Fail Fast: 5 Weeks and $52 Dollars Later : Under30CEO Fail Fast: 5 Weeks and $52 Dollars Later : Under30CEO
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Fail Fast: 5 Weeks and $52 Dollars Later

| October 24, 2012 | 6 Comments

A lot is said on how to plan a huge launch for your startup, then get a lot of people to see it and after this figure out if you are providing something that is valuable. I have unsuccessfully tried that before. Having wasted a lot of time and money I decided to try a different approach. I wanted to be a faster and more agile entrepreneur. Researching on how to be be more efficient I learned about Lean Startup, a simple but compelling concept. I decided to give it a try. I am currently trying to apply the Lean Startup principles in my own way in a hope to find the desired product-market fit.

With that in mind, I am testing my startup ideas in small cycles, talking to the real users/customers from the beginning, creating minimum viable products (MVP), measuring and taking decisions fast.

My last experiment was “Ututo.me,”. I want to share the process from the idea conception to the MVP, results and ultimate failure, and how all that happened in 5 weeks.

1) Idea

A website to find in-person startup mentorship. Entrepreneurs visit the site and apply to receive in-person advice sessions. Sessions can be free or paid. Advice sessions are hosted by experienced entrepreneurs.

Assumptions:

-Entrepreneurs will be eager to request advice sessions with successful entrepreneurs.

-Successful entrepreneurs will be happy to provide in-person advice session in a one-on-one basis

The latter would be my riskiest assumption

Time to develop: 2 hours

Money spent: $0

2) Product Pitching

Talking to people at meetups and sharing my idea with friends. Most people seemed to be interested.

Time: 1 week

Money spent: $20 to attend a couple of meetups

3) Buying a domain and building a landing page

I used Launchrock, a very easy-to-use landing page builder.

Time: 1 day

Money spent: $12 to pay the domain

4) Collecting emails inviting friends to the landing page

I used twitter to promote it and set up a small campaign with Facebook ads. I collected 45 emails with a over 30% conversion rate.

Time: 1 week

Money spent: $20 in facebook ads

5) Building the MVP.

Using Python/Django and Heroku I built a site meant fo two type of users: Mentors could login and set availability dates/times to host an advice session. Mentees were able to request advice sessions with mentors.

Time: 1 week

Money spent: $0

6) Getting the mentors/advisors

I persuaded three renowned entrepreneurs to offer at least one in-person advice session.

Time: 1 week

Money: $0

7) Getting first people to try it

I emailed the 45 leads I got from the landing page. 3 users applied to have advice sessions with the mentors in the first 48 hours. Conversion rate was 8%.

Time: 2 days

Later, the first mentor-mentee meeting occurred.

Time: 1 week

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Total experiment duration: 5 weeks

Total money spent: $52

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What I learned

- Entrepreneurs were happy to meet successful entrepreneurs.

- It was very hard to persuade mentors to host an advice session. Good mentors don’t have time.

- After taking advice sessions, the mentees were really happy with the service. However, on the other hand, mentors didn’t see the value, and were not sure about hosting additional advice sessions. I believe they want to help others, but they prefer to do it in other larger-scale ways such as blogging, speeches, etc. – some way they can get more out of it. Their desire is to reach a lot of people at the same time, so they increase their karma and reputation at a higher level.

Pivot or persevere

My riskiest assumption was invalidated: “Mentors will be happy to host in-person advice sessions on a regular basis” was false.

Congratulations! It’s time to do something else! I understand that at this point I could make a customer pivot, but at least for this project I wanted to serve and help entrepreneurs, so for now I don’t think I will move forward with this idea as it is.

Soon after Ututo.me, I have started working on something else, something that I feel passion for and hopefully can turn into a business. For the next project I will keep talking to users from day 0 and creating simple experiments, I will try to validate my assumptions as fast as possible. My rule #1 : Don’t waste time building something nobody wants.

Jefrey Bulla: In case you are interested in my upcoming startup experiments, join my personal email list.

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Category: Startup Advice

  • http://thefablifeproject.com Amber J.

    Love this! And totally right on time. Thanks to you, I will be hitting the streets tomorrow to talk to people about the ideas that I have!

  • http://twitter.com/WrightAaronM Aaron Wright

    Great article! I learned this the hard way too. I spent months building a website that nobody wanted. With my new project, I am taking a similar approach to the one laid out here. I am writing an e-book, and will be giving away the first chapter for free. If people download it, that means there is some interest. Only then will I bother writing the rest of the book. Best of luck on your new project!

  • http://twitter.com/investormaniacs InvestorMania

    You walked away too early, its a good idea, you gave up too easily… nothing worth owning/running should work overnight, otherwise i/someone else will copy it and hurt your business/put you out of business in a week. Everyone please stop watching the social network.

    More work= barriers to entry, this is why all the funded companies fail …they keep moving forward focusing on growth/instant customer acquisition without leaving walls up behind their progress and people constantly are right up their ass.

    Sell me the site or give me a % to do the work. Put a video chat module on there…. let mentors charge their own rate, and take 10-25% depending on scale of mentoring (1 time or reoccurring) This will give them incentive to “push” their own pages via social media and through their email lists, etc.

    Hire a public relations company with a large clientele and either give them rev share or % of the business, you can have thousands of mentors within a few months that way.

    BOOM.

    Am i now considered a business mentor? I am very, very busy everyone dont worry though…. i CAN mentor you.. i only want $5,000 per hour. Go to my page at

    Ututo. me/randomguypostingonaforum

    See how that works?

    Also:

    NEED: Validated
    People want mentoring

    CHALLENGES:
    Mentors dont have time

    SOLUTION
    Make the process faster, more scaleable for them, less risk (they dont have to travel to meet and deal with an potentially empty room), and let them mentor from anywhere (chat cam)

    Sometimes i impress myself.

  • http://twitter.com/jefreybulla Jefrey Bulla

    Thanks guys for sharing my story. My mission is to create and run fast experiments, learn and pivot as needed. I will be sharing my next experiment very soon

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