If this is your first time reading, I recommend you start with my 6-month challenge, week #1 choosing an idea and market validation, week #2 talking to others, building an MVP and focusing on value vs. growth and monetization, week #3 narrowing focus further, learning about gluten free, social shopping and eating experiments, week #4 building out my MVP, talking to advisors, learning how to pitch VC’s and pitching Greylock, monthly review #1 introspection and lessons learned, week #5 shipping my MVP, getting out of the building and staying productive, week #6 MVP assumptions, iterations of MVP version 1 and 2 and week #7 – MVP v2 (in progress), arbitrary deadlines and Parkinson’s law, looking ahead.
tl;dr Kept making progress on MVP v2, started an experiment with beta testers, met some people and got their advice and am planning to release an ebook at the end of this six months.
I’ve set an official private beta launch date for myself in 2 weeks.
The clock is ticking.
No more waiting — just shipping. The time has come.
I. Rock Health and YC
II. Beta testers and keeping in touch with them
III. Other people and events
IV. Upcoming ebook
V. Next week and lessons learned
It’s better to make a few people really happy than to make a lot of people semi-happy.
– Paul Graham
I. ROCK HEALTH AND YC
If you’ve been following along, you’ll remember that I’ve mentioned Rock Health several times. I’ve gone to their office hours three times in the past almost-two months – the first to pitch my idea and get some initial feedback, the second was simply a usability testing with my MVP v1, and the third another usability testing with my MVP v2. The first and second office hours were with one EIR, and the third with another EIR.
I plan to meet with them once more in two weeks and plan to apply to their program once applications open in late September.
Rock Health has a 3% acceptance rate, but that doesn’t deter me, because I’m viewing this as a learning experience to get good feedback regardless of going through an incubator/accelerator program or not.
Again, applying to an incubator or accelerator program is not my end goal in this six-month challenge (getting into a program should never be anyone’s end goal, and really, it’s just the beginning of the hard work involved).
However, having a clear application deadline and set of questions to answer (on their application), it seriously helps me to kick my ass in gear and also helps me frame my thoughts and motivations — much like how I had the opportunity to pitch Greylock Partners three and a half weeks ago, even if I was not remotely even ready… it just helped me to convince myself first that Cusoy would be something worth investing in, before I tried to convince investors.
Incubator/accelerator programs are perfect for arbitrary deadlines and Parkinson’s law, as I mentioned before. I realized I didn’t do such a great job of really explaining it last time, so here’s a better explanation (emphasis mine):
Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline. If I give you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution, and you have no choice but to do only the bare essentials.
If I give you a week to complete the same task, it’s six days of making a mountain out of a molehill. If I give you two months, God forbid, it becomes a mental monster. The end product of the shorter deadline is almost inevitably of equal or higher quality due to greater focus.
This presents a very curious phenomenon. There are two synergistic approaches for increasing productivity that are inversions of one another:
1.) Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time. (80/20)
2.) Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important. (Parkinson’s Law).
The best solution is to use both together: Identify the few critical tasks that contribute most to income and schedule them with very short and clear deadlines.
Also, Paul Graham has recently announced that YC has opened applications for its Winter 2014 program with a deadline of October 21.
Again, I’m in absolutely no rush to get funding — I have enough savings to last me the next 6-8 months. This is more for me to work harder and faster to make things happen for Cusoy on an accelerated pace.
II. BETA TESTERS AND KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH THEM
Earlier this week, I began to do a really cool and interesting experiment with my beta testers. I’ll explain more at greater length next week. I won’t divulge any details in case my beta testers actually read my blog and I might ruin or skew the results 😉 but it is extremely interesting and you definitely won’t want to miss it.
Also, one little protip I’ve wanted to mention and tell all those startups who’ve I’ve given my email addresses to on their landing pages — please keep in touch with your beta testers and update them on your progress!
There’s nothing worse than, from my personal perspective, that I sign up for some unknown and unproven product say in July, and it’s absolute radio silence until suddenly I get an email in November saying that they’re launching soon and can I fill out a survey? etc.
Sorry. Who are you again? Why should I do this? Nope.
