When was the last time you asked “Why wouldn’t I use my product”?

I’m a strong believer that founders need to truly love the problem and community they’re building their startup around.

This passion is what translates into the product vision that users fall in love with. Dattch and Robyn are a great example of this. Robyn’s passion is visible in every talk, interview and pitch she does which is expressed in how the product approaches the problem. The community believes what Robyn believes and as such they love the product! Others have tried to solve the same problem but potentially without the passionate for the user base they couldn’t make it work.

“As soon as we build something, we all tend to move increasingly from inquiry mode to advocacy mode at the very time where the former is needed and the latter can blind us.” Techcrunch

However, passion only gets you so far as you still need to execute. When you’re putting every living and breathing moment into the product it can become harder to see the bigger picture and the journey the user sees.

Missing Unicorns built from my own experience of identifying which designers and developers I could hire. While I was passionate about the problem and the product was functional I knew something felt wrong, the hard part was identifying how to start fixing it.

Given it’s easy to gain traction once you have started something, even if it’s wrong, I simply asked myself “Why wouldn’t I use this?”. I picked up a shiny sheet of A4 paper, looked at the dashboard and started to rip apart my “beautifully” created application which turned out to be surprisingly easy.

The use-case of “Find me the best designer to hire” was a problem I knew the product had to 100% nail so this felt a good place to start. I tried to solve this problem with a highly critical user mindset and proceeded to write down everything that felt wrong or stopped me. My initial list included notes like:

  • “Timeline sucks. Too noisy with rubbish”
  • “Too hard to import people. Who should I even be importing?”
  • “Want to add notes after importing”
  • “Changes identifed are boring”
  • “People/Dashboard needs search. Still too hard to find / know who / why you care about them”
  • “Discovery page needs filtering. How can I even find people I know”

“MVP is not an excuse to make shitty software” 12spokes

Looking at the list it was clear – the product was broken. Terms like boring, rubbish, too hard are things you never want to see but I knew what required fixing.

With a number of small tweaks, a few touches here and there the product started to have the connected feel and togetherness it previously lacked. I repeated the process with the updates, asking myself the same question, “What’s stopping me from finding the best designer?”. This time the list looked very different.

  • “How can I identify who are designers, who are developers, who are both”
  • “After importing, need ability to add a note”
  • “After adding, have suggestions of others”
  • “Identify tags for people”

A fairly obvious oversight of not splitting out the two skill sets but the rest had become nice to haves. I had stopped writing sucks, too hard, boring and my tone became much softer. It was clear I had begun adding features and not solving the problem.

Once all you’re doing is adding features then it’s time to stop and let the users to break it. If you want to be one then subscribe to the mailing list below

Cross posted to http://missingunicorns.com/blog/when-was-the-last-time-you-asked-why-wouldnt-i-use-my-product/

Job Boards Are The Past! It’s Time To Rethink Recruitment

Let’s be honest, job boards are dead!

A job board represents an old and traditional approach to recruitment. It’s the same as putting a card up in a newsagent’s window hoping that the person you want will instantly walk past and notice it.

The reality is that the adverts are lost in a sea of other ads each one shouting for the same person’s attention.

The use of newsagent’s windows has all but disappeared and replaced better solutions. Yet we still appear to be continuing with the same mentality when it comes to recruitment.

We need to rethink how we approach technical recruitment

Instead of pushing job specs out in a “spray and pray” style we need to use a strategic and tactical approach for recruiting the best talent and pulling them into the company. Missing out on the best talent can kill companies.

A pull approach uses a person’s connected network to identify who’s a potential hire. When combined with a team’s network you can easily visualise relevant connections to your company allowing you to start taking a targeted approach to hiring. If half of your development team already know the same person then the chances of them being a great fit is much higher.

With a short-list of talented people who already have a connection to your company, you can make the all important introduction. Because you used your network to identify the person you can find a warm intro. You also know their interests and skills-set meaning you can write a personalised email instead of the generic “You write code, I love you, can we chat?”.

No longer do you need to pay for job boards hoping someone will apply. You no longer do you need to email everyone asking “Who do you know who’s available” with slight air of desperation. Simply connect your networks, browse who’s a good fit and speak to them in a personal and engaging way.

Missing Unicorns makes the pull approach to recruitment a seamless experience and finally solves the problem of who to hire. If you’re interested in an invite to the private beta then please enter your email address below.

