Cityfurnish: An Indian Startup That Provides Online Furniture Rental – with Neerav Jain [Ep#20]

Cityfurnish is a startup from India that offers online furniture rental. It was founded in 2015 by Neerav Jain and Saurabh Gupta and today it has more than 10 thousand subscribers, $3MM in Anual Recurring Revenue.

In our 20th episode, Neerav tells us about the beginning of the journey, the idea validation process, the marketing channels that were successful and more.

Listen to the interview:


SHOW NOTES

The notes below are just part of the interview. Listen to the audio to get the whole episode!

FLEXIBLE AND AFFORDABLE

What is the problem that you’re solving for people in India?

I did my undergraduate in New Delhi—the capital of India. While I was studying there, we were three friends staying in an apartment. As we realized later on, more than 70% of the apartments in India are either unfurnished or semi-furnished. So, we also ended up in an unfurnished apartment.

That actually led us to a problem which we faced at that time: there was no alternative to buying expensive furniture for temporary needs. So that was kind of a problem statement: If you don’t want to buy new furniture or old furniture, there needs to be a solution for it or an alternative […]

[…] there was no alternative to buying expensive furniture for temporary needs

Then, when we were leaving college, the second problem occurred. While we’re moving out of that city, it’s not easy, and it’s very painful actually to either discard or resell the furniture. So, that was a kind of an awakening to us that the amount that we had spent to buy the furniture and the amount we got from selling the furniture was frankly disproportionate. […]

[…] the amount that we had spent to buy the furniture and the amount we got from selling the furniture was frankly disproportionate.

At the same time, an average Indian shifts between jobs every 18 to 24 months. That does not resonate with their lifestyle. Because if they’re looking for something flexible and affordable, buying does not solve that problem.

SUBSCRIBE, INSTEAD OF BUYING!

How are you solving the problem for them?

We wanted to provide flexibility and affordability to our users. The way we do that is that we provide them a rental subscription plan that you can pay a monthly affordable rate. You can select items by packages, or by combos, or you can select it individually as well.

So, an average two-bedroom apartment, including furniture, furnishings, and appliances, will cost you roughly around $80 a month if you’re taking furniture from us, in India. And that resonated very well with the users.

TWO HUNDRED INTERVIEWS

Okay, let’s go back to September, 2015…

The day zero scenario was actually very funny and very challenging. We follow this book, The Four Steps to Epiphany. There was this very good saying: “For every assumption, you need validation.”

The way we went about it was that first, we needed to validate: “Is there a need for rental furniture or is it something we just want to solve, but there is no market need for that?”

That was day zero for us. Just me going into metro cities and job hubs where majority of IT centers are located and doing interviews. So, I did around 200+ manual interviews, in which I asked two major questions.

Cityfurnish’s Offices: 2015 (left) and 2017 (right)

First was “If you’re living in a rental house and if that is unfurnished, how will you furnish it?” As I expected more than 95% said, either they will buy new furniture or old furniture.

My reason to ask that question was to understand: “Is there an awareness already about furniture rental available in the market or will we have to create that awareness and category as we go about that?”

That was day zero for us. Just me going into metro cities and job hubs where majority of IT centers are located and doing interviews.

The second question we asked them: “If we provide you two-bedroom furniture and appliances, rental solution, around $80 a month, does that excite you?” And an astounding 89% said “Yes”. And we got our first 20 subscribers through that interviews itself.

So that was a big resonance for us, though the category awareness was not there. But if the category awareness is available to the users, the conversion is there. And there is a market sizable need, which we need to solve.

LEAN START

Did you count on any money at that time?

That time it was on ourselves. First of all, to do the interviews and surveys, we didn’t need any money at that time to start with it. Even the website was something which I and Saurabh did in the house.

So it took very limited budget to start with. But, as soon as we started getting orders and to buy the inventory and to fulfil those orders, we started using our savings to fund that.

OLD PARTNERS

What are your backgrounds?

I come from a furniture industry background. I did my undergraduate in Commerce. Post that I was working with Pepperfry—a retailer of furniture in India.

