The very essence of our online lives – from social media to personal banking- has been built on successful tech platforms, yet so many platforms struggle to deliver on their investment, with an estimated 50% of all UK start-ups failing. As women still only represent a significant minority of these start-ups – not to mention only a third of all entrepreneurs in the UK – launching a new tech platform as a woman can be an even greater challenge.
Researching, planning and timing are the cornerstones of a successful launch. First, you need to push aside assumptions and perceptions about what you think your users want and find out exactly what the need is, who is going to use it and why users would want to engage with it. Take a step back and make sure you have allowed for enough time to research and understand your target audience. It is all too easy to trip up on preconceived ideas that have been badly tested, if at all. Consider that you will feasibly have more than one audience for any given function, and not all users will access the platform in the same way. Ensure that you have considered how your platform will appeal to different user groups.
One of the biggest failures people make when launching tech platforms is not giving enough time to this crucial research stage, as they are often caught up in the pressure and excitement to get the platform up and running. When we decided to build our Sistr networking platform for women to connect to other women in business, we already knew we had a loyal customer base of clients who recognised that we were 100% committed to female empowerment. However, we still invested in an initial soft-launch to check our proposition with a smaller group of users. By choosing a niche area like this – in our case it was a group of loyal customers – you can retain a much stronger sense of control instead of trying to launch too broadly in an effort to capture every type of audience. This is where thinking smaller can really pay off in the first stages of going to launch; you have to be absolutely clear about who you want to attract to the site.
Businesses are only going to know what their audience really wants if they have invested time talking to them in the first place. Allow plenty of time to really engage in some serious networking to find out what it is that interests them and where that gap between wanting it and having it lies. We spent over six months talking to our audience but it was worth every minute of the investment because we had 700 members signed up within two weeks of the soft launch.
The importance of this open communication is just as vital after the launch as it is beforehand. Customer feedback will be the DNA of your platform as you move forward, helping to keep it as user-friendly as possible and with relevant content and easy functionality. We have now surveyed our initial members to find out what they think of the Sistr site and the type of content and services they would like to see in the future.
It is this feedback loop that will ensure the continued relevance of the site to our users. The reciprocal nature of our networking platform meant we not only had to attract women to the site who wanted mentoring and support, we also had to ensure that women offering advice and mentoring ( all for free) saw the value in giving up their time to others. Getting this balance right between user and provider is another critical success factor for a platform’s longevity.
Not everyone competing in the tech industry is from a traditional tech background and women more than men have long been unrepresented in this area. My own background was very much off-line, having originally developed Killing Kittens as an events business, so launching into the highly competitive sex-tech industry was a huge learning curve for me. But for every woman who is out there trying to do it, there is a woman somewhere who has already stepped in those shoes and knows exactly what you are going through.
Much more still needs to be done to attract and encourage more women in enterprise whether it is setting up their own businesses or having the confidence to launch a platform. Things are slowly starting to move in the right direction, thanks in large part to the wealth of knowledge and experience that female networking groups can offer their peers, something which I am extremely passionate about as an integral part in helping women achieve greater representation in business.
This type of supportive infrastructure means greater access than ever before to experts who can help support women with all elements of their business proposition; from helping them develop and perfect their business pitch to putting them in touch with a variety of investors and different funding options. Evidence has shown that a supportive network and peer support have been proven to positively influence the success of new businesses; hopefully as we move forward with greater representation in the tech sector, many of those businesses will start to be female-led.
About Sistr (https://www.sistrapp.com/)
On Sistr, women gain access to a network of qualified female experts covering a whole range of industries and skills, to help them grow. Sistrs can chat with other Sistrs via the platform on a variety of business and lifestyle topics, attend carefully curated events and choose to work together beyond the platform, building their tribe, creating their own advisory boards or building out a team of female talent to move their businesses and goals forward.