The Rocket Ship Drawing Rant

Here is something that is going to sound maybe a tad negative, but I promise there is also some positive takeaways, so be patient!

My hope is that this slight rant may help some people who are in the process of trying to attract early stage investors prevent an embarrassing situation. Here it goes…

A friend contacted me a couple of weeks ago and said that he had developed a new app, and was looking for some advice. When we met, he made it clear that he was looking for investment and wanted me to point him in the right direction. I asked to see the app, and he said that it was still in development. When I asked what framework he was using, he looked at me with a blank expression. I asked if the ‘coding’ had begun, and he said that it had not. “So what do you have?” I asked. “The designs” he replied “and they need polishing” he added.

Okay, rant time! …. Let’s be totally clear, designs are not enough (in the real world) to claim you have built something unless the end product is a drawing. Therefore, the app that you claim to have ‘built’ is as real as if I drew a picture of a rocket ship, and expected to use it to fly me and all my friends to the moon.

When you are making/drawing a shiny mock-up, you are not limited by real life. So you can literally do anything without actually thinking about the ‘how’. I promise you that any developer will tell you that the challenges starts with the code, not to mention when you actually take the product market.

I am not saying it’s not a good idea to make shiny mock ups. In fact, making something that looks ‘real’ is a really good way to lock your idea down and get early feedback. However, if you are after investment you need to go a few steps further. As a bare minimum you should have:

1. Software Specification: This is a document that outlines the features of the software and essentially demonstrates how the product will behave. I would also include wireframes to show every part of the user journey has really been thought through.

2. Architectural Overview: If you are not a developer, then you will need one for this part. This document is the ‘how’. You don’t need to write code, but you do need to show that you are actually able to build this ‘rocket ship’ if you had the money. This is also your chance to highlight how you would overcome common failures like over complicated registration processes or poor security standards.

So let me summarise: Showing you have an idea means next to nothing, however showing the idea AND that you have a clear plan to execute the idea makes a huge difference.

I would love to hear other people’s stories. Has this happened to you – how did you handle it? Have you ever won investment from mockups alone? Let me know below, or on Twitter @bradindigital.

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