How do you know if you’re working on the right thing?

TL;DR I don’t know

So you have a whole bunch of ideas, and a number of projects you’re eager to get working on. But you only have so many hours in the day, so you need to be discerning with what you’re going to spend them on. Begging the question, how do you decide what the right thing – or things – to be working on are?

In the early days (pre-sales) how can you go about working that out?

How can you get validation and feedback on your ideas?

And why does seeking validation and feedback matter?

To answer the last question first, aside from my aforementioned point that we only have so many hours in a day, and this is a matter of deciding what to spend them on – the other reason it’s important to gather validation and feedback is to de-risk your new venture as much as possible. Seeking out its potential pitfalls and working out if and how they can be worked around or dealt with is essential. Are they deal breakers?

With regards to how you get validation and feedback, I have tried a number of things. Things like surveys, launching a beta product with test users, simply asking for feedback and just chatting to people.

With the surveys, I set up a Typeform account, incentivised them with a giveaway and posted them on Twitter and Facebook. It’s hard to say whether this ‘worked’. It certainly wasn’t an overwhelming success. On the one hand, between the two platforms, I only received 11 responses. Not really substantial enough to prove or disprove anything. On the other hand, the responses I did get were really thought through. The respondents had clearly thought about the questions and the insights they gave me were extremely useful. And I was so grateful for that.

I definitely believe in the power of surveys, but for me anyway, getting the volume of response in the early days when you’re only just setting about building an audience is extremely challenging.

Next, launching the beta product and asking for feedback. This is a great way to test an idea, especially online where all the early adopters are waiting, hungry for the latest product to try. These guys are unlikely to be your long term customers, as by nature they’re always in search of the new, and better, solutions on the market. But because they try and test so much stuff all the time, they are extremely expert at finding all the little bugs, and flaws in logic, and more than happy to send their feedback. These people are total gems helping innovators everywhere develop their thinking and products.

Chatting to people. As with anything in our world, talking to people, in real life, is the best way to get feedback on an idea. We communicate so much with our body language, that you miss a lot of meaning when you are only receiving email, chat messages, survey responses and the like. You also have the opportunity to discuss back and forth with the natural flow of conversation not as easily achieved online.

At the end of the day however, the real answer to ‘how do you know if you’re working on the right thing’ is – you don’t. All we’re really trying to do is collect as much information as possible to make assessments on the probability of success. Naturally as the facts, and information we receive changes, so too does our opinion. This gives way to enabling us to make tweaks and changes to counteract and work with new information, to improve the offering and product. But of course, it also gives way to doubt.

We’re only ever dealing with odds, and these change constantly. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

It’s not easy!

How about you? How do you go about assessing the potential of your ideas? How do you decide which to work on and which not to?

As ever, if you’ve any thoughts give me a shout @beankind.

Dodoodem: October update

So I’ve just quietly launched the full version of dodoodem, you can check it out here: https://www.dodoodem.com/

Here’s the story behind it.

When it comes to bookmarking and linksharing, I’d been using a mixture of in-browser tools to save content, with email, chat applications and Google Docs (!) to share it.

I found it so frustrating because I could never find my way back to something when I really needed it again. And neither could my teams.

With my in-browser bookmarking, the folder system is desperately outdated as a means of organising links. And I also wasn’t that keen on keeping this personal information stored in Google Chrome.

With sharing links via email or chat applications – they usually just get swallowed up by the inbox or conversation. You’ll never see that again.

And don’t even get me started on why we’re resorting to using Google Docs.

I thought there must be a better way to save, organise and share links online. So I started working on Dodoodem.

The name comes from “dodem” which is another name for a totem. The idea being that like how totems stack up to create a totem pole, so too do bookmarks pile up to create a body of knowledge.

The internet is an increasingly transient, fast, chaotic and wild place. There is so much new everywhere. But what about all the great content you’ve found, love and want to keep.

A feature central to dodoodem is that of a “space”. You can create a space for any project, be it work or personal, give it a name, and invite others to join you (or not).

You can then use the Chrome extension to add a link to your space without even leaving the page. And in the process you can add any notes or tags to it before you post it.

I’ve put a lot of effort into the design of dodoodem to make it fun and engaging – something you want to use regularly, that’s easy, intuitive, gets the job done, and lets you get on with your day.

