My mother recently passed away. I never would’ve expected to be 20 years old and have my only living relative be my 95 year old grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. But, I’ll save my life story for another post.
With any transformative event, there’s an ending, followed by neutrality, and then a beginning. During the neutral zone where I began to come to terms with the my mother’s loss, I reevaluated my priorities moving forward in life. I decided it’d be best for me to part with Heyzap and pursue my other entrepreneurial passions. I’m quite proud of what I helped Heyzap accomplish, and I can’t wait to see how they progress.
Beginning Customer Development
I first had to find out what my entrepreneurial passion truly entailed. That’s where customer development comes into play. It’s allowed me to research a few different markets, and decide which made most sense to focus on and pursue.
MVP #1 is Reputely: a game mechanics platform for web and mobile apps. It seemed obvious to start with Reputely, as it’s very similar to Heyzap, in terms of, distribution and adding virality and engaging content to websites. After helping Heyzap expand it’s distribution network to 200,000+ websites, I know exactly how to automate and scale Reputely.
Rather than building out the product before launching it, I decided to launch Reputely, just with barebones front-end marketing and some screenshots of what the product would be.
I used wufoo for my sign up form and just asked for a name, email, and website (optional). To increase the signup funnel, I wanted to lower the friction as much as possible while still capturing the valuable feedback from the users. So I immediately added an optional page that had my customer development questions. Check out the signup flow here.
I had a few hypotheses going into this that had to be tested. Here are the questions I asked:
What is most important to you?
We’re building a few different products. Which would you use?
If Reputely were to offer ONLY an API, would this interest you?
Which social media site drives the most traffic to your website?
What’s the primary benefit you’re hoping Reputely can provide?
Is there anything else you’d like to add? Feedback, Comments, Suggestions, Secret Messages, etc.
As an early beta user, are you willing to talk with us via Skype so we can make Reputely awesome for you?
Some responses were multiple paragraphs of absolutely amazing insight. Feedback I wouldn’t have gotten if I had waited to launch with an actual product … when it was too late to change or accommodate.
This looks like a great idea. I was thinking to build something like this for 2 of our apps, but an external API would save some time.
An out of the box but customizable game mechanics, badging, points platform. Love the idea!
An easy way to implement achievements, invites, points system so I don’t have to code it myself.
83 % agreed to be reached on Skype for further feedback.
I’ll keep the other aggregate results for my own personal use at this time. =)
I also offered a white paper on the best practices of game mechanics for download … Which, in true MVP fashion, has yet to be written.
Adding this whitepaper option increased signups 50%.
I’m now in a great position. I’ve got a dialogue with my target customers, who are amazingly passionate about Reputely and really want to help.
I was made aware of 3 startups which have remained rather stealth, and it’s been interesting talking with them and seeing what their take on the market is. Something I wouldn’t have been able to do had I not launched.
A few VCs and Angels reached out, but I’m not interested in raising a round right now. I think it’s best to wait to find a fulltime partner to work with on Reputely.
- Ask questions in the signup flow, but make it optional
- Automatically select the options you want to encourage your users to select
- Gather feedback from users who didn’t sign up. I used Kissinsights with great success.
- Launch earlier. I could’ve validated the idea with just a single landing page.
- Optimal Startup Cycle: Sell your product —> Build your product —> Expand sales funnel
- If your goal is initial traffic, don’t launch on a Friday evening before a long weekend holiday. However, it didn’t negatively affect my goal of getting helpful feedback.
- The Hacker News Community provides great feedback and is an ideal place to launch.
- Haters are consistent throughout life (Actual feedback comment: “none, it all seems to suck ass so far”)
Not bad for someone who most would call a “business guy.”
Sneak peak of Reputely’s admin menu: