The importance of validating before building
July 2021 Retrospective
Can’t believe it has been a month already, time flies when you are having fun (or fighting CSS to center align a button).
This month was quite busy and did not produce a lot of visible output. I missed the mark on most of last months goals. I went down a rabbit hole after reading some material on the Indie Hackers website in the “Find your first customers” section (links at the end). As I was reading this I realized more and more on how important it is to first validate your idea, which I did not.
We still have no clients and I am okay with that (more about that in the conclusion). I turned away 2 potential clients because they didn’t fit my B2B model. I basically want a few close companies before really putting the product out there, it takes quite a few resources to create a client even thought it is automated.
Their use case was to create a few links a week and that they want it for free. The free part isn’t the issue. I am more than willing to provide it for free if I also get value back from the client using the system and to do that, they need to be actually using it with more than 10 links per week.
On the marketing front:
- I posted to Hacker News and that got a little bit of attention (first lead out of my network). Here is video of what the analytics page in WarpURL looks like that shared short URL.
- Then I posted the latency comparison charts on Reddit in
r/dataisbeautiful, but most people thought it was an add 😐, always a gamble posting on Reddit.
- All of my 5 cold emails failed. These were leads/people that have been complaining about pricing and other related URL Shortener issues, so I was hoping some of them would get back to me, bummer.
- Organic traffic is king, so I am focusing on some articles for SEO.
- Wrote a new blog: World’s fastest URL Shortener
Then I also joined a small group of founders that just has a quick discussion every friday during lunch to talk about anything founder related. This turned out to be really useful, it gets lonely sometimes and to know others are also experiencing the same hurdles is somewhat comforting. Thanks to Code Capsules for leading the initiative.
I might not have clients but somehow attracted the eyes of an investor/partner. I made it clear that I have not properly validated the idea, that we can talk again after product market fit has been established and I am fully confident that WarpURL will succeed. Might also be the start of new adventures with said partner, we’ll see.
My front page had a free review, got some good feedback that I will be implementing soon. I also made 3 new internet friends mainly through Twitter and the Indie Hackers website.
Last Month’s Profit
I forgot to cancel the AWS Support plan 😆 and then a few other services like RayGun for error reporting, Google, ect. made up the rest. Since everything is serverless the AWS bill scales with my usage/clients of which I don’t have a lot of, so that contributes only a few dollars.
Last Month’s Goals
|Get a few early access clients||B|
|Create full feature list on website||B|
|Add new features to WarpURL and fix bugs||A|
Grades: A, B, C, D, E, F, Incomplete
My first monthly estimate was way off, so I only partially completed my goals.
- I created the About Us page but not the rest.
- The website did get some lipstick, I featured the Latency Monitor page and Demo pages as sections that link out and also added a “Solutions” section.
- I finally created the feature that I have been looking forward to for a long time. That is to create a campaign + links with a few clicks in a single view.
- The Latency monitor page got an update. It has a selector to view the avg. of the 5 pings, first or second ping. Turns out WarpURL is quite slow on the first click and thereafter ~10x faster than the average shortener. This will be the topic for the next blog.
- The website was split from the frontend portal. The “hacky” Server Side Rendering(SSR) in Lambda@Edge was removed and the site
is now deployed with SSR to improve SEO and eventually organic traffic.
I also dusted off one of the time tracking solutions I used way back. I use it to see where I am actually spending my time as opposed to where I planned to spend it. This habit didn’t stick, so sorry no time allocation charts.
I took things slightly slower as planned, this coupled with the new problems made for a fun and eventful month.
One minor version increase:
- Campaigns can quickly add new links when being created.
- Campaigns can preview the links it has with basic editing.
- Paging of campaign links
This Month’s Goals
- Write one more blog on “Why & When to use WarpURL”. Turns out the CDN has a caching layer at the POP servers. WarpURL is quite slow on the first click and thereafter ~10x faster than the average shortener.
- Might be narrowing down use cases and abandoning the “Bulk Solutions” use case to just focus on Social/Marketing links for the reasons mentioned above.
- Run a few Ad campaigns.
- Validate product market fit.
When I started WarpURL it was mainly because of a “scratch your own itch” problem, I knew that there might not be a market or a need for the product I am building. I wanted a problem beyond just code, I wanted to know what goes into every aspect of successfully launching your own product.
It basically just meant focusing all that after hour work into a single project, committing for X months and reducing the consultancy I did on the side. This resulted in much more work than anticipated and stress but it is all worth it.
I can not put a price tag on the amount that I have learned in the few months from working on WarpURL. Getting a holistic view of what it takes to GSD (get shit done) is an invaluable skill, I wish I did this earlier.
So I have already won, even if WarpURL does “fail”.
Until I have full confidence that there is a market need for a fast URL shortener, I am going to be reluctant to put in a lot more effort in the foreseeable future and confidently sell WarpURL. That is why the next month will be crucial.
Resource read on Indie Hackers
- The Best Marketing Channels
- Ultimate Guide for Marketing
- Do Things That Don’t Scale
- Case Studies for Finding Users
- A Good Product Isn’t Enough
- Skip the Big Launch
- How to Grow an Audience
- Your First Ten Customers
Indie hacker links:
- I turned away my first potential client because they were not my target market. Did I do the right thing?