Building a Startup Business Backwards: Why It Can Work

Time and again, we were told we were going about our app business in the wrong order.

Many entrepreneurs have a product idea, write a business plan, create the business, get funding, and THEN build their product. We were two speech language pathologists who didn’t speak business lingo at the start of this process. We had an idea for apps, developed those apps, then came up for air and realized we needed to get our business ducks in a row.

Backwards Isn’t Necessarily Wrong

What may have seemed “backwards” to others, was right for us. We saw a problem with how students are learning vocabulary (or failing to learn), and set out to address that problem. Then we realized our ideas would work for all students in the K-12 classroom. First, we built our apps by bootstrapping the endeavor. Next, we began the sales process by selling to the “lowest hanging fruit”–motivated buyers for whom the product solves an immediate problem. This helped us gather user feedback to improve our product and make it more accessible for speech language pathologists.

Building the Business

Most entrepreneurs’ first step was our last one: building our business. After coming up for air, we realized it was time to pay attention to the business. We had proven our concept, and now we wanted to get our products into the hands of millions of users. Joining an incubator helped us grow our business and scale our company. We’ve crafted our business plan, worked on our financials and are now raising pre-seed money. We are stepping into the elusive K-12 school sales world, known to be one of the most difficult sales markets to enter, having done our homework.

How Is Backwards Better?

For us, having a product and app sales surprised most business people we talked to. Instead of starting with a theoretical business plan, we had a legitimate product and paying customers to prove there was a need and revenue to show it would sell. We were able to answer many questions that entrepreneurs have when they first start with a business plan, but before they have a product. Heidi Neck in “What Comes Before the Business Plan” wrote that “the byproduct of starting and acting is that you will collect ‘real’ data that can later be used if you need to eventually write that formal business plan.” For some entrepreneurs, backwards is better.


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