Monthly Archives

July 2017

The Holy Grail of Investment: How Micro-Traction can Verify your App’s Success

By InnovatorsNo Comments
You have a new idea that you want to get across to the higher ups in your company. You need to come across with not only proof of concept, but proof that your idea is indeed profitable. Furthermore, your idea needs to be consistently profitable in the future and not need too much maintenance to maintain profitability. How can you convince your boss, or rather, your investor to spend their dollars on your idea? 

 

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All entrepreneurs, company owners, and investors are seeking the holy grail of investment: traction. Traction is a source of influence, a measure of success, and, most importantly, the golden ticket to favorable capital raises. The definition of traction is market uptake. That is, traction refers to the customer progress rather than company development. As disciples of the lean startup approach, we live and breathe traction. The new buzz term Micro-Traction is a way in which you can prove yourself early to investors and reduce the risks when building a larger network of customers.  

Think like a VC

Take a break for a second from your normal life and think like a Venture Capitalist. Venture capitalists are investors who either provide capital for a start up ventures or support small companies that wish to grow but may not have the means to. What are their goals? Members of the VC community are looking to make money. They need to assume a lot of risk in a calculated manner. To do this, they use both metrics AND soft data points to help them determine where to invest. Experienced VCs are comfortable with saying “no.” They hear many terrible ideas on a daily basis by people who cannot deliver, and they must stay honest to the data to maximize profit.

After thinking like a VC, get back to your normal life. Now you realize that it is your priority to gain trust and credibility as fast as possible.  

The VC Rule of Thumb

Bear in mind; investors will actively invest when the company/platform has reached 1M Users/ $1M Gross Monthly Income (GMI), and they acknowledge that the platform will scale. Therefore, solely reaching 1M Users/$1M of GMI is NOT sufficient unless it is paired with platform scalability. To reiterate, it is not enough to have attained $1M; you must also show that the road taken to reach that amount did not have frequent pitfalls and that the path ahead looks stable as well.

Showing Traction

Traction is measurable through Quantitative Market Demand: the act of determining that there is indeed enough happening in the market place. Traction has two important aspects: It proves demand and it scales.

What is a ‘Scalable’ method?

Scalable methods display slow but consistent rises in growth and are often high-risk practices. Non-Scalable methods show short, sharp, and even erratic developments in growth; these are typically low-risk methods.

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Some examples of Non-Scalable practices include temporary user/employee incentives, social media updates, blogging, and PR ‘stunts’ because they exemplify short-term profit instead of long-term. These Non-Scalable practices increase traffic, but the profit is only temporary. The attention you receive does not always continue to rise. Think of a Facebook update. A bunch of people may see it, and it will get a natural boost in site traffic for its first week. But in the subsequent week, however, the post will probably move down the timeline, thus reducing the site traffic.

True Scaling practices

Include Long Term Incentives/Rewards, Paid Acquisition (Advertisements, Paid Affiliates, etc.), Virality (Through Social Media), SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and Sales. We consider something to be scaled when it is receiving general customer love of the product.

untitled-designMicro-Traction

  • Micro-Traction is a mini campaign to prove scalability. When approaching an investor, you should remember that they are not interested in random surges of growth.
  • An investor wants to see continuous growth. They like LINES with precise trajectories, not aimless DOTS.
  • With Micro-Traction, we analyze the performance of a platform within a small time frame (typically 2-5 months).
  • screen-shot-2017-07-26-at-11-57-23-amThe goal is to display a continuous growth of 5% to 10%, week-over-week, based on a small initial revenue. This calms the investor’s concern of not reaching the ‘rule of thumb’ numbers [1M Users/ $1M GMI]. At this point, the investor is looking purely at the scalability aspect of the product instead of the Monthly Recurring Revenue.

Final Notes:

It is important to show as much evidence of traction as possible to prove the viability of your concept, app, or product. Remember, Non-Scaling practices are necessary for initial cash income / new users, but they are not long-term practices.

If you want to read more about Micro-Traction and Scaling, check out https://www.erickoester.com/

Still have more questions about how Micro-Traction and how it can verify your app’s success? Email us at info@bytelion.com or leave us a comment!

