Hello! My name is Anne and I work for Apollo, a small business to business oriented tech startup company in Breda, the Netherlands. While normally my day is filled by working as a User Experience Designer and a Scrum Master, all members of our little startup are encouraged to contribute to areas outside of their “job description”.

One of these extracurricular activities I will be maintaining from now on is a bi-weekly blog! And behold, here it is. As a first blog we will be going over how we arrived at the decision to maintain a blog. The reason this was chosen as the first subject is twofold. This is the perfect introduction to our newest blog page and a great subject to highlight some interesting challenges a small startups faces. Secondly we would like to highlight the reasons why we as Apollo believe that a new way of working is necessary within our market.

The blog?

Everyone at Apollo will be able to submit ideas for their own blog, meaning that from time to time a blog might be written by one of our Programmers, Artists, or Designers. This will make for an interesting variety in subjects which allows our readers to learn about a specialized expertise. One blog can be about how 3D animations are made. Another about the focus on user experience when designing augmented reality apps.

This is also an opportunity for our potential and existing customers to get to know the developers such as programmers and artists. They will get a peek into how exactly they contribute and add value to their product.

A new blog will be posted bi-weekly. The best way to make sure you know when a new one is up is to keep track of our posts on LinkedIn.

If a reader has a specific subject they would like to see a in depth blog about or questions about an existing one, feel free to contact us through any of our channels.

So without further ado, let’s get on with it.

What does it mean to be a startup?

Recently we had been brainstorming about a few key challenges we face as a small startup:

  • Is it possible to get our name out there?
  • In what way do we communicate what makes Apollo tick?
  • How to increase the potential of co-creation?

How to increase the potential of co-creation? Clearly one of the solutions that came out of this was to write a blog. But I think the interesting part of this process is to get into each of these challenges and specify why a blog helps.

Is it possible to get our name out there?

Getting your name out there is one of the first challenges a new business faces. You want your name to become known within the circles that you view as the target audience for your service or product. We believe that for this challenge, there is no magic solution. The old tried and true method of simply getting out there and representing your company still holds most value. There’s no way around the work it takes. Make sure you have everything such as your company’s graphic style, logo and communication style tight and consistent. No matter how small your company is, it’s never too early to take care of things like clarity of communication and marketing.

A blog, in its nature, isn’t specifically suited to get your name out there. The people that read your blog are likely to already be part of your network. But just as important as getting your name out there, is effectively communicating what makes your company special. Your target market needs to know why you are different, and excel in what you do best. Which brings us to our next point.

In what way do we communicate what makes Apollo tick?

One of our goals with Apollo is to use a working method that fits more with the nature of software development and creates a more meaningful relationship with our customer. We wish to create and work together with our client, instead of maintaining a “working for” relationship. Where normally a developer and their customer would agree on a product description and payment price, we propose to instead start a co-creation journey. During this the customer simply pays us for time and material each month. They are in complete control of the direction of development instead of receiving something after the work is “done”, and hoping it fits their initial wishes. To maximize transparency, and the client’s control over their investment, we ask our customer to allocate one person as their Product Owner. The Product owner is then invited to come work with our team and join all of our meetings.

This means more effort maintaining your network, and actively trying to help them as best as possible. Even if that sometimes means disagreeing with them, or proposing a more efficient, cheaper solution than the customer had in mind. We’ve found that doing this instead of simply doing everything the customer instructs and collecting your paycheck, creates a much more meaningful and trusting relationship with your clients.

All of this can however be difficult to communicate through short conversations at events and posts on LinkedIn. Especially when the target audience is used to the more old fashioned development methods. This can make it difficult and time consuming at first to get even a single potential new customer on board. They’re inherently hesitant about embracing such a new method. They are, however, often very interested to at least open conversation and are asking to be convinced.

How to increase the potential of co-creation?

The first hurdle for companies such as Apollo is the first phase with a new customer. You practice this song and dance to clearly explain the limitations and possibilities of mediums such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality . This means we sometimes have to explain in depth how 3D animations are made, or why their idea of a high tech 3D VR experience won’t work on a 5 year old smartphone. Additionally we strive to explain the full potential of a co-creation method. A blog is a great way for us to get the word out about these development methods. It allows us to educate potential new customers about our co-creation methodology, and the merits and limitations of digital innovation. This helps potential customers more efficiently describe their wishes and understand the development process. Secondly, it will make our existing customers more technologically literate.

We hope this has made you curious to see what we’ll write about next time, and don’t forget: feel free to send us subjects you’d like us to write about, or questions about existing blogs!