Saurabh is graduated from IIT in Computer Science. He has done his MTech from there. He has worked in companies like Vodafone and HCL and Mdocs, for close to 10 to 15 years before we’ve both started in one more venture—prior to Cityfurnish, That did not work eventually.

Post that, we started Cityfurnish. We knew each other for I think like two and a half years before we started Cityfurnish.

GOOD ENOUGH TO LAUNCH

Was this first version much different from what we have today?

The first version was very limited. We just had five options in total for furniture, at that time. The homepage and the products page were kind of similar. You just placed an order, then everything was done manually at our end. We used to call the customer, send them the emails, collect their KYC over the email.

Now, most of it is automated. The customer can have multiple items, view, place the orders, do the payment and upload documents also on the website. […]

We have done a lot of iterations from 2015 to today. And in every iteration, the theme which is consistent is that our users should get more trust and confidence while coming on to the Cityfurnish website.

TRACTION AND CONFIDENCE

When did you start seeing traction coming?

To be very frank, when we were doing these 200 interviews is when we got the first 20 subscribers. That was a very happy moment for us, because we were just stopping random people coming out from metro stations and just asking them. Actually, those 20 guys did place an order.

So, it was a very good validation and that increased the confidence for the complete team a lot. Maybe towards the April of 2016 was when scale actually started coming up a little bit, because we were doing a very good number of orders—in Delhi at least.

Then, we became a little bit more confident that we could expand into one more city. And that’s how we scale to Bangalore. So, that was the confidence level we were waiting for and once we got it, we expanded to Bangalore.

THINGS THAT DON’T SCALE

From 50 subscriptions in 2015 to more than 10,000 subscriptions in 2019. What were the marketing channels you used to acquire so many users in that period?

As one YC was saying: “do things that are not scalable for marketing”. So, we did a lot of this kind of thing.

There are a lot of expats and communities for expats. So, we used to do a lot of marketing promotions on Facebook and inter-nations related groups to target the expat community. Because we had a very good start in the expat community in terms of the orders that were coming in.

And then we started tapping into those and started converting into referrals as well. Around 35% of our orders are towards organic and referrals. In the beginning, most of our orders were towards organic and reference—through word of mouth and to reference. So, that worked really well for us.

As we started scaling, we understood that, in India, most of the apartments that are available for rentals, are available through the broker’s channel community—real estate agents and brokers. We started onboarding real estate agents to work as a channel partner for us. Now, you will see that we have an Android app called Cityfurnish Partner, on which a real estate agent can come on board and become a channel partner.

We started onboarding real estate agents to work as a channel partner for us.

And whenever he is working with a tenant or a landlord, he can input those leads into the channel on the partner app and our team calls them and then converts those leads, to fulfill those orders. So that was a very interesting and a very different approach towards increasing the orders. And that worked really well for us.

YC GOT ME

You were part of Y Combinator Winter 2019 batch. What was the most valuable learning you got from this three-month program?

I think the biggest advantage or learning from YC is the YC community in itself. Wonderful founders and peers you are working with, amazing pedigree of founder partners who are working with YC who are helping and guiding you. So that experience is invaluable, to say the least. YC community has a very good factor to make everyone push harder to excel in their work. The weekly office hours that they have make everyone accountable in a way that everyone is motivating and pushing each other.

FINAL WORD

What would you say to startup entrepreneurs that want to build a successful startup?

One major key thing I would say is that you should not do a startup because you want to do a startup; You should do a startup if you’re looking or if you’re able to solve a problem. So like, that major difference between those two things, I think is a key enabler to take through all the pains and sorrows which are going to come. And if you are doing it for the right thing, and you’re trying to solve a problem, eventually you will be able to find a solution for it.

Hey, did you like this episode? Check other startup stories here.


MORE ABOUT CITYFURNISH

Cityfurnish logoCityfurnish (Website; Facebook; Pinterest; LinkedIn) is revolutionizing the furniture industry by providing quality furniture and home appliances on easy monthly rental. With the immense focus on product quality and customer service, we strive to become most preferred name in furniture industry by customer’s choice.

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Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh

According to Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn founder) and Chris Yeh (writer, investor and entrepreneur), “blitzscaling” is the strategy of prioritizing speed over efficiency in the face of uncertainty.

