I got over-excited and forgot to validate my idea

February 1, 2020

The cardinal sin.

The first rule of startups: Validate your idea before you build. I didn’t.

No-code can be a dangerous habit.

Prior to my discovery of the no-code movement, my entire life was spent validating ideas.

I would have spent weeks pitching my friends on my “big idea”, creating mock-ups in Photoshop, putting up a fake landing page website, and perhaps even talkingto programmers knowing I didn’t have the confidence or money to ask them tospend significant portions of their time on making my idea.

This discovery meant the only time I would be wasting was my own.

One conversation, three months of work.

A few days after this revelatory moment, I met a kind woman who runs a charity in the north of England which provides breaks, such as hotel stays, theatre tickets,or restaurant vouchers, for unpaid carers, usually those caring for sick family members.

She told me she often gets lovely messages from the carers about the experiences. We discussed how it would be incredible if they could send her short videotestimonials which she could then share with the companies who donated thebreaks.

Emboldened with my latest discovery, I told her I’d see what I could do.

That evening I built a basic working prototype of the functionality I wanted using no-code platform Bubble.io in about 3 hours. Over the next few days I refined it and improved the styling. Within a week, working just an hour or two each night, I had a fully functional web application ready to go.

I done did too much.

Common startup wisdom says I had already done too much. I shouldn’t have started building until I’d validated my idea with more than just one person.

But the excitement of finally being able to create got the better of me. And, if I’m honest, I’d started out to prove to myself I could make something that actually works. The fact that it quickly turned into a functional prototype is a true testament to the creators of Bubble.

I probably should have asked her to try it then. But I didn’t. Unfortunately my initially-simple MVP quickly grew into a feature-rich application. In my head at least.

Fast-forward to January, a good three months after starting, and I was just about happy with what I’d made. It may sound like a long time, but to put it into context, I have a family with a young child and a day job as co-founder of a startup, which really doesn’t equate to much free time.

I called the app Vidpops, a play on the term voxpops. Surprisingly, vidpops.com was available. It might be the first time I’ve ever found a name I liked with a .com domain available.

So what have I built?

Currently, the app does the following:

General user experience

  • Sign-up and log-in, password resets, unique invitation codes, waiting list.
  • Choose a subscription plan and pay via Stripe.
  • Create your company or charity.
  • Add your company details – name, primary contact, phone number, email address, country, logo.
  • Choose a unique URL (for sharing on social media) e.g. vidpops.com/go/yourcompanyname.
  • Customise and personalise your client interactions – the message they get asking for a testimonial, the question they’re asked before they leave the testimonial, the thank you message they get afterwards.

The testimonial part

  • You can share your custom URL in emails or on social media which your clients can click to leave an unsolicited testimonial.
  • You can send customized testimonial requests from the dashboard by SMS or email to a specific client, with a custom link for them to click.
  • When customers click the link on their phone it opens a page in their browser displaying the company logo and their custom question.
  • Android users can record their video straight into the browser page itself. It’s pretty cool.
  • iPhone users press the button to open their camera and record the video that way.
  • The client is then asked whether they want to upload the video with or without consent for the company to share the video.
  • The video uploads to a secure AWS bucket.
  • The thank you page is displayed.
The Android user experience - videos is recorded directly into the browser. Apologies for my face (I'd had wine).

Back on the company’s dashboard

  • The new Vidpop appears on the dashboard. It has the Vidpops logo added to the video! (this bit is really cool and took abit of work).
  • The user can watch the video, approveit for sharing, and also add edit notes.
  • The user can download the video to their phone or laptop for sharing.

That’s all good, but who’s going to use it?

The big question.Where the rubber meets the road. I’ve built something. It’s even got subscription payments. But who’s going to use it, let alone pay for it?

My untested theory is as follows:

  • Testimonials and client reviews are important for many types of business, particularly those in a competitive market.
  • Written testimonials and reviews are easy to fake and therefore are usually taken with a pinch of salt.
  • Videos convey many times more information than text, including tone and emotion.
  • A video of someone talking about a product or service is much harder to fake and therefore much more likely to be trusted.
  • Therefore companies with video testimonials will stand out from the crowd.

Plus:

  • A great video testimonial is worth its weight in gold, but it cannot be manufactured. However, the more video testimonials you ask for, the more you will get, and the more chance of getting an amazing one that brings in many new clients.

Side note: My partner is a filmmaker and received this video testimonial a few years ago. This is what a good video testimonial looks like.

A scattergun approach to finding product-market fit

Given I didn’t do any market research before building Vidpops, I’m adopting a scattergun approach to finding product-market fit.

My criteria for the market:

  • Must have a product or service offering that clients/customers will feel passionate about.
  • Must sell to a young enough demographic that is accustomed to recording selfie videos (or at least not averse to it).

Markets I’m trying:

  • Wedding photographers
  • Personal trainers
  • Yoga instructors
  • Instagram sellers
  • Online teaching
  • Charities
  • Events organisers
  • SaaS products

I’ve contacted friends or acquaintances in all these areas to give them free beta testing accounts and will seek feedback from them in a few weeks.

Want to help?

If you think your business fits the criteria, or just if you want to try it out anyway, please get in touch. I’d be happy to include you as a tester.

Otherwise please subscribe to my newsletter to see how my experiments go. I'll be posting more about my progress with Vidpops and other projects.

 

I write about no-code tools and the people using them to build profitable online businesses.
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