dru


How I Launched My MVP: Reputely

by Dru Wynings. Average Reading Time: about 4 minutes.

Background

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.

tour11 How I Launched My MVP: 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.

Game Mechanics Platform1 How I Launched My MVP: Reputely

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%.


Post ‘Launch’

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.


Lessons Learned

  • 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.”

If you liked this post, why not follow me on Twitter here?


Sneak peak of Reputely’s admin menu:

game mechanics as a service 300x166 How I Launched My MVP: Reputely

Would you mind signing up for Reputely and giving me your feedback?

  • http://twitter.com/will2410 Alex Strieder

    Hey mate,

    Did you ever have any concerns that one of the big fish would see your idea somewhere online and go “ah yeah, let’s do that!”?

    You’re mentioning some more “stealth” start-ups. Isn’t that the way to go to protect your only capital – the IP?

    Interested to hear your side of the story…

    Alex, a.k.a. @will2410

  • http://startupi.st/ Dru Wynings

    Hey Alex,

    Honestly, I’m not worried about people stealing my idea, because I have operational experience that they don’t have. I was comfortable launching with what I had, because frankly, I see what I’ve announced as not that innovative. Points, Badges, and Levels are trivial for developers to do on their own. There’s obviously the Reputely “secret sauce” that has yet to be announced, including some awesome ideas from my initial users.

    I would LOVE it if a big fish runs with the idea as it validates the market. =)

  • Anonymous

    This is a pretty awesome idea. I hadn’t heard of MVPs until now and it’s blowing my mind how efficient it is at gauging interest and feedback before devoting resources to an idea. Good stuff.

    Question: What kind of marketing did you do to promote the “product” once it was in place? I’ve built mostly web apps and the biggest problem is actually getting eyeballs looking at your service. Other than post to HN, what did you do?

    Thanks for sharing!

  • http://startupi.st/ Dru Wynings

    The nice thing about HN is that once you make the front page, your link spreads virally by all the people RTing the hn bots on Twitter.

    My intent wasn’t widespread promotion. I wanted just enough to be able to clearly identify some trends in the users’ feedback.

  • http://twitter.com/will2410 Alex Strieder

    Hey mate,

    Did you ever have any concerns that one of the big fish would see your idea somewhere online and go “ah yeah, let's do that!”?

    You're mentioning some more “stealth” start-ups. Isn't that the way to go to protect your only capital – the IP?

    Interested to hear your side of the story…

    Alex, a.k.a. @will2410

  • http://startupi.st/ Dru Wynings

    Hey Alex,

    Honestly, I'm not worried about people stealing my idea, because I have operational experience that they don't have. I was comfortable launching with what I had, because frankly, I see what I've announced as not that innovative. Points, Badges, and Levels are trivial for developers to do on their own. There's obviously the Reputely “secret sauce” that has yet to be announced, including some awesome ideas from my initial users.

    I would LOVE it if a big fish runs with the idea as it validates the market. =)

  • pmc255

    This is a pretty awesome idea. I hadn't heard of MVPs until now and it's blowing my mind how efficient it is at gauging interest and feedback before devoting resources to an idea. Good stuff.

    Question: What kind of marketing did you do to promote the “product” once it was in place? I've built mostly web apps and the biggest problem is actually getting eyeballs looking at your service. Other than post to HN, what did you do?

    Thanks for sharing!

  • http://startupi.st/ Dru Wynings

    The nice thing about HN is that once you make the front page, your link spreads virally by all the people RTing the hn bots on Twitter.

    My intent wasn't widespread promotion. I wanted just enough to be able to clearly identify some trends in the users' feedback.

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  • apoorva

    awesome post.. i have done several MVPs myself…and used wufoo, kissmetrics and a bunch of landing page tools to learn from users as well.. its good to hear how successful you have been..congratulations!

  • apoorva

    awesome post.. i have done several MVPs myself…and used wufoo, kissmetrics and a bunch of landing page tools to learn from users as well.. its good to hear how successful you have been..congratulations!

  • http://aymeric.gaurat.net Aymeric

    There is a common misconception between MVP and “testing”. The P of MVP means Product. If you only used wufoo and landing pages, you were dry-testing, not MVP-ing 🙂

    A recent article about it: http://yongfook.com/mvp-vs-dry-test

  • http://startupi.st/ Dru Wynings

    I find the whole argument over whether it’s an MVP or a dry test to be entirely semantic.

    Eric Ries: “In a lot of cases the minimum viable product really is just that offer.

