If this is your first time reading, I recommend you start with my 6-month challenge and table of contents of weekly posts for the past 10 weeks.
tl;dr I spent this week continuing to build upon my MVP v3 as well as getting initial feedback from friends. I also found outsourcing some tasks out to FancyHands to be very helpful and reached out to my actual users to do in-person beta testing for the next week.
While it’s great to get feedback from friends, it’s really not as helpful since none of them are my core, targeted users. I’ve been reaching out to my actual users and plan to set up 10-15 in-person user testing sessions to observe their interactions and receive constructive feedback from them.
Once that is done, and barring any dramatic changes or after I make any necessary iterations, I will do a soft private launch just for beta testers.
You might ask, well, why don’t you just launch what you have now?
Good question — but I find it very valuable to talk with users to get out of my own head as well as building relationships with them (doing things that don’t scale). More importantly, talking with a select group of beta testers will help me preemptively find out what might be broken or can be improved — or what users really love.
I. Some MVP v3 screenshots
II. Getting initial feedback
III. Getting help from FancyHands
IV. Reaching out to users
V. Next week, in other news and key lessons learned
8. Start with Something Minimal
Lots of founders mentioned how important it was to launch with the simplest possible thing. By this point everyone knows you should release fast and iterate. It’s practically a mantra at YC. But even so a lot of people seem to have been burned by not doing it:
Build the absolute smallest thing that can be considered a complete application and ship it.
Why do people take too long on the first version? Pride, mostly. They hate to release something that could be better. They worry what people will say about them. But you have to overcome this:
Doing something “simple” at first glance does not mean you aren’t doing something meaningful, defensible, or valuable.
Don’t worry what people will say. If your first version is so impressive that trolls don’t make fun of it, you waited too long to launch.
One founder said this should be your approach to all programming, not just startups, and I tend to agree.
Now, when coding, I try to think “How can I write this such that if people saw my code, they’d be amazed at how little there is and how little it does?”
Over-engineering is poison. It’s not like doing extra work for extra credit. It’s more like telling a lie that you then have to remember so you don’t contradict it.
– Paul Graham, What Startups Are Really Like
I. SOME MVP V3 SCREENSHOTS
Cusoy is smartphone-agnostic and is geared toward either desktop use or mobile web use.
You can click each image to enlarge to full size.
Here’s a sample mobile user flow:
Here’s a sample desktop homepage (I’m still adding restaurants):
And awesome smart keyword autocomplete:
II. GETTING INITIAL FEEDBACK
Showing my MVP v3 to Rock Health and friends
I met with Rock Health last week and got very positive feedback from them — the next step and advice for me was to put Cusoy in front of 20-30 of targeted users, observe how they use it and start getting them to use it.
I also showed it to five friends or so and, while some things are a little confusing here and there — but nothing that is a showstopper or breaks anything — it looked great to them and they asked what users thought of it.
I said I haven’t put it in front of users yet — since I wanted to get it up to 50 restaurants first (it surprisingly takes a long time to add each restaurant…) — but I will definitely be doing that this week!
Everyone told me it doesn’t even have to get up to 50 restaurants yet, it’s still obviously usable enough to test in spite of it.
Revamping Cusoy’s landing page
I also revamped Cusoy’s homepage a bit, you can check it out here. Nothing too flashy, but I got tired of my Launchrock page and wanted something simple yet good enough to try to convey the value proposition Cusoy offers to users.
I’m hoping to add some animations and/or video within the next week or so.
II. GETTING HELP FROM FANCYHANDS
So I’ve been also entertaining some thoughts on content marketing or some more research and data entry tasks, and was frustrated with myself because there are so many things I want to do in a day and not enough time to do at all.
I then looked into outsourcing some easy research and data entry tasks remotely (so nothing developer-related). The usual suspects came up, like Elance and Odesk, or even TaskRabbit. I’m not a big fan of Elance and Odesk — not that they’re terrible companies or terrible platforms — but I don’t personally know anyone who uses them and the thought of having to sift through a lot of spelling errors and miscommunication problems, quality assurance, etc. is simply not worth the irresistible hourly rate of $5/hr or even $2/hr. This is just based on my experience putting out a simple proposal and receiving bids. Again, I’m sure there are great people on here for cheap, but it’s like finding a needle in a haystack and I certainly don’t want to unnecessarily spend too much time trying to find a good virtual assistant.
As for TaskRabbit, again, heard good things online but don’t personally know anyone who uses them, and I wanted something cheaper than $25/hr. Also, before you even ask, Craigslist is out of the question — I’m not in the mood to sift through 1000+ emails from (mostly) unqualified people.
A friend actually uses a virtual assistant from AskSunday, but I’ve never heard of AskSunday, and still was a little unsure of hiring someone who wasn’t based in the U.S. (again, I don’t want to deal with headaches of quality control and quality assurance).
