Validating Ideas

08 August 2021

To kick the week of, my post on starting the $10k MRR challenge went mini-viral. I submitted the post to Hacker News but it didn’t get traction. So when I submitted it to Indiehackers on Sunday night I didn’t think much of it and went to sleep. On Monday afternoon I was busy with work when my phone started going off. I had people following me on Twitter, people were signing up to my newsletter and people were applying to join the Slack channel.

All told, over the whole of last week, I had ~1000 unique visitors on my site. I went from 0 email subscribers to 61. 134 Twitter followers to 195. And I had over 80 applications to join the Slack channel. Even though these aren’t astronomical numbers I think it’s pretty cool to see how many people resonated with the post. So thanks to all of you!

Now, onto the real work.

I spent most of my week researching and validating my two saas ideas. In case you’ve forgotten them, here they are:

  1. A tool for recruiters/companies to better source software developers they’d like to hire. The way companies currently hire seems to fall into two categories. The passive way: Post job ads everywhere, get a list of applicants and filter to find the one. The proactive way: Actively source candidates that may fit the role. The latter results in better signal/noise ratio but is harder to pull of. Partly because it’s a search problem but also because it requires convincing the candidate that you’re a good fit. I have a few thoughts on how to solve both of those challenges.
  2. Simple tool for assessing cultural NPS. Culture surveys are surprisingly a big market. I didn’t initially grok this but execs want to know team morale and the state of their employees. This is even more true in a remote world. Currently the tools for doing these surveys are clunky and annoying, I think I know of a way to make them simpler, more lightweight and potentially more reliable.

I’ve been validating these ideas by doing three things: 1) researching competitors, 2) speaking to potential users and 3) learning more about the markets. By far the most valuable was talking to potential users and figuring out where their pain points lie. I had 7 calls where I used techniques from The Mom Test to try to dig deeper into the pain points.

Although 7 isn’t a large sample size, there’s a few really valuable things I learned:

  • 6/7 mentioned specific pain around recruiting software engineers that my software may be able to reduce.
  • 7/7 also spend lots of money on recruiting software and/or recruiting firms.
  • Only 2/7 cared about team/culture nps scores. I think it’s due to a size thing. Small companies just didn’t really seem worried about it (that’s the working hypothesis anyway)
  • Only 1/7 paid for software to help with assessing team/culture nps scores.

After these conversations it was clear I needed to dig deeper into the first idea and put the second one on hold. And so I started building a list of prospects (potential users) I could cold email. I wanted to be sure that enough of them would find value in the idea that they were willing to respond positively. I sent out 26 emails in total and received back 6 positive responses. Considering I sent some of the mails on Saturday I think that’s a pretty great response rate.

Here’s the mail template I’ve been using, crib noted from Pioneer:

Hey --

I'm building [idea] to solve [problem]. It does that by doing [x], [y] and [z].

I thought you'd find it interesting because [reason].

Does this seem like it'd be useful to you?

Best, Yusuf

The goal of this template is to spark a conversation. Nothing more. The Mom Test typically advocates against asking people if they find an idea useful (and I agree). But in cold emailing I realised I need to first and foremost get a response before I can even have the conversation about their pains. And this email is short and sweet enough that it lends itself well to that.

Plan for next week

Over the next week I’m gonna try setting up calls with each of the people that responded to me. Through that, I should learn more about their needs which will ultimately help me build a better product. If all goes well I may even start building next week!

And that’s it for this week,

PS: If you’re not already subscribed to get the weekly updates, sign up using the form below. Alternatively follow me on Twitter (@ycparak)