5 Innovative Products that Overcame Their Challenges - Using Your Advantages as a Startup (or an Established Business)

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Radek Zaleski

Updated May 28, 2024 • 10 min read

Many startups out there are built on the basis of fantastic ideas that could change the world or bring new value to the market, yet many of them fail.

At Netguru, we’re involved in about 160 projects a year. We’ve been through the development journey of many startups and new projects within established businesses and we’ve witnessed stories we think are worth sharing.

These are stories about specific challenges faced by our partners, but you might find yourself dealing with similar problems one day. Even if you don’t, we hope you will find inspiration in learning about others people’s adventures in entrepreneurship.

#1 Helpr – Non-tech Founders vs. the Complexity of a Regulated Market

Helpr is no simple product. It’s a platform connecting social care workers, care recipients and local authorities, and improving the British social care system to benefit all of those involved. It’s a truly worthwhile endeavour and we encourage you to read more about it here.

Helpr’s founders put a lot of effort into finding the right team for their product. They knew what was important to them: good communication and technical excellence. They interviewed a bunch of companies to make sure their final choice would be the right one.

Helpr faced two main challenges: its own complexity and the strict regulations of the British social care market. The former was inevitable, as the system handles payments, alerts, GPS tracking, real time records of care assignments and consists of a web platform as well as an Android and an iOS app.

Entering and revolutionising the highly regulated marketplace that is the British social care system was also quite a hurdle. Social care workers in Britain need to be certified. Additionally, each local authority can run things a bit differently in their region, so connecting care workers and clients from many areas wasn’t easy. Helpr solved the first issue by offering certificates to its care partners. The other complication was overcome thanks to the technological complexity of the product and the fact that the founders were able to effectively communicate their vision to the development team. They could focus all of their energy on the issue that fell under their expertise, while the technological challenges were handled by a trusted partner.

Helpr has launched successfully and is currently live. You can find an interview with the founders here to learn more about their vision for the project.

#2 Whym - Fast Testing and Improvements for Increasing User Engagement

Whym, in a nutshell, is your pocket interpreter. You can take it anywhere you need it, since you install it on your smartphone. Most importantly though, Whym connects you with real people in real time through the InterpretersPortal. This means that you don’t have to rely on a machine for your interpreting needs.

The product owners’ goal is to empower travellers and businesses in the tourism industry by removing the language barrier between them. They already had an initial version of the product developed by the time they contacted their technological partner, but it required revisions, particularly to its design.

Problems with the UX were hunted down and ruthlessly eliminated. The iOS version in particular didn’t meet the product owners’ requirements, so it was fixed. This focus on design and user experience proved to be a good move: the amount of users who would stop using the app because of its imperfections was greatly reduced. Most importantly, a strategic partnership with a team of technology experts allowed Whym’s founders to implement and test their ideas in a quick and efficient manner. They were able to focus on their business (e.g. integration with the InterpretersPortal), while the technical team improved specific aspects of the product.

Currently, the Android version of the app is being built with React native. It will be available on other operating systems, which is especially important to the business owners, as they intend to enter the Chinese market.

#3 Barometa - A Rapidly Developed Prototype for an Investment Pitch

This jobseeking platform for specialists in luxury hospitality improves on other online job boards and Linkedin’s job offer model. The founder works in luxury hospitality and faced difficulties while searching for specialised staff to hire. Tools such as Linkedin weren’t a good enough solution, as their offer is too diverse. Barometa will help match businesses with employees and improve the recruitment process through video CVs, among other solutions. Through a tailored subscription model, clients will be able to choose what kinds of job applications they will receive.

The founder approached a software consulting company with an idea for an app that would solve this problem. His intention was to build a prototype, launch it and present it before potential investors. As his other company specialises in online interviews, he had a good amount of knowledge necessary to design the video CV feature.

Speed of development was crucial for the project: the deadline for a funding opportunity was only 14 business days. The prototype was delivered 3 days behind schedule, but having a specialised, experienced team working on the project was a huge advantage in the eyes of the investors. The founder was also able to work closely with his external technical team to make improvements to the design and adjust his business strategy as he went.

Behance used Barometa as an example of an extremely detailed design in their 2017 Design Trends Guide.

#4 Property Detective - A Quest for Scalability and a Strategic Business Partnership

This big data solution for property buyers provides comprehensive information on current quality of life in specific areas as well as predictions for the future of those areas. This data, made available to everybody by the UK government, but not easy to use in that format, is valuable especially to property buyers and investors as they consider various buildings and locations.

Property Detective began as a service for people interested in renting or buying property. They could download a report with in-depth information about their potential future homes. This business strategy was shifted to a more B2B-centric approach, as real estate agencies found the data even more helpful than private property buyers.

A technological partnership was established to work on a new format for the report (PDF) and integration with Property Detective’s key business partner, Zoopla (the second largest website for property searching in the UK). The design and infrastructure were built to serve the large traffic on Zoopla (over 30 million monthly users). It it scalable and ready for future growth. The system also has to deal with massive amounts of data collated into comprehensive reports.

The partnership is successful and Property Detective’s reports help inform Zoopla’s users about what they can expect from various locations. Property Detective used their advantage as experts in the real estate field to negotiate the partnership, while their external technical team focused solely on developing a solid, scalable product. Both endeavours were successful thanks to the clear focus of those responsible.

#5 cdp.pl - The Challenge of Fast Innovation within a Large Organisation

CD Projekt (now renamed cdp.pl) is a Polish company that started out as a distributor of boxed games. The company developed and branched out (notably into game development as CD Projekt Red), but this legacy strategy of selling physical products became less profitable as the game industry shifted towards digital distribution. The company decided to hold onto their legacy while also embracing the future: they wanted to build an ecommerce platform for the distribution of physical and digital products on the local market.

This new project was cdp.pl and it had a very short deadline of only 100 days. The product owner hired development “mercenaries” - a highly effective, distraction free team that would deliver the product on time. The platform was built within the deadline - and it was launched live during a press conference without any major hiccups.

cdp.pl enjoyed a lot of media coverage and began building their brand as a modern company open to the digital distribution model. The basis for their success was ruthless focus on their goal, aided by bringing in an external team capable of introducing this radical digital reform very quickly and without being influenced by the company’s internal matters.

Technological Partners - Solving Real Problems and Bringing Innovative Ideas into the World

As you can see, startups and internal projects run by established companies face many challenges, from tight deadlines to complex integrations of many systems and UX issues that decrease their customers’ engagement. Some of these challenges can be overcome with good business strategy and focus. Most, however, require a dedicated, experienced team that will avoid major pitfalls in the development process and focus on delivering results on time.

The key takeaway is this: while you might be the main person responsible for your product, you are not required to do everything by yourself. You do not need to possess all the knowledge necessary to build a successful product. Teams need clear goals and focus, so consider using an external technological partner or building a dedicated internal team to take care of the things you shouldn’t have to worry about.

If you already have a team or intend to build one in-house, you might find this checklist for streamlining the recruitment and onboarding process useful. Also, always feel free to contact us with any questions you might have. Good luck with all your business ventures!

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Radek Zaleski

Senior Partner at Netguru
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