Accessing and leveraging technology nowadays is simple, quick and, best of all, it’s cheap or in many cases free. In fact, many of the most productive tools that I use are open source and as such are completely free to use. This book, for example, has been written and published using entirely free open source software.
Increasing advances in technology and automation processes have provided us with the near instant capability to quickly and efficiently deploy complete infrastructures, applications and platforms in a fraction of the time traditionally required. These ephemeral environments have the inherent ability to scale as you grow and have the near endless capacity to allow you to compete and influence alongside the biggest and most established players in your market. And the best part? You need little more than a laptop, a credit card and an internet connection to do it. Any “on the side” entrepreneur or creator not at least experimenting with the raft of technology resources available to them to develop, scale and more importantly monetise what they are doing, are missing a massive opportunity. You would be amazed however at how few “on the side” startup entrepreneurs are still not fully utilising and taking full advantage of all there is to offer in this area.
I will discuss online platforms such as Ebay, Amazon and Shopify later, but first I want to focus on the opportunities that exist for the small tech based startup. Tech startups are massive right now and that represents a huge opportunity for the avid “on the side” startup creator. Normally new technology startups will be a cloud-based software solution of some description and built on ready-made cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud or Microsoft's Azure platform. These types of compute resources, platforms and services are normally delivered to end users via a simple pay as you go, on-demand model and as such it’s a low-cost, risk-free way to get started. Your cloud based startup can start off as small as you like with the capability to scale as big as you need in future. Cloud providers normally provide the following types of services:
The first level of cloud computing is known as Infrastructure As A Service (IAAS) – This is normally the raw compute, storage and networking resources needed to build, configure and run your own virtualised infrastructure. This is the lowest level of service and is normally best reserved for those who have the in-depth technical background and knowledge needed to set up and run their own cloud-based solutions. That said, it's really easy to get started with access to documentation, knowledge and online support being plentiful. Most users, even new ones with basic requirements and a modicum of technical know-how, can be up and running within a couple of hours.
The second level of cloud computing is known as Platform As A Service (PAAS) - This normally provides you with a ready-made virtual platform that you will be able to run your own applications and services on. For example, you can be provisioned with a database and schema, web services and all the middleware application stacks you need to get started. With PAAS services you do not need to run or even understand the underlying core compute, storage and networking infrastructures or concern yourself with ongoing administration, maintenance, updates and support. That’s all done for you as part of your monthly subscription. All that’s exposed to you as the end user are application services to build on and utilise for your own purposes.
The third level of cloud computing is known as Software As A Service (SAAS) - This kind of service is a common place to find the new tech startup. The startup providing the service will develop their application and provide that software as a service via a unique user instance to every customer. It's easy for the provider to update just one version of the application’s software code, roll out updates and develop new functionality and features quickly and cleanly. Once again, this service leverages a simple monthly subscription model. Subscription costs are normally based upon consumption or the number of features provided. You will almost certainly already be using cloud-based software services yourself but if not, you will have certainly heard of them. Salesforce, Sage, Hotmail and Google apps are all great examples of the Software As A Service (SAAS) model. The same platform approach is also utilised by many of the most successful automated sales and marketing platforms such as Mailchimp, Leadpages and OptinMonster for example.
Whilst the technical side of developing a tech startup may appear daunting at first, especially to the uninitiated, building out your own cloud-based applications and services can be far easier than you think. As I’ve said before, keeping your idea super simple and focusing on solving just one problem removes many of the most common complexities and risks. The good news, however, is that you do not need to be a technology guru, expert in cloud technologies or even have to learn how to code yourself to develop and launch a successful technology based startup. In most cases the required skills and knowledge needed can be quickly and cost effectively acquired through outsourcing, a topic we will discuss in detail later.
Some of the most successful tech-based businesses have been created, developed and launched by non-technical entrepreneurs. They just did what entrepreneurs do. They rolled up their sleeves and got stuck into learning how to do it themselves or utilised the skills, knowledge and expertise of those around them or that could be acquired freely and cheaply within global freelance markets. Once again, we touch upon one of the most the important entrepreneurial principles to learn. Don't feel the need to follow the raft of “would be” entrepreneurs who misguidedly believe that they have to reinvent the wheel or do everything themselves in order to be valuable or successful. This widely held myth is simply not true. The smartest entrepreneurs are the ones who develop great ideas, create drive and motivation and become experts at execution, knowing they can quickly and easily hire the subject matter expertise needed to expand their capability and capacity to successfully bring those ideas to fruition.
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