up website
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix A: The initial wireframes created and used for the start-up website
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix A: The initial wireframes created and used for the start-up website
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix A: The new wireframes modified based on the feedback received


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix A: The new wireframes modified based on the feedback received


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix A: The new wireframes modified based on the feedback received


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix B
Initial website design
All the pages of the initial design have been included, to give the reader a
first-hand look of how all the initial steps culminated into a tangible
outcome.

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Appendix B: The initial website design, mock-up created based on the wireframes.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix B: The initial website design, mock-up created based on the wireframes.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix B: The initial website design, mock-up created based on the wireframes.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix B: The initial website design, mock-up created based on the wireframes.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix B: The initial website design, mock-up created based on the wireframes.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix B: The initial website design, mock-up created based on the wireframes.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix B: The initial website design, mock-up created based on the wireframes.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix C
Communicating requirements and changes
These files have been attached to give the reader better insight on the
processes and tools used for communicating the requirements and changes.

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Appendix C: Communicating iterations based on user feedback and functional requirements to the development team.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix C: Communicating iterations based on user feedback and functional requirements to the development team.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix C: Communicating iterations based on user feedback and functional requirements to the development team.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix C: Communicating iterations based on user feedback and functional requirements to the development team.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix C: Communicating iterations based on user feedback and functional requirements to the development team.
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Appendix C: Communicating iterations based on user feedback and functional requirements to the development team.
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Appendix C: Communicating iterations based on user feedback and functional requirements to the development team.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix C: Communicating iterations based on user feedback and functional requirements to the development team.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix C: Communicating iterations based on user feedback and functional requirements to the development team.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix C: Communicating iterations based on user feedback and functional requirements to the development team.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix C: Using issues on BitBucket to communicate feature enhancements, report errors & assigning tasks to developers.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix C: Using issues on BitBucket to communicate feature enhancements, report errors & assigning tasks to developers.
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix D
Google Analytics Report
This report shows the statistics and impact of the Alpha Invite page and
gives the reader an insider look of the Analytics programme.

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Appendix D: Google Analytics Report for the Alpha Invite Page


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix D: Google Analytics Report for the Alpha Invite Page


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix D: Google Analytics Report for the Alpha Invite Page


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix D: Google Analytics Report for the Alpha Invite Page


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix D: Google Analytics Report for the Alpha Invite Page


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix D: Google Analytics Report for the Alpha Invite Page


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix D: Google Analytics Report for the Alpha Invite Page


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix D: Google Analytics Report for the Alpha Invite Page


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix E
Design options rejected
The rejected designs have primarily been added to give the reader an
understanding that launching a startup requires perseverance. We did not
have a way to briefly showcase the wasted lines of code that go along with
this.

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Appendix E: The options of logos and layout designs that were made to accommodate the feedback but were rejected for different reasons
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix E: The options of logos and layout designs that were made to accommodate the feedback but were rejected for different reasons
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix E: The options of logos and layout designs that were made to accommodate the feedback but were rejected for different reasons
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix E: The options of logos and layout designs that were made to accommodate the feedback but were rejected for different reasons
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix E: The options of logos and layout designs that were made to accommodate the feedback but were rejected for different reasons
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix E: The options of logos and layout designs that were made to accommodate the feedback but were rejected for different reasons
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix E: The options of logos and layout designs that were made to accommodate the feedback but were rejected for different reasons
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix F
Final Website Design
The purpose of adding screenshots of all the new pages is to stress upon the
reader the importance of user feedback and responding to it. This also
highlights a startups journey of constant evolution.

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Appendix F: The finalized design that is currently being used as part of the closed beta phase and will be persisted with for the foreseeable future
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix F: The finalized design that is currently being used as part of the closed beta phase and will be persisted with for the foreseeable future
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix F: The finalized design that is currently being used as part of the closed beta phase and will be persisted with for the foreseeable future
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix F: The finalized design that is currently being used as part of the closed beta phase and will be persisted with for the foreseeable future
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix F: The finalized design that is currently being used as part of the closed beta phase and will be persisted with for the foreseeable future
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix F: The finalized design that is currently being used as part of the closed beta phase and will be persisted with for the foreseeable future
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix F: The finalized design that is currently being used as part of the closed beta phase and will be persisted with for the foreseeable future
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix F: The finalized design that is currently being used as part of the closed beta phase and will be persisted with for the foreseeable future
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix F: The finalized design that is currently being used as part of the closed beta phase and will be persisted with for the foreseeable future
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix F: The finalized design that is currently being used as part of the closed beta phase and will be persisted with for the foreseeable future
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix G
The Video Project
These images depict the complete process of outsourcing a project from
start to finish.

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Appendix G: Details of the video project completed via Guru.com


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix G: Details of the video project completed via Guru.com


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix G: Details of the video project completed via Guru.com


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix G: Details of the video project completed via Guru.com


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix G: Details of the video project completed via Guru.com


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix G: Details of the video project completed via Guru.com


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix G: Details of the video project completed via Guru.com


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix G: Details of the video project completed via Guru.com


Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

*A collaboration session on Skype with the designer. (Showcases the efficacy of the tool in enabling remote teams to work
effectively)

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Appendix H
NDA Sample
This provides the reader some important legal and copyright issues to think
about.

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Appendix H: The NDA used before project details were shared with remote team members
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix H: The NDA used before project details were shared with remote team members
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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Appendix H: The NDA used before project details were shared with remote team members
Copyright 2011 by Asad Aftab Iqbal - All rights reserved

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G l o s s a r y | 151

Glossary
Borialas Enterprises

The researcher is the CEO and founder of this company, the startup is being launched as
part of this company.

Developer

The term developer is used in this document to refer to web programmer.

Development

In the context of this document the term development refers to both programming and
the overall progress of the startup

Founder

The language used in the document is in 3rd person narrative although both the
founder and the researcher are the same person; the term founder is used when
something related to the development of the startup is being discussed.

Non-technical

Someone who is not academically or professionally trained to perform a certain task.

Phase

The term Phase is used to refer to a certain point in time. A phase might span more
than one stages.

Researcher

The language used in the document is in 3rd person narrative although both the
founder and the researcher are the same person, the term researcher is used when
something related to the research or writing of this dissertation is being discussed.

Stage

Stage refers to a set of steps in context of the proposed framework.

Start-up

Start-up or Startup is used to refer to the web-based tech startup Help Buddy
(www.hbuddy.com) serving as the case study for this research.

Step

A step is a collection of processes to achieve a tangible outcome in context of the


proposed framework.