In the short term I hope users of dodoodem feel more organised and have somewhere to save and share content. In the long term I’d like dodoodem to help everyone build their own libraries of things they love online – whether that’s related to a project at work, or shark videos, or memes, or gifs for a loved one.

Dodoodem is now live and available at https://dodoodem.com for anyone wanting to give it a go. There is a free plan and I’m really keen to get as many people trialling it as possible so I can gather all the feedback I need to make improvements.

When it’s been a bit more tested and put through its paces to check its robustness, I’m keen to put it on Product Hunt and see what the people there think too.

Thanks so much!!! And if you’ve any thoughts or feedback as ever you can reach me @beankind.

Tab Armageddon

It does my head in when I’m doing work online and I get lost amongst all the open tabs I have in the browser. Through a mix of multitasking and having incomplete todos requiring certain pages, and the FOMO that I might be leaving behind some as yet undigested information behind – I struggle to keep my open tabs down to a small handful. (Though at certain times of day I do mercilessly just close them without first looking at what they are. A decision that I often live to regret when then struggling to find my way back to the page later.)

Why am I like this?

It’s not what browsers were designed for and they don’t like it anymore than I do. How can we move beyond the tab?

There are a handful of browser extensions that will in effect take a dump of all your open tabs into what is in effect a reading list. But my goal is to continually work on tidying up and organising my browsing behaviour for a more efficient and effective workflow, so I’m not sure that chucking a load of links – many of which I haven’t even passed an eye over yet to check whether they’re useful or not, into my stored bookmarks.

But what is the answer?

A customised homepage that gives you a toolbox of favourites to link to every morning? Maybe it updates according to the time of the day. For instance there are certain sites I want to check first thing, before settling down with other jobs later in the day.

The goal is most certainly: less distraction, more focus.

Spaces

From launching the beta version of dodoodem a couple of months ago, and thanks to all the feedback I’ve received, my thinking on the product has come along so much. Thanks so much everyone for your input.

So we seem to agree on the basic problem that the product is trying to solve in that it’s an absolute ball ache to try and find your way back to the great stuff you want to see again online. And that’s supremely annoying especially when you might need it right in that moment for something work-related.

That’s great validation on the problem!

Out of this test phase, has come the idea of spaces.

So instead of having one big vat to add all of your bookmarks to, as with how it works in browser, using the concept of a space to create spaces for each of your projects – be they work related or personal. And furthermore, having the ability to invite people into your spaces.

I think this design is extremely versatile as you could have a space for your bookmarks which is just for you, but then you could have a space for that project at work with your teammates, or a space for planning that holiday with your friends. You could have a space for personal development, or you could have a space to collect and share all the content a new recruit might need to go through when onboarding. Or you might have a space to keep the links to all the documents your team has across Google Docs, Sheets, Dropbox etc.

So I’m going to build this into the full version of the product which I hope to be launching next month! (In October).

What do you think? Would you find this useful? Love it, hate it or indifferent, let me know. I’d love to hear from you. Tweet me @beankind.

#100daysofcode

Hey everyone! So I’m going to commit to 100 days of code to focus on developing and launching the full version of Dodoodem – and hopefully to massively increase my skills in the process.⁣
⁣ ⁣
I’m a relative newbie to the world of programming, probably starting learning properly about a year and a half ago. I’ve been learning full stack web development with my go-tos being Postgres, Django and Vue. So hoping to be less of a newbie by the end. Though there’s always something new to learn! ⁣

For anyone thinking of doing the same and wanting to follow along with me and share the journey, come visit my Instagram page where I’ll be regularly posting updates on my #100daysofcode journey.

The difficulty of getting quality feedback early on

It would be amazing if tomorrow I could check my Typeform account and see 100 new responses…But that’s unlikely to happen.

Why?

It’s really hard right at the beginning, when you’re only just beginning to build your audience, to get people, specifically those in your target market, to take notice of the surveys you’re putting out, and take the time to fill them in.

You might say – well why put surveys out then, but the thing is that they just so happen to be a brilliant way of checking the assumptions that my product is built upon. For instance quantifying the amount of people who have the problem the product is solving, and how much they care about solving it, checking that this is the right way to solve it, as in, would this solution actually help them in the way I think it will.