Indeed, it’s impressive when founders make their startups huge really fast. Like Uber, Airbnb, Amazon and other companies that didn’t exist just a few years ago. And now…

In fact, for some startups, aggressively growing is the best strategy to achieve a robust success.

But, how on Earth is it possible? That’s what you’ll see inside “Blitzscaling”.

Why you should read Blitzscaling

Because it effectively translates authors’ experience on startup development into powerful insights on…

The growth factors and limiters of your business model: the ability to exponentially scale your startup relies on maximizing the growth factors and minimizing the growth limiters of your business model. Growth factors are: market size, distribution, high gross margins, and network effects. Growth limiters are: lack of product/market fit, and operational scalability.

The patterns and principles to build a high-growth business: in this book, you’ll read about 7 business model proven patterns and 4 principles of business model innovation. Why reinvent the wheel?

The key transitions and counterintuitive rules of management: speed over efficiency. Remember? The decision to blitzscale will bring a ton of chaotic consequences for your startup’s management practices. What do you do when massive growth demands more people than you’re able to hire? And when you start receiving thousands of customers complaints? Yep, hard stuff…

Whether to blitzscale your startup or not: Reid and Chris made it very clear: there are contexts in which blitzscaling makes sense and others it doesn’t. Be aware of the criteria to decide blitzscaling your startup or not.

So, if you want to prepare your startup to grow at high rates in the near future, you should start by reading Blitzscaling.

Blitzscaling
Check it on Amazon

Check other books I have in my bookshelf.

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BeOn: Connecting Community To Improve Security – with Gustavo Caleffi [Ep#19]

To feel safe is a basic need of human beings. Unfortunately, in today’s world security issues are present in everyone’s lives. But, how can we prevent something from threatening our security?

Gustavo Caleffi believes the answer relies on bonding community connections and making people aware of the dangers, so they can avoid being harmed. And this is the basis of BeOn.

In the 19th episode of The Traction Stage Podcast, Gustavo will tell us about BeOn story and what was important to start generating traction for the platform.

SHOW NOTES

BEING AWARE

What exactly the problem that you are solving is? And what is the solution that BeOn is offering to its users?

First of all, we need to integrate the community to exchange information about security in the same place. A big problem that we have when we talk about security is that nobody knows what’s happening around their houses and offices.

We want to integrate information on everything that’s happening about security, health, environment, traffic and fire problems, so people can see what is happening around their places and also to help public staffs.

With this integration, we provide a lot of good timing to all these staffs to work with security and this problem in any place.

BETTER THAN RADIO

How did the idea come to your mind?

We worked for a long time with security—almost 20 years. Here in Brazil, the security problems were growing and we had a lot of places that we wanted to work together to have more safety in their neighbourhoods.

First, we worked with radio communication—one condominium talked with another condominium by radio. But it has costs.

So, we started thinking about how we could make these people exchange information with no costs. We thought about an app, and this app is BeOn. We’ve been working in this solution since 2016.

BeOn screenshot 1.

GETTING AN EXPERT

What were the first steps you took after having the idea?

First of all, we made a big project with everything that we could develop in this platform—the best ways and the best platform we could have.

For sure, we didn’t have enough money to put everything working. So, we looked for someone that is an expert in technology, and we started working together with this expert. After that, we made a project to develop the MVP.

And how did you contact him and how did you make him to jump on board?

We looked around all Brazil to find somebody to develop with us this project. And we found that guy very near us. He lives in São Leopoldo—a city very near Porto Alegre. Actually, it’s a company called Mura. This company looked at our project and wanted to be inside the project with us. So, we paid them some money and they came to be our partners in the project.

BeOn screenshot 2.

MONEY TO START

Were these “friends and family” funds or did you have to raise the money from someone else?

No, only friends and family. And after two days we launched the platform in the market, a friend—CEO of a bank—wanted to put money in the business.

FIRST VERSION

You’ve mentioned about the beginning of the idea in 2016. How long did it take for you to release the MVP?

Well, we worked hard. We draw all the features that we needed in almost four months. We talked too much and we planned too much the features that we needed in BeOn in the first MVP. After that, we had almost six months developing the app until we could put it in the market.

