Planning meeting

Startups — Why we won’t take your money just because we can

Because we don’t want to work for you, but with you. It’s important to us that we develop a partnership with our clients, as opposed to a client – contractor kind of relationship. Our objective isn’t to milk you for all you’re worth, but to make the best versions of your ideas, even if they turn out to be different than what you originally imagined.

Sure, the money is a factor, after all we have to eat and stuff. But it’s not all about that. The feeling you get when you’re invested and you feel as if you’re making something with the client, as opposed to making it for them, is just amazing. When that feeling hits is the moment we know we did well.

How we tango

Let’s say you’ve contacted us and we’re setting up a meeting. What our experience tells us is that you fall into one of three categories of clients:

  1. Clients with an idea and the knowledge to make it happen
  2. Clients with an idea, and a bit of knowledge
  3. Clients with an idea, but no real know-how

If you’re the first type of client you usually come to us with already prepared low-fidelity wireframes and a bunch of screens. You know exactly who your potential users are, what the problems of those users are, how to solve it, and which features you need to solve the user’s problems.

If you’re the second type you’re much like the first, only far less prepared. Startups like yours are generally the most flexible, because you know you’ve got the basics down, but you also know there’s more work to be done. You might know your potential users and their problems, but not exactly which features to implement to solve them.

Now, if you’re the third type, your idea can go either way when it comes to success. Startups generally tend to believe that their ideas are great. Why else bother founding a startup right? But without proper research and a comprehensive strategy ideas tend to just drain resources and cause startups to shut down in a year or two.

No matter which type of client you might be, we take the same approach. According to the information you give us we conduct our own research, and once we’re done we schedule a meeting. During this meeting we try and determine which features are essential, which are optional, and which are redundant. We do this by looking at the product from three different angles: design, development, and user experience. It’s at this point that clients usually figure out whether they even want to continue working on their ideas.

We did have clients that, with our help and advice, realized that their ideas were just not going to cut it, and that they didn’t really solve any problems. And even though it’s sad to see a client give up on an idea, we usually end up being happy that we were able to help them not waste their time and money. As for those that do continue, we thought we’d better give you some examples.

Less features are more features

Most projects with startups end up having features changed multiple times. It’s just how it goes. You test things out, add and remove, test again, until you reach a number that resolves the most problems in the least amount of time. One of our clients wanted to create an app that would allow people to communicate and store their personal data safely on the internet.

This particular client fell into the first category we talked about earlier. They knew exactly what they wanted to make, had potential clients who had an actual need for their app. When they first came to us the number of features they wanted to implement was fairly larger than what made the final cut. Mostly because they wanted to cover every single need of their potential clients, instead of focusing on the most important ones.

During our initial briefs we talked about all of them, and through our asking questions and their wealth of knowledge, we came to the conclusion that some of them were edge case — they answered to the needs of a small percentage of their target audience. For example, things like Contacts, Messaging, and Calendar were essential to the user, while Themes and Contact Blocker weren’t. Nice to have, but not essential.

Rather than a simple collection of 6 different apps, our client’s app ended up being a comprehensive and intuitive platform that provided an alternative for communicating and storing data online. We could’ve made all the other features happen, it just would’ve taken a lot more time and resources, and we didn’t want to rip our client off for a bunch of features they didn’t realistically need for their MVP.


M to the V to the P

MVP (Minimum Viable Product), as you know, is a set of select features that satisfies the needs of the early adopter. You can learn from their experiences and improve your product. We’ve got a great example of how to reach this, and our wonderful clients Stores & Goods were more than willing to be that example.

They came to us with the idea of providing a fairly unique service. Their product idea was a platform that would allow different fashion stores in Zürich to advertise their goods in a digital window display. Customers would be able to browse that window display, find the goods they’d like to buy, and find the store where they could buy them. A great idea all in all.

However, here’s where things got a bit tricky. Their initial idea was to have four different user roles for their website visitors. One for the admin, one for the store owners, one for registered users, and one for visitors. The client needed the website to be finished in a certain timeframe, and we knew that what they wanted was not possible in that timeframe.

So, we went to the drawing board together and took a hard look at the project together. That’s how we cut down the number of user roles from four, to one. By applying the Moscow system (Must, Should, Could, Would) we determined that all the potential client absolutely needed was access to what the fashion stores had to offer, and that’s it. The three user roles weren’t sent to the Recycle Bin or anything, just tabled for the time being. We found our MVP model, and continued development.

We will be launching the Stores & Goods website in Switzerland very soon, and one in Germany at the beginning of next year. We’re very excited to continue our collaboration with them, and are grateful they allowed us to use their details in this post.

employee looking at project on screen

Start UP not DOWN

We hope that we gave you an idea of what it’s like working with a design agency that cares about your startup. It saddens us to read and hear about bad experiences from startups when it comes to working with agencies, but the best thing we can do is lead by example.

For those of you that seek your business elsewhere, be careful. Make sure you do the proper research for your projects. From market research, to the potential client, to their problems and solutions for those problems. Also, research the design agency you’re looking to work with, and make sure they won’t take your money just because they can. There are a lot more good guys than bad out there, so you should be fine.

Finally, we wish all of you good luck! Startups are our favourite clients, and we love working on these projects. There’s something special in making someone’s dreams come true, in whatever way. So, if you have a dream or cool idea, shoot us a message and let’s see if we can make it happen.


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