And furthermore, survey respondents tend to be people you don’t know, who you’ve never met, and therefore are more likely to give you the non-sugarcoated truth (which possibly can’t be said of your friends and family).

Having the access to what people think and feel in the target market, helps to ensure that I’m building a product that people actually want.

I’ve been testing incentivising surveys in a variety of ways, and using both Facebook and Twitter ads to give them a bigger reach. Yet still, I find my survey responses dwindling.

On the one hand, I think perhaps I have been premature in opening a conversation with these people before building a solid relationship with them. And on the other, I think, ‘premature’? – really, it’s never too early to start talking to people!

I guess what you get when you merge those two ideas is that – yes you should be out trying to talk to the right people as early as possible, but don’t expect too much from anyone early on. It’s a bit chicken and egg. But hey you have to start somewhere.

I’m going to make it one of my goals to get good at collecting research from people like this, because I think it’s absolutely crucial to building a good product, and a company that people care about. And vital to the achievement of that goal is ensuring that it’s a give and take relationship with the customer. If they’re helping me, how can I help them.

That’s it for now folks! And if you have any thoughts on the above, or tips for generating survey responses, then do let me know @beankind.

Have a great week.

The Cult Against Complaint is live…!

Recently I blogged about an idea I had for a new project that would give people a platform to say thanks more. Because I think our activities both on- and off- line seem to be so bogged down in complaining all the time, I wanted to do something to encourage more people to voice their thanks. That’s what the Cult Against Complaint is for.

It doesn’t mean you can never complain again. If you need to have a whinge, you go for it. Just be sure to say thanks when a thanks is due too. It’s about balance.

And your thank yous don’t have to be limited to people you know, live with, work with or are related to. It might be a random stranger who helped you today. Or someone you served you in the coffee shop. Or a busker in the street. Or a bus driver. Or a teacher. Or your boss. Who knows.

The fun of it is we encounter so many people in our daily lives, there are many opportunities to interact with other humans throughout the day. Maybe you too could be encouraged to perform more random acts of kindness and find yourself a recipient of a little thank you here and there.

I imagine this to be an online version of the shoutouts page in the Metro. But of course, you can use it to thank friends and family too. Like a shoutout on the radio on your mum’s birthday.

Heck, I’d even say, if you’re feeling underappreciated, like you haven’t been thanked for your contributions lately. Then let us know, and we’ll send you a shoutout too!

This is after all the Cult Against Complaint: We’re giving thanks where thanks is due.

Want to check it out?

Website: https://cultagainstcomplaint.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/saythanksmore/
Instagram: https://instagram.com/cultagainstcomplaint/

What do you think? Love it, hate it? Totally indifferent. Let me know @beankind.

Demystifying

Recently I blogged about the panic I landed in once I’d hit the goal of launching my MVP. Which way to go next. It appears I am in what a lot of startup founders dub, the phase of working out what exactly it is your business is doing/offering. And it’s a foggy place.

After a lot of procrastination, I decided that to help demystify it, I’d try some reverse engineering. Write the pitchdeck first, then build to it. I suppose that in a way this is akin to writing your business plan, a quantified vision of how things will work out in an ideal world, but this approach feels somewhat more nimble and flexible. It lends itself more easily to being chipped away at, polished and redirected as I go.

Putting it together has been a hugely valuable exercise for me, particularly with regards to achieving clarity. Clarity around my goals, and the opportunity at hand, as well as the plan for moving it all forward – including identifying the biggest challenges, coming up with ways to mitigate them, and prioritising the next steps. That last point feels especially poignant being at present a team of only one.

I’ve also been thinking of ‘year 1’ as an exercise in ‘what I want to learn’, and ‘year 2’ as a pencilled in plan conditional upon those learning outcomes. Pitching this to myself as stuff I want to learn rather than just stuff I need to achieve feels much less dictatorial and more engaging.

The exercise also helped me to shape the product further, and refreshed, and refocused, my energy in driving it forward. It’s definitely an exercise I’d recommend to anyone else experiencing the same thing.