How was this first version like? What features did it have?

The features were almost the same that we have today. We’ve just changed the way they appear. We are from the market and we know what people need. This is the difference to have one MVP that you’re really giving people need. Because of that, we didn’t make big changes.

BeOn screenshot 3.

SECURITY MATTERS

What were the best strategies or marketing strategies that you use to get users coming to your platform?

Well, everybody needs our app. We were talking with Google, two weeks ago, about Waze. People that use Waze are people that need to go in their own cars. BeOn is used by everyone—an old woman or a child. They need to have information about security. So, it is very important for people.

And when we put BeOn in the market, all the newspapers and TV programs, wanted to use BeOn to explain that people can use technology to have more security. So, we had 32 exposures in Brazilian newspapers and TV programs. It helped us a lot to show people what BeOn is.

We also had a lot of influencers that helped us—on the radio, on the newspapers and on social— to explain people about BeOn.

All these things together helped us to explain people what BeOn is and make them download it.

SECURING DATA

How do you deal with users’ data security?

This is a very good question for us, because we don’t have any data about the user. The only information that we have is the number of the telephone; Nothing else. You can put your name or not, but we don’t show the name—and we don’t know if the name is real or not. For us, it doesn’t make a difference.

However, if somebody starts to put information that is not true, we can show the phone number for justice or for the police, and they can start to make an investigation. But we don’t show this information on the platform.

BeOn screenshot 4.

ADVICE

A piece of advice you would give to startup entrepreneurs…

To start a project is not an adventure; It’s hard work. People really need to know very deeply what they are doing.

Sometimes, you have an idea and you think your idea is the best thing in the world; And you start working. But you really need to know about the market.

An idea can be good, but the difference is how you work on your idea, put that idea in a project and how you work to somebody see value in your idea.

For me, it’s important to have a lot of knowledge about what you are doing and about what people need, to have success in your project.

Hey, did you like this episode? Check other startup stories here.


MORE ABOUT THE FOUNDER

Gustavo CaleffiGustavo Caleffi (LinkedIn) – Fundador e Sócio diretor da Squadra Gestão de Riscos; Fundador e CEO APP Be On Segurança Colaborativa; Administrador de empresas, com MBA em Direccion de Seguridad en Empresas pela Universidade de Comillas (Espanha); Certificado pela Universidade Israelense ICT (International Institute for Counter Terrorism) em “Segurança Global e Certificado pela empresa israelense ISDS em “ Advanced VIP Protection Course; Especialista em Gestão de Riscos Estratégicos e Segurança; Autor do livro “Caos Social A Violenta Realidade Brasileira”; Atua no segmento de segurança há mais de 20 anos; Inúmeros artigos publicados em diversos veículos de comunicação; Instrutor de lutas há mais de 20 anos; Palestrante em eventos nacionais e internacionais sobre o tema Prevenção em Segurança, Gestão de Riscos Corporativos e Gestão de Segurança de Grandes Eventos; Responsável técnico por projetos em inúmeras empresas multinacionais e nacionais e também em grandes eventos como Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Lolapalooza, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, Planeta Atlântida, Circuito Banco do Brasil de Música; Reconhecido pela Brigada Militar do RS com as medalhas “Brigada Militar”, Serviços Distintos” e “Serviços Relevantes a Ordem Pública” e medalha “Tiradentes” pela Polícia Civil do RS.

MORE ABOUT BEON

BeOn logoBeOn (Website; Facebook; Instagram; Youtube) is the solution that have the purpouse to save the world, from a free Community Security APP that communicate and integrate community, public staff (police, fire department, transit department), public managers and private security staff. The APP treats security, fire, traffic, health and environment emergency communication.

Gains For security:  Prevent information about suspects acts and suspect people; Help to reduce the response time of state and county security mechanisms.

Gains For Fire Fighting:  Rapid community communication, promoting greater agility in a first fire fighting, minimizing the risk of major fire; Easy way and agility for fire Fighters identify the geolocation of emergency call.

Gains For Health: Enables professionals in the area (doctors, nurses, firefighters) to assist the victim until the ambulance arrives; Anticipation of situation reporting to emergency call centers, including photo, streamlining understanding of state agents’ need; Preservation of lives by the possibility of first aid care before the arrival of ambulance.

Gains For traffic: Roadblocking information for community rerouting in the region; 911 call location geolocation facility; Anticipation of the situation report for emergency call centers, including a photo, speeding up the understanding of the need by state agents, especially speeding up cases in which firefighters’ support is needed for cutting tools

Gains For Environment: Community information in case of lost child or animal, facilitating and speeding up the identification of those responsible; Natural Disaster Communication Agility in Micro Regions; Form of utility reports for the entire user base, such as road flood closure, landslide

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Anzu.io: A Startup That Brings Real-World Ads To In-Game Experience – with Itamar Benedy [Ep#18]

Do you think games and businesses are part of two separate worlds? Do you consider every ad boring and invasive? It’s time to update your brain with the story of Anzu.

In our 18th episode, you’ll know the story of Anzu.io, a startup that connects game studios to advertisers, by providing them a platform to include real-world ads in any game object.

But, how did Anzu’s founders go from an idea to the traction stage? What kind of challenges did they face in the way? How did they overcome it? Our guest, Itamar Benedy, co-founder of Anzu, answers these and other questions in the 18th episode.

Let’s go!

Continue reading “Anzu.io: A Startup That Brings Real-World Ads To In-Game Experience – with Itamar Benedy [Ep#18]”
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RoadBotics: The Early Days Of An American Startup That Provides Smart Road Assessments – with Mark DeSantis [Ep#17]

We all want our roads in good conditions. Don’t we? But, the definition of a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ road may vary a lot. This is the challenge that governments and companies run through in the process of road maintenance: assessment subjectivity.

RoadBotics was born to solve this and other problems regarding road inspections. Through the same technology used to make autonomous vehicles to “see” the road, the startup makes computers analyze road conditions.

In this interview, Mark DeSantis, cofounder of RoadBotics tells me about the early days of the startup, since the idea until it started gaining traction.

Continue reading “RoadBotics: The Early Days Of An American Startup That Provides Smart Road Assessments – with Mark DeSantis [Ep#17]”
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MPost: The Traction Story of a Kenyan Startup that is solving addressing problem – with Twahir Mohamed [Ep#16]

Receiving correspondences in Kenya might be a real challenge. That’s because addresses (street, number, etc) are not available for every one.

For many years, people have been counting on PO boxes—rented post office lockable boxes—many times shared with other people, in a centralized way.

The problems naturally arise, once your packages might be accessed by unwanted people and there is no warning system to communicate you got a mail.

That’s exactly the problem MPost is tackling with its solution.

Through a unique address code—derived from users’ phone numbers—MPost provides privacy and, at the same time, communication about new packages deliveries.

In the 16th episode of The Traction Stage Podcast, Twahir Mohamed told me how he and his partner developed MPost and how they are impacting the lives of more than 45,000 users.

Continue reading “MPost: The Traction Story of a Kenyan Startup that is solving addressing problem – with Twahir Mohamed [Ep#16]”
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Entrepreneurial Negotiation by Samuel Dinnar and Lawrence Susskind

Entrepreneurial Negotiation is a comprehensive guide for you to understand the negotiation process and to improve your negotiation skills.

As a startup founder, you’ll have to negotiate with many parties like co-founders, customers, suppliers, employees and other stakeholders.

What you get from each negotiation will impact directly on your startup’s short and long-term outcomes.

Continue reading “Entrepreneurial Negotiation by Samuel Dinnar and Lawrence Susskind”
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Startup Validation

5 Methods To Validate Your Startup Solution

After identifying the riskiest assumptions about your startup solution, it’s time to validate it with real people. But, what validation methods can you use?

In this post, I’ll present you 5 well-known validation methods: wireframes, mockups, prototypes, landing pages and MVPs.

WIREFRAMES

Wireframe is a very simple, sketchy representation of your solution. Its main focus is to present your solution flow and check if it resonates with your potential customers’ needs.

Source: https://balsamiq.com

For its simplicity, wireframes are a fast and cheap way of presenting the basic logic behind your solution.

First tangible stage of the UX design process and low-fidelity wireframes in particular are perfect for validating early stage ideas and concepts.