Oh No! Your Website is down! Did you forget to renew the SSL Certificate?

By DevelopmentNo Comments
It’s an early Tuesday morning, and you stroll into the office pleasantly and leisurely since it’s a beautiful day. You stop at the coffee station and pour yourself a cup of reheated, lukewarm, leftover coffee from yesterday’s late afternoon brew. After you go back to your computer, you stumble upon the fact that your website is down.  You immediately start to go into crisis mode trying to find out why. 
Despite multiple reminders and emails informing your team that it was due to expire, you discover that your team did not renew their SSL certificate in time. In this pinch, one would have a thousand questions, and I hope to answer the big ones.  

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What is an SSL Certificate?

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. It is the SSL which enables the encryption of your data and securely transfers it from one device to another. Every time you use a web browser and want to visit a website, your computer (the sender) will submit a request to the web server (the recipient) for that website.  

The web server receives the request and generates a public key (a way of encrypting the data) and replies back to the sender saying, “Ok go ahead and send your traffic with this code!” The sender transmits the data using the public encryption provided by the web server. The web server receives the encrypted message and then uses its internal private key (unique to that device) to decrypt the code. SSL and TLS (Transport Layer Security) are both recognized standards to implement this encrypted process.  

Why is it important?

To those not in the tech world, an SSL simply means that your data is encrypted as best as humanly known and ensures that the websites that you are visiting are secured. The emails you send are transmitted safely, and you can even purchase your dachshund’s cute hot dog bun Halloween costume in a secured manner.

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What happens if/when it expires?

Well, it depends on if you planned for it to expire or not. If you have a new site, which requires its certificates, then you can let the previous certificate expire. There will be no issues provided the new site launched before the certificate expires on the old site (more on that a little later). If you did not plan on it expiring, in most cases you will simply renew with the vendor you currently have the certificate with. You can also have your developer install the newly purchased certificate on the server. This can usually be done in under an hour for someone who is inexperienced.

Many complications can arise to include your website hosting. They may have been sold and bought by other third party companies. Or perhaps you can’t verify the domain name with the set of email addresses because the owner of the account is out of town.  

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What Kind of Problems can arise? 

Consequently, replacing a certificate can involve many steps: one being the tracking down of who has bought the domain. This can usually be discovered by talking with customer service representatives at your hosting company or with your IT staff. It may take several customer service representatives and a huge time commitment to track down the information, to set up new admin accounts, and to provide the right privileges. If you do not adequately plan for these contingencies, it is possible you may run out of time, and, at best, the site will go down and be unavailable to the user until the new certificate can be put into place. Further complicating the issue, the new third party vendor you just recently discovered may not even have normal operating business hours to help. In short, many of problems can arise that you may or may not have thought about initially.

Small vs. Large Businesses

If this is a small company, then the business loss will be minimal. But it is embarrassing for you as a professional that this was allowed to happen. In the case of a huge organization, a site being down could result in the loss of a considerable amount of money due to losses in opportunity and operational costs (per hour!). It is imperative that a detailed plan is pursued to ensure this process is not costly.

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How to prevent it from expiring

  1. Document your process. This process should not be underestimated. Many companies start out with a plan and never update their system plans and documentation. A company that sells ice cream makes its money producing and selling ice cream, not updating their network documentation. You will inevitably need to dig into the process deeper than you anticipate.
    Three days may not be enough time, and for a larger organization, a week may not even be sufficient. Even if all goes well, the process should take approximately an hour. It is possible to spend upwards of 20 hours with multiple people over many days if things are not straightforward.
  2. Have clear and well-defined practices documented and laid out for employees to follow. It is important that this documentation is reviewed and updated accordingly as time and technology changes.
  3. Know the vendor and what they are capable of handling. Plans to use a wildcard certificate may fall flat if the company hosting the website does not support a wildcard certificate “at this time.”  This one issue could cost the team already in crisis at least an hour to resolve the issue.
  4. Be nice to the customer service representatives. They have an enormous task of helping people every day. Most of the time people will be angry when they call. You will get far better service and support if you are friendly, proactive and helpful. Finally, remember they are the only way you will get the solutions to your problems.

