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Idealog—in the ideas business

JFDI: Push the button – done beats perfect

Entrepreneur Nick Malcolm of uSnap.us offers up four quick nuggets of quasi-wisdom that just might help you "push the button" and launch your own product.

Nick MalcolmBe embarrassed

They say if you aren't embarrassed by your first launch, you launched too late. That’s small comfort when you are showing off a part of yourself to the world, one often held close to your heart.

uSnap.us has its flaws. But most importantly, from the user's perspective, everything works.

Behind the scenes, well, as the Wizard of Oz would say: "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"

During our first big event we discovered a pretty fundamental flaw. When a guest took a horizontal photo it appeared in portrait format on the live slideshow. One of our key features, the face of uSnap.us, looked horrible!

I sat there throughout the day, watching the livestream of this wedding. When a photo came in incorrectly, I'd download it. Then I’d rotate it. Then I’d re-upload it.

Tedious and embarrassing? Yes. But from the customer's point of view? Smooth sailing.


If they come, then you build it

In Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup, he talks about a technique called ‘the concierge’. It’s the man-behind-the-curtain deal again. By doing the work yourself in the background – being a concierge – you can save the time and money it would take to develop a potentially unwanted feature.

uSnap.us lets an organiser download all of their photos in a zip file. Click download, then get an email with the link – that's what the user sees.

What actually happens is this: I get an email, go to the server, put the photos in a zip file, then email the link to the organiser.

If and when this becomes annoying, I'll know it's time to implement the feature properly. Not before.

“If you build it they will come”? How about “If they come, then you build it.”


Find another way around

Most startups make a profit by taking people's money. Unfortunately for New Zealand startups, taking money isn't so easy.

To get online payments you need to set up a Merchant Account, and the only bank which does that is the Bank of New Zealand. In typical bank fashion, we've been waiting over a month to have our account set up, and when that finally gets sorted we'll still have to wait for more pieces of the puzzle to fall into place.

We originally thought we had two options: wait for the bank to get its A into G, or give uSnap.us away for free. Neither of those options would prove that uSnap.us is something people are willing to pay for, though. And that's a fairly important thing to figure out.

Enter option three. When a customer clicks "purchase", they get upgraded immediately, and we get sent an email. We manually invoice the customer via email, and they pay via PayPal. We found another way around the roadblock.

But this is not the typical user experience. People have clicked upgrade by accident. Which leads to...

The upside of weird

Having that weird billing process has been a blessing in disguise. Most of the people clicking upgrade didn't mean to, and we expected that. So in our invoice email we have a little message "Didn't mean to upgrade? Just let us know". People get back to you pretty quick when money is on the line!

And that's the point. We now have an open dialogue with these customers, albeit through a rather unorthodox fashion. This has led to conversations that provide valuable feedback.

We tossed around the option of adding a confirmation dialogue to the upgrade option, but decided against it. The worst that could happen was actually a good thing – they say "I don't want to pay", and we get to talk to them. The best that could happen is, obviously, money in the bank. Win win.

Just because it's weird doesn't mean there can't be an upside.

Push the button

There will always be some voice in the back of your mind saying to wait just a little longer. It's embarrassing; it's not finished; there's something you just *have* to wait for.

Unless you're building software controlling a manned space shuttle to Mars, there's a good chance you'll get way more value from launching early and learning now than you would dilly-dallying and learning nothing.

It takes time to learn when to tell that voice in your head to shut up. Maybe that time is now?

Nick Malcolm is the cofounder of uSnap.us, a website and iPhone appthat  lets event organisers guest-source their photos.


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Comments

Great post. Some very valuable insights for Start-Ups and I appreciate your comments about our processes Nick. You'd know from working with us that BNZ is keen to really push the boat out in this area, we are working alongside businesses like yours to ensure our process continues to become easier for start-ups, and the more conversations about what we're all learning along the way the better, and the more agile we continue to become. Looking forward to seeing uSnap.us fly.

Harry Ferreira
National Manager - Small Business
BNZ

Sent from my iPad

Completely wrong.

You can get a merchant account at any of the New Zealand banks and it is an easy process. There are certain requirements you must meet regarding terms and conditions, stating currencies and physical address of the business.

I've set up merchant accounts with BNZ, ANZ, Kiwibank and Westpac before. Its easy enough.

He's not “completely wrong”.

Sure you can set up a merchant account at any bank for local transactions such as EFTPOS. But it's not that kind of business is it? It's a horrendous task trying to implement a global payment solution if you are based in New Zealand, but most of your customers are offshore.

You pay for the privilege of a merchant account and you pay again as a percentage on each credit card transaction. The banks say they are front-loading for risk, but in fact the merchants bear most of the risk whenever there's a fraudulent transaction. It's simply a rort.

Why is this so hard? Banks already know how to make this easy, but they choose not to offer it to small businesses.

@Paul With all due respect implementing something like DPS Payment Express on your website and setting up a merchant account for is not difficult at all. I am not talking about EFTPOS payments only as you suggested. I was talking about web payments.

And if I quote from the article… “To get online payments you need to set up a Merchant Account, and the only bank which does that is the Bank of New Zealand.”

Every bank in NZ will give you merchant account.

Yes it could be made easier for start-ups to access banking solutions and fees are high, but an article stating that BNZ are the only ones that you can do it with is totally inaccurate and misleading. I believe DPS works with all of the NZ banks and you can also link it to Kiwibank through ANZ channels.

I have actually set one up through BNZ and 3 other banks. They send you forms, you meet the requirements for the website with regards to T&C's, privacy and contact information available to users, you send the forms back. Not that hard.

@Harry - yes BNZ is doing a great job in the start up scene. Webstock's Startup Alley was a great example of this commitment. I'm looking forward to when BNZ makes setting up payment solutions as easy as it is in the U.S.

@Simon - the error is mine, mea culpa. I meant, as @Paul said, that BNZ are the only bank who offer Merchant Accounts which allow online transactions in multiple currencies.

I agree, no it's not hard at all. Hard wasn't the problem. Waiting for months was the problem.

And yes, you can whisk people off to a DPS payment site; you can do that with PayPal and their ilk too. But this is less than ideal from the user's perspective. The flow of signing up is broken, the UI changes completely, and they end up at some seemingly random website asking for their credit card.

Who's to say customers in foreign countries recognise DPS as a trusted payment provider. All they see is “this isn't uSnap.us, maybe some hackers are trying to steal my credit card.” Perhaps that's an over-dramatisation, but you get the idea.

Why should it be so hard for NZ startups to have an integrated payment page?

PayPal don't support Web Payments Pro in New Zealand so you have to go to their site externally yes but DPS support multi currency and you can have it integrated into your site so no need to as you say, whisk people off to an external site. Use PxPost http://www.paymentexpress.com/technical_resources/ecommerce_nonhosted/pxpost.html

Anyway, what is to say they trust putting their card details in on your website any more than an external payments page?

Interesting question raised though. I think there is a lack of information available to people who haven't done it before which is probably the main issue. Paypal is just unprofessional and cheap and pretty much every US based payment gateway will decline you when you say you are located outside of the US. Your requirements are possible though in NZ. BNZ and DPS should give you the right result.


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