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Lessons learned from building a startup from scratch

By Sergey Grushko, Founder and CEO, Airtasks

Airtasks launched just under one year ago, in early 2021. Back then we started with an idea of helping construction teams become more productive, our resources were limited, and we had no prior experience building a tech product. The following summarises our year-long journey of bringing the product from concept to the first paying customer.

We hope that this article could become a starting point for the new generation of technology entrepreneurs and inspire more AECOO professionals to explore the world of startups and product design.

Don’t wait for the perfect idea

It might sound counterintuitive, but rather than waiting for the “perfect” idea, what you actually need is a good-enough starting point, which can be tweaked to become a great idea later. It is absolutely inevitable that the initial concept is going to morph into something else.

Great products usually start with a simple problem relevant to a small group of people, which over time can evolve into something bigger. The problem where first hand experience comes into play is the best place to start, which is certainly the case with our product.

Airtasks was born out of a need for a simple, yet structured and efficient way of communicating daily activities within the team. This problem was already solved outside of the AECOO industry with tools like Asana, Trello or Notion, but these products are missing industry-specific functionality like BIM support or drawing markup, which we have decided to fix.

Get a co-founder you know well

It is possible to start a really successful company as a solo-founder, but the most prominent startups are usually founded by a group of people. Having someone not only to split tasks with, but to split the emotional burden of starting a company with is extremely important.

The easiest and most common way to meet your co-founder is either through school or work. Both will allow you to build trust, see each other perform, and learn whether you can work together as a team. Well-balanced founding teams are usually able to both build the first version of the product, and find a first paying customer on their own.

Start with a simple prototype

Airtasks started as a very basic wireframe created in the attempt to illustrate the idea to ourselves. Soon after we realized that we can use that same wireframe to showcase the product to our friends and colleagues, which was a very simple yet powerful tool that allowed us to collect initial feedback.

In a matter of weeks we were able to take it one step further and re-create this wireframe in HTML and CSS. This initiative eventually became our clickable prototype, which helped the company get an interview at Y Combinator, the world’s most prominent startup accelerator, as well as raise a small round of funding from angel investors.

Get your product out faster

The rule of thumb for the product launch is to start with an MVP (Minimum Valuable Product). MVP is a version of the product which has just enough features to satisfy early customers. The goal of this methodology is to get the product out faster, and start collecting feedback critical to the future of the product. MVP is never a final product, but more of a starting point for market experimentation.

Airtasks MVP allowed BIM teams to share model issues with non-technical users in a very quick and efficient way, display these issues in the form of a Kanban board, and exchange comments about the issue. Another key feature of our MVP is flexible data structure which allows the creation of unlimited custom fields with rich data types like dropdowns, checkboxes, numbers, etc.

Talk to your customers

Talking to early customers is one of the critical factors in starting a company. Maintaining a direct connection to your users throughout the lifespan of their product is not only invaluable, but essential.

The goal of a great user interview is to extract data that will help you improve your product, and almost every feature we have released after the initial product launch came from the feedback that we received from our users. 

Airtasks is constantly looking for innovative companies that are looking for ways to improve their communication and process management practices. Drop us a line, we would love to hear from you.

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