New Idea: The Cult Against Complaint

In the age of using a myriad of social media sites and websites like TripAdvisor to publicly shame companies who have disappointed you, however valid such accusations may be, I wonder if we take as much time over saying thank you when a thank you is due.

Is there too much entitlement around a job well done, and perhaps too many short fuses around unexpected shortcomings?

And with floods of fake five star reviews around the internet that have been purchased by sellers, how can we even trust a good review when we see one?

Does praise have to be limited to the company as a whole, or can it be an individual? Does the individual even have to be attached to a company, can it be a local hero?

Can we do a little bit more to give praise to the unsung heroes of our day to day lives? From the barista who makes your coffee in the morning just right, to the street busker who adds beautiful music to your commute – maybe we could take 5 seconds out to say thanks.

I’m thinking about setting up something very simple. Just a Twitter page perhaps, where people can send shout outs for the unsung heroes of their day, whether they’ve provided an excellent service from within a business or not. And the account can just retweet those messages of praise. It’ll probably have a website with a blog to capture a weekly summary of heroes.

Oh yeah, and I’m thinking of many this a local effort. Bristol heroes.

The Cult Against Complaint is the first punchy name that comes to mind, but is it maybe a bit too aggressive for an account that dishes out praise? What else could it be called….?

Startup hack: Why I’m writing the pitchdeck first

I wanted to start this blog for two reasons. First so that anyone out there who’s also thinking of learning to code – particularly with the intent to ditch the day job, build a product and launch a business – can come with me on this journey. My hope being that it will give you some courage, confidence and camaraderie to take the plunge, in addition to the forewarning to skip any of the mistakes I make! And secondly as a record in time for me to look back on in the future.

With that said, my post today is about why I’m writing the pitchdeck first, as a guide to build towards.

My plan from the beginning of working on dodoodem, was to launch an MVP as soon as I could (development may sound rapid when I phrase it like this, but bear in mind I was coming from zero knowledge of programming outside of Codecademy), and then once live, I could use it as a foundation to build on, collect feedback and set the course forward.

It took me about six to seven months to build version one. And with a clear picture of what I wanted to build, it was a relatively simple act of grit to get down to work in making that happen. In fact, it is incredibly satisfying to have done those initial mock ups of the web app in Illustrator all that time ago, and to see the web app bring those images to life. Taking something out of your mind, onto paper and then into something that works, is an amazing process.

I had been very excited about getting to the point of launch. Ready for the next big bout of brainstorming and creativity to design the next steps forward. But what actually happened, was I got to that point, went away for a week (a friends’ wedding in Italy was perfectly timed, followed by Glastonbury), and when I got back, I panicked.

With so many ideas and options of things to do, only one pair of hands to achieve them, and with little evidence to shed light on which, if any, is the right way forward – I did start to feel a tad overwhelmed.

That’s when a thought occurred to me.

I used to work in a corporate finance firm for midmarket owner-managed businesses, and one of the first things we’d need to do with clients before going to speak to potential investors was to put together their pitchdeck. The solid argument for why this is a great opportunity, a high level outline of the plan, a quantified market size, the challenges and risks, the team… all that good stuff. And oftentimes it would be very hard to come up with a cohesive narrative that made sense because the thinking was being done in the aftermath as a rationalisation of the journey so far.

So I thought, what if I make the pitchdeck first – not as a state of how things are right now – but an imagined view of how my ideal pitchdeck will look in 3 months. Then use it to work towards.

The general outline of my pitchdeck is: a slide about me (investors want to know who they’re listening to before they do so), the value proposition, the market (who this is for), why the problem this product solves matters to those people, a slide on the product (what does it do and how does that solve the problem), the competition, the right of this product to win (ie how it competes), how it all fits together (market-product-channel-model | brand fit), the key challenges and who they can be overcome, a summary of research conducted so far (to include the key relevant trends), and where we’re heading (the vision and the next three steps towards that).

This document is more for me than for anyone else. But it’s definitely been a very helpful way to get unstuck, and to achieve clarity and focus. As well as to honestly review the potential of the idea. What could it be if it wins versus what would make it fail and how could that be overcome. This feels better than wishing on a star.

I’m hoping the vision outlined in the pitchdeck will be just like the initial mockups of the web app I did a few months ago, a reality soon.