 

Have any more questions about the exciting world of website certificates? Was our advice helpful?  Please let us know. We are happy to help at info@bytelion.com

 

Application Program Interface: The Hidden Brain behind your Application

By Development3 Comments
You have a genius idea. You map your brilliant plan, create a beautiful design, and hire a developer or two to build out your site. Your application looks amazing! Here is a typical and simple web architecture.

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As you release your first version of the product, a potential customer  says, “Hey, how can I integrate with your application?” or “Will this work with Salesforce?” Now you realize you have no way of manipulating data behind the scenes.  You can’t integrate other services quickly or let customers embed your services in their application. You missed the key component, your Application Program Interface (API).

In a well-architected application, the API is the brain of your application. It is hidden but remains crucial to the success of your product. It lets many different users, companies, and applications use your platform securely.

screen-shot-2017-07-24-at-3-25-30-pmWhat is It?

An API is a software-to-software interface, not a user interface. It is for this reason that no one ever talks about APIs. Users might never know an API exists, but without it, your system is not flexible enough to meet more modern requirements.

What Does it Do?

The API is a middle layer between the user interface and the database. Like the brain of the application, it contains the business logic. Are you logging on to a site? The API ensures your credentials are valid. Purchasing an item? The API determines if the item is available, if you have the necessary funds, and it will adjust the values after the purchase. Here is an example:

api-photo
Prefer videos? Check out this youtube video from MuleSoft Videos. We highly recommend it!

How does this pertain to me?

As a product owner, it is important that you know that your API serves as highly scalable and flexible communication point that lets the world interact with your product. This flexibility enables you to scale your development teams, improve performance, and most importantly, provide your organization with additional revenue streams.

Need help establishing an API in your application? Don’t hesitate to email us at info@bytelion.com

 

Providing enterprise solutions with the Raspberry Pi

By Tips & Tutorials, ToolsNo Comments

In the business world, it’s common to hear “think outside the box” when tackling a new problem, yet most companies are still throwing old technology at the issue. What if I told you to forget the box and start thinking inside the Pi? That’s right; we’re talking about a Raspberry Pi. This microcontroller has over 10 million units sold, yet it remains underutilized in the business world.

Let’s talk about a few enterprise uses for this awesome micro-computer and share some example projects that you can accomplish as an entrepreneur!  

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Why Pi?

Aside from the fact that Pi’s are incredibly affordable and energy efficient, there are an unlimited number of projects that users can create using their Raspberry Pi. For more reasons why the Raspberry Pi rocks check out this blog by ZDNet.

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#1 In the Warehouse – Bridging the Gap Between Actions & Data

Raspberry Pi’s excel at bridging the gap between physical, human tasks and the need to collect and analyze data.

Collecting Data

Imagine your company has a warehouse that performs repetitive tasks. Day after day, workers create hundreds of batches of the same product. There are many problems inherent in an environment like that. For example, if the operator of the warehouse wanted to know how many batches a worker creates, as well as how long each batch takes to complete, then he or she would need to have each employee maintain a tally for the completion of each batch and record the start and stop time. By forcing the worker to shift focus momentarily, it could slow down their productivity.

Now, add a long day and a late night to the employee’s shift and see how easy it is for an employee to forget to tally, or write the incorrect time on the log. The metrics are completely skewed. Even considering a perfect employee who never makes mistakes, those metrics still have to be manually entered into a spreadsheet to perform analytics, adding to your company’s overhead and wasting precious time.

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A Raspberry Pi solution could involve a simple button for each set of batches.  Workers could press a button when they start making the product, and again upon completion. Now there are electronic records for how many items created, and how long it took to make each batch. The workers no longer need to concern themselves with keeping track of time or tallies or continue to enter data manually. By utilizing a raspberry pi, the operator does not have to worry about a decrease in productivity. Instead, the data is immediately available for analytics.

Many warehouses use Raspberry Pis. Check out this story Book-Wrangling at Wordery with a Raspberry Pi to see an excellent example of how a Pi can change your business!

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#2 Thin Client:

Does your company rely primarily on cloud computing? Save costs on powerful machines by using a Raspberry Pi as a thin client to access your cloud servers! Similar to a website, which acts as a user interface for a server that handles the intensive computation, a thin client can reduce the cost of hardware that your team needs if your company utilizes cloud computing to do the heavy lifting.