Cross posted to http://missingunicorns.com/blog/rethinking-recruitment-pull-instead-of-push/

Did you miss my recent announcement? Missing Unicorns didn’t.

Recently I mentioned I was “between startups”, a situation that lasted five days. From my experience of hiring this is an all too common occurrence. By the time you hear that someone is looking for work they’re already gone – the situation is almost as bad as flat hunting in London.

Demand for anyone attached to startups, especially developers and designers, in London is extremely competitive which makes recruitment a constant battle. With the competitive nature of the market it’s extremely important to be on the ball and act quickly when people become available.

The role of a great in-house recruiter can help with this, building relationships talent who could potentially fit the criteria of the team. Having this person also gives the company an unfair advantage as they’re in the perfect position to identify subtle hints that a person might be considering leaving their current role. In my scenario there were two key updates that reflected my new position before the blog post.

The first change I made was to update my twitter bio to be more generic. While someone changing their twitter bio doesn’t mean they’re looking for a new role, it could be an early indication of someone getting their house in order. The second change I made was updating my LinkedIn profile. With this a good recruiter / company had 3-4 days lead time before it was common knowledge.

However expecting a person to identify these subtle changes is unrealistic. This is where Missing Unicorns saves the day. At the heart is a system watching for these types of changes, these tweaks and early indications that someone is getting ready to move on. If you’ve indicated they could be a potential hire, when we detect certain changes then we’ll alert you via email.

Missing Unicorns Email Alert

This alert allows you to start being ahead of your competition instead of missing out.

Missing Unicorns isn’t just about predicting job changes. It also watches for new projects, skills and their latest work to help you build a deeper understanding of current topics, approaches and influencers within your network allowing you to be at the top of your hiring game. If you’re interested in hearing more and access to the private beta of Missing Unicorns then enter your email address below

I’m back from SXSW 2014… What’s next? Contracting? Maybe, let’s find out!

Not for the first time I find myself in the position of being “between startups”. I’m happy, which for some might be surprising, as I’m really keen to push into new areas and explore more about what life has to offer.

“There’s no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth” – Frank Underwood

While exploring the question about “what’s next?”, I need a contracting role. While I don’t see contracting as being a long term activity, I need to be realistic about paying rent etc. Contracting has the added bonus of being a great way to work with other companies and people.

My coding background is a combination of C#, Ruby and NodeJS but the team and projects are far more important to me than the technical stack. A role focusing on products would be great but not essential, if it involved non-coding aspects then even better! I’m passionate about coding but a break is something welcomed. I’ve worked with mobile before and while I wouldn’t call myself a guru I would relish the opportunity to explore this in greater detail. London works for me but I would love to see other places! I am honestly open to suggestions! If you would like to chat then Twitter (@Ben_Hall) or Email (Blog@BenHall.me.uk) are best.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ― Winston Churchill

If I’m contracting and have somewhere nice to stay then I want to use this opportunity to do something good and help other startups. Rob Ashton was 100% committed to this and you have to admire his approach to life. I’ll cover this in more depth in a future post but I definitely want to start giving back and providing more help where I can. I used to love helping others but recently I haven’t created the opportunity to do so. If you fancy breakfast or a coffee then let me know. Alternatively chances are you’ll see me at events like Silicon Drinkabout where we can chat over a beer.

“It’s so refreshing to work with someone who’ll throw a saddle on a gift horse rather than look it in the mouth.” – Frank Underwood

While I’m not sure 100% sure what I’m working on next, the one thing I am sure about is that I’m grateful for the opportunities given to me by the previous companies and the people I’ve worked with such as Red Gate, 7digital, Springboard (especially @jd and @jessinblue as they helped me make the big jump into startup life), Swapit/SuperAwesome and 1seed.

With that, it’s time to open a new moleskin notebook, grab a new pen and start the next chapter. While waiting for a contract I have some ideas in the pipeline that I want to explore, experiment and in/validate. If you’re interested in hearing more then subscribe to the mailing list below.

Creativity is just connecting things

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

Steve Jobs, 1996

A great example of how to market an iPhone game/application

Dumb Ways to Die is a great example of how to market iPhone applications. They have taken the core game concept and characters and turned it into a catchy video. As a result, it’s very shareable and sparks your interested about the game. At over 63,000,000 views and nearly 70,000 ratings I think it’s working.

Link to the iPhone game – https://itunes.apple.com/app/dumb-ways-to-die/id639930688