Three Weeks to Build a Business: Week Two

EIA Week Two – Finding something people actually want.

If you haven’t read Part One then I strongly suggest you start by reading that by clicking here.

This week shall forever be known as the pivot week because we were expected to start validating our startups and then pitching them to our mentors. Startups died because the teams found out that they were unfeasible within the timeframe, they had no market or they had a market but it was saturated with competition.

Also, this phrase was thrown about quite a bit by the mentors: “Are you building a painkiller or a vitamin?”. This question alone killed a dozen ideas even though it’s ambiguous and the answer doesn’t tell you anything about whether your idea is any good.

So, I’ll start off by giving you an example of an idea that failed in each category.

A team had an idea to build a spaceship launch pad at sea which had a number of key benefits and cost savings but it’s really hard to demonstrate and develop that idea in three weeks hence this idea died because there isn’t much they could do in the time frame.

Another very active team had an idea to build an app to buy firewood. I was really looking forward to their product, however, after they did market validation they found that the market was far too small to pursue.

Finally, there was us. So, I told you in my earlier post that we had competition and to avoid the competition we pivoted away from them by picking a very specific niche. Well, after we did research on the new niche we found a major competitor.

Shoptiques was not only exactly like us but they were actually better than us. They had worked on the whole user experience from photographing the items themselves to delivering the clothes to the user’s front door. A testament to their success was the fact that they got into Y-Combinator’s W12 batch and went on to raise a $2 MM seed round from investors such as Andreessen-Horowitz.

Hence, we decided to raise the white flag and move on to blue ocean – which meant throwing away signed up boutiques, domains, early mockups and a half-baked version of the app.

Also, around this time Francois stopped showing up to EIA so Vi fired him. Now we needed a new idea and the team had lost a developer. We were pretty broken at this point but the only thing that kept us together was the fact that we liked each other. Now I can’t say we were all friends at this point (seeing as we’d only known each other for about a week) but the team culture just meshed really well for some reason.

So, off we went to the drawing board. We had some interesting ideas. Andreas had this cool idea for “Coffee with strangers who share your interests” but we were hesitant on building a social networking app and on the lack of a solid revenue stream.

Whilst we were in these ideation sessions we would say anything that came to mind. Hence, I randomly said I wish I could have breakfast in bed delivered to me. Josh then took up the idea and we ended up creating a breakfast delivery service called Toasty (the codename for the actual product was Delicious Clock because at one point someone said that the app was like a delicious alarm clock). Our plan was to actually cook and deliver breakfast to EIA participants to demo and validate the app.

Andreas went to work on design, Rasmus on building the app and I worked on the landing page and emails whilst Vi and Josh validated the idea and worked on the financials.

Vi and Josh did more market research and we came up accross a whole host of competitiors that were offering the exact same service; not to mention when we asked people how much they were actually willing to pay for breakfast delivered to their door most people said around 5 dollars which was a pretty hard price point to hit for us.

Once, again we had to pivot and this time I was re-reading an old article by a hero of mine, Noah Kagan, about how he started a subscription service for beef jerky and made over a 1000 USD in profit in less than 24 hours. I showed it to Vi and Josh and we got really excited. We decided we would do the same but with bacon. Hence, we went ahead and acquired bacontome.com and started to validate our product by asking the following questions:

Vi went and asked a mentor for advice and the mentor gave us the reality check we needed. It was a bad idea. Firstly, it’s not innovative and EIA’s about innovation. Secondly, the market was too small. And – thirdly, I haven’t ever tasted bacon so how the hell could I sell it?

After all this iteration we actually landed on a really good idea about building a company catering app and web app which allowed employees to choose meals that fit their diet and requirements easily and to have a service that was so easy that the office manager could set it up in less than a minute and then it would work automatically and seamlessly from then on.

Now, I moved on to building the API for the app whilst Rasmus built the frontend and Andreas designed the web app and then built the landing page which can be found at http://www.catersquad.com/.

Finally, we had the right team and the right product – also we could now call each other friends after having gone through the traumatic experience of multiple pivots.

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