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#3 Server monitoring:

Set up a Raspberry Pi to monitor your web servers! Most web-monitoring services just make HTTP requests to the URLs you specify and look for that sweet, 200 status. Why can’t you do the same? You could make a request to each server once an hour. Then use IFTTT to send your team an email when a server responds to anything other than a 200!

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Creating Your Supply and Talent Chain

If you are going to implement a Raspberry Pi-based (or an equivalent such as an Arduino board) solution, it is important that you understand what this investment includes.  You should be aware that your company will need to purchase various supplies to support this development.  Those purchases include tools, training, and most importantly, spare parts!  In addition,  you need to invest in the training of your team. The training should be in both Linux and any programming language you need to build your applications, though Raspberry Pi prefers Python.  The barrier to entry is relatively low to prototype, but when it comes to production, you need to approach the task in a controlled manner.

Final Thoughts:

These are just a few examples of Raspberry Pi projects that you can use for your enterprise. Maybe your company isn’t ready to go into full on production with Raspberry Pis. Nonetheless, these projects present interesting, yet enriching team-building exercises that could unite your staff. If you have the time, allow your developers to get down and dirty into the world of microcontrollers. They will love it, and most importantly,  it could bring tremendous value to your business!  

Do you need help getting started with programming or building a Raspberry Pi prototype?
Feel free to reach out to us on twitter:@bytelion

 

Why is Quality Assurance Essential for your Project?

By Testing2 Comments

Why is Quality Assurance (QA) an essential step for your software project?

Picture this. Your website or app has finally launched after long and tedious months of development. You are ecstatic with how beautiful the website looks, and so far, it has been working fine… but then… you get a message from a furious user who is complaining that the app does not function correctly on their device.  Or, perhaps you receive a notification about a new change the development team just made and it is causing core features to stop working on the site.

You find yourself in a frenzy trying to figure out how you are going to get your site or app back up and running without losing or upsetting too many customers. Good news! Take a deep breath; you can avoid all of this chaos with Quality Assurance.
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Software Bugs, the Inevitable Foe

It’s time to face the unfortunate truth: Software bugs are inevitable; no matter how awesome the development team is, there will always be bugs. According to Techopedia, a Software bug is a problem causing a program to crash or produce invalid output. A bug can be an error, mistake, defect or fault, which may cause failure or deviation from expected results. Preventing bugs is extremely difficult.  If you are running with a very lean team (as are almost all companies on a budget), you might not have time for complete test case development, or you aren’t completing extensive design reviews. Bugs can also happen because of dependencies on other systems.   

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But who can Save my App from all of these Bugs?

Who exterminates these software bugs? Our heroes, the Quality Assurance Technicians (QA testers) find the bugs, so your users do not come across them unexpectedly. No one likes it when their app crashes or if the page they are browsing stops responding. The purpose of QA testing is to find and report these issues so they can be eliminated before the software reaches the user.

QA testers mostly do one of two things. They either perform regression testing or go through new features of the site looking for bugs. The regression tests help ensure the functionality of the site does not get diminished with any changes that are made to the site. Before new features can be added to a site or app, they need to be thoroughly tested. All of this QA work eliminates the negative interactions for the user.

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Final Thoughts:

QA is a necessity for your next project. Without QA, you should expect a ton of negative feedback from your users. While developers usually test their own code, they don’t have time to review everything. QA testers are there to ensure you and your users have an almost flawless product and fantastic user experience. Your users will thank you for a beautifully designed product that works seamlessly. An app without major bugs will delight your customers and build an honorable reputation for your brand.


From all of us here at Bytelion, we wish you the best of luck when you are exterminating your software bugs!

Kathleen was featured in our intern blog.
Need QA for your future project? Contact us at info@bytelion.com 

 

Our Brilliant Bytelion Interns: 4 Maryland Students who have blown us away

By Leadership, UncategorizedOne Comment

Investing in Carroll County’s technical workforce is an essential component of Bytelion’s strategy to attract the best employees. It has been a privilege to work with incredibly talented students from Carroll County. The students are from McDaniel College, Carroll Community College, The Carroll Technology Center, and local high schools including Manchester Valley and South Carroll High School. To foster such talent, our experienced, full-time employees, worked as mentors to guide and oversee their development. In every department, we utilized our intern’s skills. From strategizing client brands with our team’s top designers to generating code with our software engineers, they have done it all. Our staff has admired the energy, confidence, and novelty that the interns have brought to the office, and we are proud to share their experiences with you. 

