Our CEO, Ghazenfer Mansoor, shares about how he’s facing business uncertainties due to COVID, what makes Technology Rivers unique, and some helpful advice for founders looking to develop their own product, and much more.
This interview blog has been originally posted by DC Startup Week.
What makes your business unique?
Ghazenfer: Technology Rivers is unique for various reasons and is the primary contributing factor to our success. But I’d say what makes Technology Rivers especially unique and high-value is how customer-oriented we are. Perhaps, this value may sound truism for most IT service providers or SaaS companies, but ours just doesn’t end on a development level. Yes, we prioritize customer satisfaction in terms of service quality, efficiency, and integrity. However, for Technology Rivers, it doesn’t end by just delivering the scope of work required in the projects.
We have taken over a good number of projects that have failed from previous vendors where clients weren’t happy. And in our experience, it was mostly because of poor product management. This made me realize that without the right product management, even the competitive developers won’t be able to deliver well. And as part of our process in Technology Rivers, we are also heavily focused on product management — where we invest our time to ensure that the products we develop are finished as per our customers’ vision.
Having experienced building a startup myself, and worked with a few dozen startups, I understand the culture and challenges in creating scalable software products. Therefore, we create a strong foundation of trust with our customers by expressing our genuine interest in the growth of their business. More than delivering what they want, we provide them what they actually need by giving them valuable business insights and introductions even outside the product coverage. And with this, we didn’t just make customers. We made valuable partnerships and lifetime connections.
How have you seen your business change due to COVID, and have you learned anything throughout this pandemic that will ultimately impact your business in the long run?
Ghazenfer: The COVID-19 pandemic is definitely a rough time for everyone, but as an entrepreneur, we look at it positively and explore how we can find opportunities during this time of crisis. This recent article addresses this specific topic – How Successful Entrepreneurs Avail Opportunity During Times of Crisis.
As a product development company, we help entrepreneurs create innovative software products, and we see a lot of growth because of new opportunities that arise during this time, and currently working with those like-minded businesses who are taking advantage of the current situation. This new norm has created many opportunities for businesses in healthcare, on-demand services, wellness & fitness, collaboration, e-learning, and many other virtual services.
What advice would you give to a founder who is looking to start developing their own product?
Ghazenfer: Focus is the number one element in business success. One of the common mistakes most startup founders make is to spread too thin and wish for everything in the product. We recently wrote an article on a similar topic and shared some strategies on how to launch your product quickly.
Secondly, it’s extremely important that you spend time on customer discovery and product-market fit. There is plenty of competition in almost every field, and you have to make sure you are not competing on just features, but have to have a clear differentiator to capture the market. Check out this article on finding a niche in a crowded market.
The product development approach may vary depending upon if you have a tech founder, or you are a tech founder yourself. In either case, make sure you follow the guidelines of product development and follow the lean approach to get the product out early, even if it is for internal feedback or soft launch. As a technical person myself, I learned many of these lessons the hard way.
Here are some articles we recently wrote that may be helpful as you are starting to develop your product.
- How Agile Teams Can Drive Effective Product Strategy
- How To Build a Successful Product Strategy in 7 Steps
- How UI/UX Design Can Make or Break Your Application
- 6 Ways You Can Protect Intellectual Property While Outsourcing Software Development
What are some pitfalls to avoid when hiring a development firm?
Ghazenfer: Of course, finding the right outsourced development partner can be tough given that there are lots of considerations you need to take before finally choosing one. And what makes it harder is that there are lots of developers (freelancers, development shops) pitching about how they’re perfect for your project. But, as someone who has helped many firms successfully rescued the messed up software projects, as someone who has advised and helped few dozen firms in outsourced software development, here are some of the lessons learned and tips I could give to anyone looking to find a development partner:
- First, you have to pick a partner who understands product development and has done it numerous times. Having a team with experience in a different type of software products will give you the deep insights you need to make strategic product decisions. Product Management is one of the most important roles in software development, as that drives the direction of your product. This is one of the most common reasons for failures in most of the outsourcing projects.
- Secondly, you want a partner who is technically strong and has experienced building scalable and complicated applications. This helps ensure the strong foundation of your product and helps significantly as you grow and scale your business.
- Additionally, you may want to pick a software development firm that has the experience of creating products for the companies about the same size as your company. Experience with a similar-sized company will ensure that your partner understands the challenges and expectations. For example, if you are a startup, you would want to work with a company that has built applications for similar size startups. Experience with government or corporate may be great, but may not be good for the startup product development. You have limited money and resources, so you want to quickly get it done the right way, the first time.
- Find a company that has proven experience in the type of application, not just a software developer. Mobile applications are different from the web, so are comprehensive workflow-based applications from the CMS. A WordPress developer can build CMS base sites, but not a good fit for your desktop or mobile app.
- Another important consideration is to find the hidden costs upfront before it’s too late. Some companies charge flat fees, some charge subscription fees, and others charge based on scope. I have seen numerous cases where Fixed Price projects are based on hourly projections, which is not really a fixed price. As part of your reference check, find out if the partner really nickel and dime on any small deviation from the scope.
- Additionally, perform thorough research on a company’s track record. Check out their reviews, talk to their past customers, and ask specific things (not just good or bad) to identify the fit. Remember, people only give you references who will talk good about them. It’s your job to extract the specific feedback out of their good reference. If you find companies through Google search, make sure their track record meets the requirements of your projects, then you may want to shortlist those companies. But remember, there are several paid reviews that circulate on different platforms and you must be vigilant enough to figure out if the reviews and feedback are unbiased and verified.
- Once you hire a firm, make sure you own and control all the software and accounts so you are not locked or potential to be a hostage, and it’s easier to transition later on. At Technology Rivers, we always keep transition in mind and try to use customer accounts wherever possible. This may include DNS, cloud hosting accounts, project management software, etc. We have worked with many customers where their prior vendors refused or made it difficult to transition out after the project finished, or the relationship ended for whatever reason.
- Lastly, you want to have a partner that helps you not only build but also help you grow. It could be in many ways, including guidance for the right approaches, introductions to potential clients, partners, and investors. Avoid companies that look at this as one other transaction. As part of Technology Rivers, we invest our time in understanding the customer’s business to ensure we help them build a product as per their vision. Introductions, help in growth strategy helps the clients in many ways and a win-win for both us and customers in the long run.
I recently wrote an article about this topic which you may find interesting – 4 Tips to Help You Outsource Mobile App Development Smarter
Why is it important for you to support the DMV startup community?
Ghazenfer: The DC area is full of corporate and government businesses where the startup community has grown and made a good success. However, more needs to be done with this corporate and development culture. With my background in software engineering, product development, and startups, Technology Rivers is my brainchild which I thought could be a means to contribute and help the striving community of entrepreneurs in this area.
In the effort of offering software development services to my fellow startup founders and by supporting and participating in this event, I am able to support not just these new enterprises but the economy of the business industry in DMV. Which is one of the reasons why I want to give part at the DC Startup Week. I find it meaningful to give support to the community I grew in, so much so by delivering and offering products and software services that serve more success in the entrepreneurial community in the DMV-based entrepreneurship.
Ghazenfer will be speaking during “Increase Your Chances For Success: Choosing The Right Partners,” a panel that will educate entrepreneurs on how to increase their chances for success by choosing the right service partners and ensure they are covered from all legal and business perspectives. Tune in on Friday, September 18th at 12 pm!