Robert Smith, Validating product design ideas with low-fidelity wireframes

For instance, to understand how a button will play a video in your app, customers don’t need a perfect button nor a real picture of the video. A sketchy button and an image placeholder will be enough for them to give you initial feedback.

On one hand, wireframes are great for gathering insights from your customers sooner. On the other hand, if you need to validate customers feedback on the visual, usage or real value of your solution, wireframes won’t be enough.

Suggested tool: Balsamiq.

MOCKUPS

Mockup is a static visual representation of your solution. It helps you on getting feedback about the visual, as well as on logic of your product flow. In other words, mockups are screens of your app or nice illustrations of your product.

mockup
Source: https://slidebazaar.com

Despite they still don’t allow your customers to interact with your solution, mockups provide a more realistic visual about your product than wireframes. That’s why mockups resonate better when your intention is to gather feedback about your solution visual appeal too.

However, better visuals for your screens will demand you more time to develop mockups of your product than wireframes (that don’t require a visually awesome interface at all).

A real case on the use of mockups for validation comes from my interview with Ned Phillips, co-founder of Bambu.

Below, you see 3 real mockups used by Bambu to validate its solution with its customers:

They look a real app, don’t they?

But, let’s see what Ned explained to me:

We created about six static screens of what a digital saving app would look like and we put on a PowerPoint. We’ve paid a few thousand dollars to do that. We mocked it up as a digital savings journey, you know: “How old are you?”, “What are your savings goals?”, “When do you want to retire?” Put some nice pretty colors around it. Put it in six slides and that was that. No coding, no tech, no stack, no nothing. Just a six-page PowerPoint.

Ned Phillips, Bambu CEO – Episode 7

Suggested tools: Mockups can be easily presented in PowerPoint, Google Slides or Keynote. To build your screens images, there are also some services like InVision and Photoshop. You also can find some easy-to-use templates (free or paid) to have your screens ready to be presented (like this one).

LANDING PAGES

A landing page is a website page that allows your potential customers to take some actions, so you can measure their interest about your solution.

Landing pages are great to reassess customers’ interest about the problem as well as their understanding and excitement about your solution.

The main objective behind a landing page is validating if your startup’s value proposition fits to your customer’s problem. Hence, the decision of what elements to include will depend on how well you can communicate your product’s value for your customers (e.g.: some landing pages don’t have screenshots, others do).

On one hand, a big plus of using a landing page is to capture potential customers emails. That’s why you must include an appealing Call-To-Action (CTA) button.

On the other hand, a big challenge is to get people coming for your website. Differently from wireframes and mockups, you’ll not be able to interact directly with most of the people who visit your landing page. So, it’s important to start defining how to get potential customers coming for your landing page.

Their low cost and no need to have a finished product make them awesome to test if customers would are interested in buying from you.

You can learn more about landing pages here:

Suggested tools:

PROTOTYPES

Prototype is an interactive representation of your solution. It means that you’ll not only show it to your customers, but they’ll actually
“use” it (like they were using your solution).

https://www.invisionapp.com/

The benefits of getting a prototype in the hands of your customers are huge. Through a prototype, you’ll understand how they interact with your product and what difficulties or doubts do they have while using it.

Despite your prototype would work like the solution, you still won’t deliver any real value to your customers yet. It’s not your product, but a vehicle to capture customers feedback on your products usage.

It’s important to notice that your prototype is an interactive tool, but it doesn’t mean you need everything coded or automatic yet. Actually, your mission is to simulate customers’ interactions with your product, without building the product for that.

Abolore Salami, founder of Riby told me how he used a prototype to validate the solution:

[…] we tried to get people to use it and see the kind of difficulty they had, see if it worked or not, and things like that, that was kind of research. […] It [the prototype] was always coded and you could interact with it. It allowed you to do two major things. Number one is to set a goal and number two is to save towards that goal. All what we were doing was monitoring how you were doing at your goal. You couldn’t process money for people as it was.

Abolore Salami, founder of Riby – Episode #8

Suggested tool: InVision.

MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT (MVP)

Minimum Viable Product is a validation method that demand you to build something capable of delivering the essence of your value proposition to customers. Let’s see Steve Blank’s definition for it:

It’s a concise summary of the smallest possible group of features that will work as a stand-alone product while still solving at least the “core” problem and demonstrating the product’s value.

Steve Blank, Bob Dorf – The Startup Owner’s Manual

In other words, MVP is the minimum set of features needed to deliver your core value for your customers to solve their problem as well as to allow you to test your most important assumptions.

I’ve produced this other post specifically about MVP.

How complex and expensive does your MVP need to be? It depends on what you define as “minimum”. And this is definitely the most challenging part of building an MVP.

After all, since the beginning, you were mentally visualizing what would be your ideal product (with a lot of features).

But, to build an MVP, you should consider it part as a product and part as a vehicle to validate your assumptions in a fast and cheap way.

Want to see an awesome example of that?

Bookme is a Pakistani online platform through which you can buy tickets for Cinema, Bus and Events. Today, the reservation and payment processes are automatic. But, Faizan (Bookme founder) was able to build a much leaner MVP:

It was merely a form where you could simply put in your request that you want to see a movie at ‘XYZ’ cinema or you want to book a seat from this city to that city. It was all manual, there was no integration of stuff at the back end and there was no option to select a real-time seat. It was like: tell us your preference, which seat you want and we will try to make it as close as possible.

Faizan Aslam, founder of Bookme (Ep#13)

CHOOSING A VALIDATION METHOD

First, it’s important to mention that these are not the only methods to validate your solution (although they are really important ones).

Second, you don’t need to use one OR another. You can start with a simpler method and move to a more detailed method later in the validation process.

To define the best alternative in your case, I suggest you to compare them in terms of: resources, methods effectiveness and access to customers.

RESOURCES

Each method will demand more or less of your startup’s resources. That’s why you should start by estimating how much money, time and effort each method will require to be executed.

Together with “Resources Needed” you’ll assess the resources you have. Do you have someone who can build a prototype? Great! Do you have someone who could build a landing page in one day? Awesome! Will you have to hire people to do any of those alternatives? Okay, take that into account too.

METHODS EFFECTIVENESS

The selected method must resonate with the next assumptions to be tested (the riskiest ones). For example, if you need to test how much customers are willing to pay for your solution, wireframes wouldn’t be recommended (because customers won’t have a perfect sense of how exactly your solution brings them value.

Similarly, if you want to test market demand and gather users contact, landing page would be better than just presenting a few people the prototype.

ACCESS TO CUSTOMERS

A last factor you must consider is how easy and formal is your connection with those you want to test your solution with.

In other words, if you have close friends that are related to your solution’s topic, it wouldn’t be a problem to present them a wireframe.

However, if you’re presenting your solution for a potential customer who you need to trust you (like a big corporation), then you need something more polished (like mockups or a prototype).

VALIDATION PROCESS

No matter what validation method you choose, keep in mind these four elements of the validation process:

  • Assumptions: What assumptions do you want to validate now?
  • Method/assumptions fit: Is the validation method covering those assumptions?
  • Results: How will you measure validation? What metrics will tell you your assumptions are valid or not?
  • Action: One or more assumptions were not validated? Why? How should you restate them? Were they validated? Great! Go to the next set of assumptions or start planning scale.

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The Startup Owner's Manual

The Startup Owner’s Manual – by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

I bought The Startup Owner’s Manual many years ago and I’m still using it heavily.

First, if you don’t know Steve Blank, stop for a minute and check his blog. The guy is a startup guru and this book is #1 Amazon Title in “Entrepreneurship” category.

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What Is Your Business Model Hypothesis?

After assessing your startup idea, it’s time to translate it into a business model hypothesis, which will help you on better:

  1. Visualizing the idea: it will consolidate the problem and the solution under the “Value Proposition”, which—with other 8 components—will bring you a clearer picture of what you’re aiming to build.
  2. Communicating the idea: once it is easier to visualize it, it will be easier to communicate your idea to other stakeholders as: employees, co-founders and investors.
  3. Iterating the idea: With a structured framework, it will also be easier to analyze and define which assumptions should be tested first and how could you iterate your business model hypothesis in order to achieve success.

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