1. Finding a serious problem to solve
More than one year ago Benjamin and I (Frank) met to discuss the future of the web. We shared two strong opinions, web services are great, but the way they are implemented is not. Centralised web services are restricting our creativity as developers and our freedom as users. We came up with this crazy idea “we have to give back the server to the users”. A serious problem to solve and a vision to achieve it brings a huge amount of motivation and energy.
2. Observing then building an MVP
Both of us have been self-hosting, which is the practice of having one’s web applications on one’s own web server. What does that bring? Control over your data, single sign-on and easier interactions between your web apps to name a few. You do more than before in a secured way. But this requires specific skills, so the practice is limited to people with the technical know-how. We needed a platform easily usable and expandable. A personal Platform-as-a-Service on which all applications share the same data store and as easy to manage as a smartphone. Average users would one click subscribe to web hosting providers like us while it could still be self-hosted by whom that desire so. We gave shape to our vision by building the first version of this PaaS.
3. Building a brand
Once you’ve got a product, you want people to be able to remember it and speak about it as early as possible: find a name and hire a designer to create a brand identity. Communicate about the product and the mission on relevant websites, so you develop awareness and get feedback. Provide all the information they need to your first visitors, they are your future advocates.
4. Building a team
A problem to solve and an MVP is already a good thing to have people joining in: when you build something disruptive people need to see it to understand plainly your concept and feel that something new is happening. This makes the process much more easy to recruit talents despite the limited resources available. Students and recent graduates are more receptive to new things, so look for them to help you in your mission.
5. Building a tech platform
With a larger team, it becomes much faster to take the MVP to the next level. We improved the product then we built the first applications available on the platform. Quick tip: make it open source so that people can provide feedback even before the applications are completed! Last, but not least, you might want to look for partnerships with established company, they bring social proof and trust around your new idea.
Today Cozy Cloud is still improving, and our community keeps growing. In the meantime, we are looking for investors to accelerate our development and make Cozy an always more enjoyable platform.
To finish, the most important thing I want to share with you is: don’t be afraid to go against the tide, don’t be afraid to be original. There is no recipe for success except a lot of work and an idea in which you really believe in!
Editorial note 2017: Cozy keeps growing! In June 2016 they raised $4 million from MAIF and Innovacom.