Simulation: The New Standard For Start-up Software Firms

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Telling a story with words is one thing--but visualizing a story with pictures is extremely powerful. Smart start-up firms are beginning to develop robust simulations of their software application idea as a way to gain an advantage in this competitive arena–before they start coding. Simulations serve to paint a vivid picture of an idea, bridge communication gaps and enable ideas to get to market faster. How can simulation help you as a start-up company? In this article, the author explains how a robust simulation of a software application idea can help a start-up company in many different ways.

You have a great idea for a new software or e-business product and your fledging venture needs to do more than the next guy to rise above the crowd:

  • Your business plan is compelling and your financial models are promising
  • Your executive team is in place and the market opportunities are huge

How do you make sure your idea stands out and how do you improve your odds of getting funded? A typical Venture Capital firm receives 1,500 business plans per year – maybe 100 will be invited to a meeting, 50 will receive serious due diligence, 10 will be offered term sheets and only 5 will be funded.

Telling a story with words is one thin–but visualizing a story with pictures is extremely powerful . Smart start-up firms are beginning to develop robust simulations of their software application idea as a way to gain an advantage in this competitive arena. Simulations serve to paint a vivid picture of an idea, bridge communication gaps and enable ideas to get to market faster.

How can simulation help you as a start-up company? A robust simulation of a software application idea can help a start-up company in many different ways. Obviously, the primary driver for many start-up companies is to get noticed and to obtain funding to take their idea to the next level. With so many software ideas competing for limited dollars and attention of the venture capital community, taking the extra step of developing a working simulation of your inspiration will get your company noticed. Your initial meetings with VCs will be very brief–and your options are to spend the entire time talking about your idea or to demonstrate your vision via simulation. The simulation will help others 'get it' much sooner and leave more time for substantive discussion. You will also be able to take feedback from meetings with VCs enabling them to feel they have a vested interest and which improves your initial idea. These increased number of iterations before coding can accelerate the your product release cycle enabling your initial release to be more like a second or third generation version instead of an immature 1.0 version.

What are start-up companies doing today? Some start-ups have already taken a step toward simulating their idea by producing rough, hard-coded prototypes of their software application to help get their ideas across. In most cases, these are one-shot deals that are costly to create and difficult to update. Since they are not iterative, these prototypes generally get thrown away as changes driven by the feedback they generate make them rapidly obsolete.

How can simulation assist after you get funded? After funding has been received, the simulation process becomes even more important. Initially, the simulation can be used to demonstrate the proposed software to prospective employees, partners and developers. These stakeholders need to be sold on your company as much as the VC firms and may be even more important to your long-term success. Painting a vivid picture of the future with a simulation will go a long way to winning over these important constituents. Another purpose of the simulation is to test market the application with prospective customers. As more stakeholders get involved and as more people see the simulation, you will be gathering valuable feedback that can be used to strengthen and improve on the original idea. The final benefit of the simulation is to serve as the ongoing product management platform by defining and managing the requirements through the software development cycle. A robust and visual simulation will enable developers to see exactly how the final software product

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