That left me with a couple new virtual assistant like tech startups I’ve recently heard about: FancyHands and Zirtual. I follow a blogger who praised Zirtual’s services, but going to their website, Zirtual plays up an exclusivity card of having to get invited (reminds me of Gilt Groupe’s early days, but not to the extent of Mailbox’s wait-in-line method) which kind of turned me off and was a big mental barrier.
I decided to give FancyHands a shot (and probably will continue using them) and am very pleased with them.
I bought a basic plan of $25/month for 5 tasks (no hourly fees) and saved 2.5 hours, including having an assistant place 5 calls on the phone for me (spent 16.5 min on the phone).
Actually… I just logged into my dashboard now, and it says time saved as 6.4 hours. That number seems a little funny to me. I think I’ll stick with 2.5 hours (which I saw yesterday) as the true amount of time saved. Anyways. Bottom line: great value in time saved vs. $25 fee!
I love FancyHands so far. I haven’t had the time to go in-depth into their results for me, but I’ve skimmed over it and am quite satisfied with their results, given the $ I pay them and the amount of time they spend on each task on average (15-20 minutes hypothetically speaking, but if you do the math, I got more bang for my buck for my tasks!).
I’m the kind of person who wants absolute answers and thus will take an inordinate amount of time doing research — if I’m looking for a jQuery date picker, for instance, I want to know my top five choices, the most popular/recommended one, etc — so for me, it would take forever to do these tasks and time is money and precious.
Turnaround time was excellent. I’d say anywhere from 2-6 hours, tops. I was impressed. There was no FAQ on how long it’d take assistants to complete tasks (I guess it widely varies, that’s why) so I was very pleased that I didn’t have to wait a day or two, or even a week, for help.
Three of the tasks I issued are not urgent things I need at the moment, but for future weeks, and two of them more urgently to help me fulfill the 3 curated dish recommendation service for select beta testers. They’ve been incredibly helpful!
III. REACHING OUT TO USERS
So yesterday I sent out emails to 24 beta testers and am aiming to set up 15-20 in-person meetings over the next 2 weeks –anywhere from Oakland to San Francisco to Palo Alto. Distance and commute might be detrimental to my time and gas, but I see it as a great investment in my users and feedback for Cusoy.
Yesterday (Monday) afternoon I sent out the emails and as of right now (Tuesday afternoon), I’ve gotten close to a 40% response rate with 7 users open to setting up meetings, and a couple others who are currently out of town and unable to meet. I’ve confirmed 4 meetings so far this week with users.
I’m also very grateful that so many of them are willing to make time for me and give Cusoy a shot!
At RetailMeNot, we outsourced usability testing to a UX research firm — I don’t know how much RMN paid them, but probably a significant fee. At Evernote, we heavily used UserTesting.com and even with a corporate package, it still came out to about $39 per user test (of course, includes recorded video, ability to make annotations, ability to create video clips, etc).
If you go to San Francisco Bay Area’s Craigslist, you’ll find a LOT of tech startups advertising for users and offering anywhere from a $25 Amazon gift card for 45 minutes of a user’s time to $10 for 30 minutes, etc. Their products might be more conducive to this sort of “throwing things at the wall and hoping it’ll stick” mentality posting to Craigslist, as their targeted user base may be much broader and more generalist than mine for Cusoy.
Again, I just wanted to reiterate Paul Graham’s essay of Do Things that Don’t Scale — you’ll get a much higher return on investment in terms of how willing users are to help you and set aside time for you, and in the process, some more validation that you’re really making something people want.
IV. NEXT WEEK AND KEY LESSONS LEARNED
So the next week will be 100% focused on user testing and iterating on their feedback, as well as continually building up my restaurant database.
In other news, I got an invite to YC’s Startup School 2013. Very exciting! This is the first time I applied and the first time I’m going. The speaker lineup this year is pretty awesome, includes Ron Conway, Chris Dixon, Jack Dorsey, Phil Libin and — of course — Mark Zuckerberg. You can see the full list of speakers here.
I’m also helping my friend Jason Shah, a PM at Yammer, do a brief interview for his Udemy course on how to get a job in product management. I came into product management very unconventionally and probably will offer the most insights in how to hustle into product management. I’ll be doing a Google Hangout with him tomorrow; not sure when it’ll be up on the Udemy course, but be sure to check it out if you’re interested.
Also, I just set up a Clarity.fm profile — feel free to schedule a call with me any time if you want tips on how to network, break into product management, or even want to chat about product management, startups, etc. I’d be happy to help!
Key lessons learned:
- Get user feedback from your friends (who may or may not be your target users) as soon as possible, but more importantly, from your targeted users.
- Things don’t need to be perfect for user testing. Launching is another matter. But be sure to test early!
- Don’t be afraid to hire remotely. Experiment and ask around.
P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter here.
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