Last month I posted My 8 yeses to get an idea off the ground… And I decided it's time to re-visit and create a more detailed roadmap for myself (showing my weak points and where I'm struggling most) that you may find useful as well, or even better, have some suggestions or thoughts to improve it.
This is probably the most overrated stage of any entrepreneur journey. You should not give it much weight since on a later stage the 1 million dollar idea, you thought you have, will probably sound ridicules. But we still need to start somewhere, no? Think of an idea as a seed, but you don't know what plant or tree it will grow to be! The only way to find out is to put in good soil, water it, and take care of it till it starts growing.
So where to get the seed from?
Now you have a seed, we need to figure out how to grow it. You might think you need to grow an apple tree, you assumed the market needs more apples. What if the market is full of other apple suppliers, can you compete with them? can you make your apples better than theirs? What if the market doesn't need more apples but mangos or oranges!? To answer these questions you need to create a canvas:
You can't go wrong with either, try both and see what fits your style. Spending 30 min on creating one could save you a lot of time later.
This is a debatable point, like the egg-chicken problem. Do you need a good product to get the audience or do you get the audience to build a product for? In my opinion (and from personal experience), there are 3 reasons why you should start building your audience before (or while) you build your product:
Here you need to be creative and lazy at the same time. As a software engineer, if you come to me with a new shiny idea, I will say: "yes! I love it, let's build it". Sounds easy till you start building and what you thought will take a day ends up taking weeks. So be creative and lazy, think to yourself what is the cheapest and fastest way to test my idea. Give yourself a chance to run an experiment without spending any money, this constraint will force you to be creative.
Your first experiment could be as easy as posting on IndieHackers or a tweet asking your followers if you should build X or Y. If you need some inspiration check out Experiment List by @Dom_Vacchiano
The 2nd part of designing an experiment is to decide how to measure success! if your experiment is to share your landing page on HN and you get 1k visits and 0 signups, would you consider that a success? Be clear about your goal, you need to have a good metric to decide if it was a successful or failed experiment.
The 3rd part of your experiment should be a DEADLINE. Set a 1 to 3 weeks deadline for your experiment, add it to your calendar. This is critical for later when it's time to make a decision and not keep wasting time on zombie projects. Some ideas you need to shoot it in the head and move on.
This is step is a tricky one, especially for programmers. Usually, we want to build everything ourselves and before we notice, the little feature, we said will take an hour turns to a black hole of other improvements and bug fixes. Here is something I wish someone had told me earlier: "Don't try to be a smart ass, don't re-invent the wheel. It's okay to use no-code solutions"
You need just to validate an idea not to build it. if you need a landing page there are a ton of options, don't try to code it yourself. I know you can, I know you can do it better than whatever tools out there but it's not your priority now, not yet! Just pretend you don't know how to code until you validate the idea.
If you're using an analytics tool for your landing page, you will see how many visits you got but the data will not tell you exactly why people are not signing up. There are tools like Hotjar, Intercom, Canny, and many others to help you find answers that kind of explain what the data shows you. And to be honest I'm still struggling with this point myself. With my current project Moufette, I'm still trying to figure out what feedback I need and how to get it.
The point is you need a feedback tool integrated within your product to make it super easy for users/visitors to give you feedback, the bad ones before the good ones. It's very important to mention at this point that you need to be careful with false negatives as much as with false positives. False negatives come from haters and false positives come from friends and family.
The ideal feedback you can get is a random stranger commenting on your post or tweet telling you how much they are excited about your idea.
This is another point software engineers and developers are not good at. we don't like to sell, market or promote our products, and if we do like it we don't know how to do it. We usually share our creation with friends and family, and 99.9% of their feedback is just false-positives.
Here comes in handy the audience you started building in step 3! So now you have some extra eyes to show your product to. So just go out there and make some noise, post on IHers, Reddit, product hunt, or anywhere there a chance to find a potential customer.
Another weak point for me personally and I believe other indie hackers miss as well. You may post or tweet about your idea get feedback and maybe some early adopters. But I believe a 1-on-1 customer interview is so important and should do it more often. For example, the founders of Airbnb visited all of their hosts in New York to personally stay with them, write reviews, and professionally photograph their places. You need to get to the personal level with your customers and not hide behind comments, emails, and surveys.
Now it's time to set back, look at the data, study the feedback, and reflect on it. It's the moment of truth where you decide if your experiment was 👍 or 👎. If the idea as good as you thought it is or not. Pivoting doesn't meet to ditch the idea as a whole and move to the next one, but maybe just changing direction or how you promote it and what is the core value proposition.
Let me know what you think in the commentsIf you'd like to follow my journey you can find me on twitter