Last week, I attended a talk at my university by Marc Randolph, co-founder and the first CEO of Netflix. He gave a ton of great advice about how to start a successful company. One idea that really jumped out at me was: come up with a system for validating ideas quickly. Of course, the entire presentation I was thinking about how to apply these things to pagecheck. I realized a few problems with how I started pagecheck.
Problem 1: I didn’t start with a problem
When I started pagecheck, I thought of problems that people might have, then I built a solution based on what I thought would solve the problems. This was a completely backwards way of starting a business.
One of the biggest mistakes I made starting pagecheck was that I thought too much about the problems people might have. Instead of thinking, I should have been looking for people to talk to so I could identify big problems and validate possible solutions to these big problems.
Problem 2: I spent too much time on building and not enough time selling
The first commit for pagecheck was Oct 23, 2019 and I soft-launched it on January 1, 2020.
commit f66ed719c2c5d78ebbe0c98764ae372ac972e984 Author: Julian Meyer <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Wed Oct 23 12:45:27 2019 -0700 Basic landing page
That means I spent 70 days building pagecheck without any customers or any feedback from possible customers. That’s over 2 months of working on a product I didn’t even know if people wanted.
I think the lesson from this is:
- build as little as possible especially at first
- sell as much as possible
- validate as quickly as possible
Problem 3: I didn’t test enough ideas
Marc brought up a great quote during his presentation by William Goldman, a successful Hollywood screenwriter:
“Nobody knows anything” - William Goldman
By this, Goldman means that nobody knows what will work and what won’t. But how does this apply to SaaS comapnies like pagecheck?
Instead of working on a single idea for 2 months like I did, I should have worked on 30 ideas over 2 months, and somehow tried validating those ideas, before writing any code.
Of course, I don’t know what will work and what won’t, so I need a way to quickly test possible ideas I have without investing too much time into them. If one gains traction, I can start to talk to people and eventually start building.
What am I doing from here?
Clearly, I made a mistake by building for two months before validating or selling, but what can I do now?
Over the next 30 days, I’m going to validate as many ideas as quickly as possible. Of course, it would be awesome if I could just morph pagecheck into something useful, so I’m going to at least start with the ideas that I think are most compatible with what I already have.
I’ll also write a short blog post for each one so that I can reflect on how the test went and what I can improve for each one.
Although I, of course, can’t undo all the work I did on pagecheck, I can get feedback now on products that could stem from pagecheck.
Idea 1: Test flows across multiple browsers
Make sure your checkout form, login, signup all work under different browsers and OS’s.
I’m planning to build a landing page tonight and promote it tomorrow in my next blog post.