    You can crisply articulate to customers what they’re going to get and how much they’re going to pay for it. You can learn a lot by just popping up a dialogue box that says, “Hey, would you like this new feature?” or showing them a banner ad for that feature.”

    http://venturehacks.com/articles/minimum-viable-product

  • http://aymeric.gaurat.net Aymeric

    There is a common misconception between MVP and “testing”. The P of MVP means Product. If you only used wufoo and landing pages, you were dry-testing, not MVP-ing 🙂

    A recent article about it: http://yongfook.com/mvp-vs-dry-test

  • http://startupi.st/ Dru Wynings

    I find the whole argument over whether it's an MVP or a dry test to be entirely semantic.

    Eric Ries: “In a lot of cases the minimum viable product really is just that offer.

    You can crisply articulate to customers what they’re going to get and how much they’re going to pay for it. You can learn a lot by just popping up a dialogue box that says, “Hey, would you like this new feature?” or showing them a banner ad for that feature.”

    http://venturehacks.com/articles/minimum-viable

  • http://artvankilmer.wordpress.com/ Arthur Klepchukov

    Dru, glad to hear you learned a bunch from running this experiment. I wrote an entire post about asking optional extra questions in the sign up flow after running my landing page tests. Curious if you agree: http://artvankilmer.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/only-emails-on-landing-page/

  • http://artvankilmer.wordpress.com/ Arthur Klepchukov

    Dru, glad to hear you learned a bunch from running this experiment. I wrote an entire post about asking optional extra questions in the sign up flow after running my landing page tests. Curious if you agree: http://artvankilmer.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/on

  • http://startupi.st/ Dru Wynings

    Hey Arthur,

    I don’t think asking only 1 question is optimal. I consider the most important conversion rate is that first page, and everything after that is a bonus.

    I found that people who filled out any part of the second page often answered all the questions. Should all of that data be taking for what it’s worth? No. But given the sample size, I was able to see some definitive trends.

    Should you stop there? NO! This just gets the conversation started for a more in-depth followup. It allows to target the specific demographic of those who said they want to help.

  • http://startupi.st/ Dru Wynings

    Hey Arthur,

    I don't think asking only 1 question is optimal. I consider the most important conversion rate is that first page, and everything after that is a bonus.

    I found that people who filled out any part of the second page often answered all the questions. Should all of that data be taking for what it's worth? No. But given the sample size, I was able to see some definitive trends.

    Should you stop there? NO! This just gets the conversation started for a more in-depth followup. It allows to target the specific demographic of those who said they want to help.

  • http://twitter.com/gauravkishore Gaurav Kishore

    Dru – What a great article! I must been in hibernation, how did I miss this gem? I am starting to do something similar for a product idea of mine. My idea is not the most “innovative or radical” and has some big competitors also. The current solutions in the market dismiss/ignore a huge set of audience. My product idea intends to focus on that audience. You can say I’m trying to pivot in terms of target audience while keeping the base solution same. Also my idea will bring the complexity of the product usage/price lower and make it available to everybody. Also there aren’t many solutions in this space. So my question is when soliciting feedback from general audience on the landing pages and later in question/answer mini-session via KissMetrics etc. is it necessary to share with them all the features, the ones that I know of (i don’t know all of them), in order to justify that my product in not the same as the solutions out there but is different. I mean how far should one go in sharing the details of your product, in your experience when interacting with this audience?

    I think one of the things that I would gain from this exercise would be to discover the features that can differentiate my product from other existing ones, but that is going to come from people with positive and constructive comments. Where as the negative one will try to shoot it down. In a way I am scared to open up my thoughts/ideas, but nevertheless I am going to do it. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Gaurav

  • http://druwynings.com/ Dru Wynings

    Hi Gaurav,

    Personally, I believe you should share as much as possible—here’s why: customers can then give you more detail about what they see as “must haves” and what they don’t consider a priority. The key here is to not assume anything and to actively listen to what they want. When talking with customers, the first step is to describe the problem you’re trying to solve and describe your assumptions. And then: LISTEN. How do they currently solve this problem? Do they see it as an actual problem?

    There’s a great book that is old (nearly 13 years!) but is still highly prescient. I would definitely recommend it for anyone trying to break into an existing market. http://www.amazon.com/Information-Rules-Strategic-Network-Economy/dp/087584863X/

    I’m happy to answer any other questions offline if you’d like. My email is: dru@druwynings.com

    Cheers,

    Dru

  • JohnMcFarlane

    Did anyone complain about not getting the white paper?

    You mentioned “Automatically select the options you want to encourage your users to select” was this during the feedback process?

  • http://druwynings.com/ Dru Wynings

    No complaints.

    Selecting default options was during the signup/ feedback process.