I started programming in 2012 and developing for mobile in 2013 focusing mainly in the android platform. One of the first things i learnt of course was the ‘Hello World’ project which was just a display of some text on the screen. That alone gave me joy because i knew, that was the beginning of long hours of code and late nights of debugging to create a product. I eventually moved onto more interesting test projects like working with lists and databases. However, the real challenge came when it came to working client projects or even just school projects.
A new chapter was opened however when i joined a start up incubator at Makerere University (Global Business Labs) under a company called Sasula Uganda; Sasula was a retail and e-commerce business that connected businesses to consumers. In my first week, i was given the initial orientation and had a good idea how the company operated. Some of the main challenges however was that businesses wanted sales flying in every day for them to even think about giving us a cut while most of the consumers were still stuck on their daily routines of going directly to the business centers. There was even a time that we the developers had to go to the streets to advertise our services and of course a bonus if we could convert a sale.
One year later, i moved on to start my own company alongside my business partners and managed to launch our flagship product; CineApp which got 50 downloads in its first 15 days. I however noticed a couple of challenges in it’s production and it didn’t get any better when it went live in the Google Play Store.
- Users are never satisfied
Our first release was more like a beta for us and we wanted people’s opinions and what they thought would make the app better but in our efforts to make the app’s data consumption as little as possible, the app couldn’t refresh since the information was already cached. And the first impulse people got was to uninstall while the loyal ones stuck with us and gave us a chance to set it right. The ugly truth is users will keep wanting more and the more users or downloads you get, the longer your To-Do list increases as well as your error logs.
- Worry about today and live to fight another day
We all have big plans and ambitions on what we want our app to be and sometimes we get ahead of ourselves. We spend too much time developing the perfect app and end up losing the competitive advantage and even sometimes losing our impatient customers. I for one, am a sucker for perfection but a friend told me “You don’t have to release a perfect product because otherwise there would no need for the option to update your app.” All you need is the minimum viable product that is acceptable to the consumers. (Something my lecturers kept reminding us about in the so called Software development life cycle using the prototyping model, water flow model and so on)
- Need to keep giving better
10 years ago, Facebook was just this thing used by teenagers, college students and a few techy people. Now it’s the go to marketing platform for businesses and there even rumors of it becoming a job recruitment platform for companies. You can’t get comfortable at your level otherwise some kid in his dorm room can wake up one day and program a product that will blow yours out of the water. Our most recent update introduced a major upgrade for our animations module but that risked us losing all users having an android version less than 4.0.*. Question is what do u do then when you’re torn between giving users better and risking losing some of them!
- The money factor
We have all read Techcrunch blogs or at least heard the news but what we sometimes forget is we live in a completely different ecosystem. I for one live in Uganda, East Africa and i got a complete wake up call when i saw that the streets had in store for me. For starters, if you get lucky and get into an incubator, u either have to pay for your space or have to give up a huge chunk of your company shares in return for the resources offered to you. Companies like Google had venture capitalists and investors knocking at their doors way before the company was even registered while in Uganda; u have an amazing idea and best case scenario, you get noticed and end up being featured in the media for a while and 1 year later nobody remembers who you are. I for one had a share of knocking doors and one thing for sure is in my country, investors want to come in when you’ve proven that your product can generate income. The loophole with this is that if my business is striving, why would i want to sell a chunk of my company to someone who only thinks about how many more digits am adding to his bank account!
I made a lot of mistakes along the way but i try to learn with every opportunity i get. Am not perfect, but if i can look back a year from today and smile then that’s enough for me.