You have to remind users who you are, what they signed up for, what your product is — that you have their permission to contact them and can offer something valuable to them in return for their time and feedback. And keep in constant (read: relevant, not spammy) contact with them. They signed up for your product — they want you to tell them your updates! Don’t wait five or six months. Or even three months.
If you just aren’t ready yet, that’s OK! Include some screenshots. Or some helpful tips and advice directly related to your startup’s premise. Chances are, if they signed up to be notified of your beta, they’ll probably be interested in things you have to say and can offer them that are related to your startup.
For example, if you’re building a recipes app but aren’t ready to release it, think about sending your beta testers three recipes a week. Something useful and relevant to their interests, and to also keep you on their radar.
And the majority of the time, most of these startups in their follow-up communications don’t even give you a brief description or one line about what their startup is, so when I get an email from them five months later, I’ve completely forgotten who they are and what they do and I just delete their email.
Don’t assume people will remember who you are. If people don’t know why they got your email or why they should keep reading — your email contents are a bunch of garble about content and services while they’re still trying to figure out what exactly it is that your startup does, again — they’ll delete it immediately.
Of course, this is just my two cents and speaking from my personal experience.
But I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who has had this experience… so I won’t make that same mistake with my own beta testers.
III. OTHER PEOPLE AND EVENTS
Jason Shen, Ridejoy
I met with Jason Shen of Ridejoy (YC alum) last week in DC. Great guy who gave me awesome advice. To give some context: Ridejoy is about connecting 1) people who are drivers going from point A to B and 2) people who are passengers also wanting to go from point A to B and are willing to pay $ for a seat.
The discussion was not at all about YC itself or applying to YC (but Jason has written an excellent free book called Guide to YC, highly recommended read — get it on his website via newsletter signup), but more so getting his thoughts on potential monetization strategies (me thinking long-term), my curiosity with their user acquisition and growth/traction model (especially given their “marketplace” sort of structure) and overall general advice about my goals and motivations with Cusoy and even potential pivots and variations. He cautioned me to be flexible with whatever direction Cusoy takes me — which may or may not be what I initially started out with.
On flight back to SF — I sat next to a fellow entrepreneur Anil working on ultra cool things in the hardware and finance space. Really brilliant guy working on some really hard problems with his brother.
Got to talking and got some good tips on potential pricing models and something I will be very interested to see how it plays out.
Health Tech conference
I’m planning to go to the Health Tech Conference on October 30, 2013. The regular ticket price is $850, but I offered to volunteer and got it completely waived. Score!
I did the same last year as a broke college student — got a free ticket to Seth Godin‘s Pick Yourself conference in TriBeCa (NYC) with tickets costing $900-1000+ (so nuts), but now am doing so as a bootstrapping startup founder.
Should be interesting. I’m excited to hear from industry experts.
IV. UPCOMING EBOOK
I am planning to release a free post-mortem ebook at the end of this six months. It will be distributed for free to all my email list subscribers as a thanks, and I may release it publicly at a small cost later on.
How will it be different than simply reading all my weekly posts so far? Great question.
It will include post-mortem notes and reflections at the end of what I wish I should’ve done at each step looking back, exact resources that I used to create my MVP’s (I refrained from mentioning exact tools, etc on blog posts, since this is still a work in progress), how and when I decided to iterate, productivity tips and much more to help you launch your own startup and go on your own mini 6-month journey. Exclusive content that won’t be published online to give away all my secrets.
I always like free ebooks with not only the author’s personal stories and takeaways, but also concrete, actionable steps that I can apply to my own situation — so those will definitely be included. More details to come.
Interested? Sign up for the mailing list to receive my weekly updates as well as the ebook for free:
Due to a request via Twitter, I’ve also created a page with list of my weekly blog posts with a table of contents.
V. NEXT WEEK AND LESSONS LEARNED
Next week I’ll do a full debrief of my experiment with my beta testers (really interesting stuff), keep working on my MVP v2 and keep reaching out to restaurants.
Key lessons learned:
- Use Parkinson’s law hand in hand with application deadlines.
- Keep in touch with your beta testers and update them on your progress.
- Conduct some small experiments — little MVP’s, if you will.
- Talk to others who have more experience, but more so, encountered similar problems you have.
P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter here.
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