As I mentioned last week, I’ll be reporting on our ‘microstartup’ experiments at Spook Studio.
We’ve created some of our own products before including Personapp (a simple way to create user personas), Gifty (a wishlist app) and iControl (our very own content management system) wiith varying degrees of success. iControl aside, we’ve just not had the time to really get our teeth into our own ideas to any degree and many of these just haven’t had the attention they require to develop them further.
The time is now
Over the years we’ve developed and launched many successful products for our clients including Objective Manager (performance management made easy), Family Bhive (‘Facebook for the ultra wealthy’) and Get Comparisons (user generated product comparisons). But working on our own ideas has taken a backseat. Mainly due to the fact that we’ve been so busy with our client work that there’s just not been enough time in the day.
More recently as we’ve worked on lots of cool projects for other people we’ve come to realise that we need to start devoting some time to exploring our ever-growing list of product ideas – all with the potential of being the next Facebook of course (in our heads). We’ve got the ideas (however bad), the team to make it happen and the killer process (lean with our own slant), all we need is that precious commodity of time (and lots of coffee).
As flag bearers for the lean startup movement (and regular advisors to first-time entrepreneurs and wannabepreneurs) we’re aware of the pitfalls of getting too attached to an idea. So in the spirit of misadventure we’ve decided to devote 1 day a week to working on our own stuff, using everything we’ve learnt from working on the web since pre-2000 (ouch).
I’ll be postly weekly updates on our progress from now on, warts and all. There’ll be no NDAs, no cloak and daggers, just 100% openness, hurrah! And anyway, ideas on their own are worthless.
So…on to our first micro-startup. Our developer Dave can take credit for this one, and here he describes his idea in more detail:
OK, so the name could use a little work… The basic premise is this:
1. Think of Pinterest
2. Imagine replacing each image (most likely a puppy, motivational cliché, or glistening vampire), with an item from ebay.
3. You scroll down, glimpsing a wall of second-hand speakers, frying pans, joysticks, lawnmowers, t-shirts, mobiles, console games…
4. That’s a nice tee shirt, the seller’s just down the road, and it’s only £2.50. You click a button and wait for the seller to contact you to arrange the exchange.
5. You pick the shirt up on your way to work the next day. Ladies swoon, men nod in respect, the world is yours.
6. You get home that evening and want to find a choice spot in your wardrobe for this thing of beauty, but you still haven’t found somewhere to store that second vacuum cleaner that’s just too good to throw away but not worth putting on ebay.
7. Phone out, app open, click button. Take photo, set price, confirm location, send.
Initial reaction to the idea has been both very positive (‘what a great idea, I’d use it tomorrow‘ my wife), to indifference (‘that’s really hard to do & how would you make any money?’ our mentor & advisor).
Ignoring all feedback (for now) we ploughed on regardless. After all, most successful products started by lots of people doubting whether it would work, right?
So, no sooner had he shared the idea that we decided to get these ideas down onto paper/pixel (after all, we have to create some assets of our worthless idea to protect our IP). As with all new projects we started with the Lean Canvas.
Here’s our first stab:
Taking Dave’s idea on, we decided it would be a standalone platform rather than something that links into ebay (an assumption that we’d need to test). We fleshed out some ideas quickly (in less than an hour) and considered some customer segments that would need a service such as this.
A few day’s later we created another canvas, this time purely focusing on parents of young children in Brighton & Hove. Focusing on a small area (we may even go as local as one street to start with) and niche would help us know who to talk to, focus the message and make our lives easier when trying to reach our early adopters.
Once we start speaking with this market we’ll know whether there’s actually a real problem worth solving but we’ve got to start somewhere and young parents seem a sensible target audience initially (bearing in mind that they are always buying and selling stuff for ther kids as they grow up). Myself and Carlos (co-founder at Spook) both have young kids so know only too well how much stuff you can accumulate when kids arrive on the scene. Whilst some say it can make sense to scratch your own itch, others such as Ash Maurya believe it’s a trap that you can easily fall into (see page 86 of his book).
What’s in a name?
So, we need a name for this thing (as catchy as PinBayGumCycle is). What better way to come up with a name than a long car journey to the Cotswolds. My wife and I (a copywriter per chance) came up with lots of ideas but kept coming back to the world Jumble, bringing back memories of jumble sales when we were young (which probably won’t mean much to readers of this outside the UK) plus our product gallery would look like a jumbled board of unwanted goods.
Many variations of this were suggested. We liked the idea of a character behind it to add some personality to the brand (think Mailchimp, Task Rabbit, Hipmunk, etc). Jumble Bunny was muted but then quickly binned once we realised why it sounded familiar (cringes). Anyway, we’ve ended up with Jumblr (ok a little like Tumblr admittedly, but the domains for Jumble were taken). If the product takes off we may go for jumble.it but for now this is a good enough working title.
Domain registered (www.jumblr.co.uk), quick logo designed and we’re off!
- Create a simple landing page MVP as an experiment to measure interest (hoping for 40% conversion rate views/signups, target of 50 sign-ups within first week)
- Set up customer development interviews with young parents (through various channels)
- Drive traffic to landing page (Twitter, Netmums, rip off flyers outside playgroups/library/nurseries, etc)
See you then.