Stephen White at MAGIC'S Capture the Flag Event

Stephen White at MAGIC’S Capture the Flag Event

Flourishing in Frontend Development

Stephen White attends South Carroll High School.  He first heard about Bytelion through the MAGIC Hackathon Weekend. Stephen worked with Christopher Poe, an AngularJS Web Developer, on Frontend development projects. Stephen says that he “gained invaluable work experience” from his internship at Bytelion, adding that he now “knows what it is like to work in a digital firm.” During his time, he has learned in detail the concepts and basics of working in an agile development environment, contributing to sprints, daily scrums, and sprint-based meetings, which he was foreign to before his time at Bytelion. One of Stephen’s favorite parts of the internship was having a mentor. He emphasized how the opportunity to talk to an expert was unlike anything he had before; it was beneficial. Stephen aspires to continue this partnership as he pursues a career in software development after college.

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From Intern to Full-Time Employee

Before starting her final semester at McDaniel College, Kathleen Biddinger began her internship at Bytelion. After a couple of weeks of exploring the company, and helping various departments, she quickly discovered her niche: Quality Assurance.  Kathleen performed regression testing for Preferhired with her mentor, Mark Majer. During her internship, she supported Data work and dabbled in design and marketing. She was offered full-time employment with a role in QA after graduating from McDaniel College with a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science. Kathleen thanks Bytelion for the opportunity to progress her skills, “I can now write automated tests using Python and Selenium!” Kathleen loves working at Bytelion: “the team is comprised of supportive and motivated people, but what I love the most is how funny they are. At Bytelion, I feel like I am valued for my work, and Terry genuinely wants his employees to succeed.”

Kathleen also wrote her first blog for Bytelion about Quality Assurance check it out here!

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Blogging for Backend Development

Nick Sica is currently a high schooler at Manchester Valley High School. He discovered Bytelion through a career coordinator at the Carroll County Career and Tech Center. He remarked, “What I liked most was that I learned a lot. It isn’t just a ‘go and get coffee for everyone’ type of internship. You work with your mentor on a team on real projects. You learn a lot as an intern at Bytelion.” His mentor Ryan Dagit, a Backend API developer, was there to answer all of Nick’s questions and guide him through the internship. In addition, Nick also wrote a blog about Backend development on our website, be sure to check it out here!

Kristen Vogel (Second from Right)

Kristen Vogel (Second from Right)

Designing their path

Kristen Vogel (second from the right) is an intern from Carroll Community College. She spoke fondly about her time at Bytelion: “I feel that I am much more fluid between Illustrator and Photoshop after my time at Bytelion.” Kristen learned about the internship opportunity through a Bytelion employee, at the Carroll County MAGIC Hackathon Weekend. Kristen explained that the course provided a glimpse into the professional world, gaining experience from attending meetings with clients to operating productivity software effectively. Her mentor Halie Wickiser, Bytelion’s UX/UI designer, said, “working with Kristen was always a positive experience. We were able to work side by side on a daily basis discussing, analyzing, and composing designs and ideas for various projects.” Kristen said to date: “It was one of the best collaborative experiences I’ve had.”

Final Thoughts:

Providing high-quality experiences for young professionals in Carroll County, MD is a critical component of our hiring strategy.  Teaming up with local organizations such as The Carroll Technology Council and MAGIC have been fundamental to our success and getting our message into the community. As our Internship program grows, we are always searching for talented students to work with us. We believe by investing in locally,  Bytelion can support tech growth and provide opportunities for students in (and surrounding) Carroll County. Educating our interns about our company can help them gain the necessary skills they need to pursue a career.

Contact Us!

Interested in interning at a fast paced software company? We have several opportunities for engineers, product managers, testers, and designers available.  Please contact us at info@bytelion.com