I did it! I came up with three ideas and wrote a business plan for most of them!
Idea #1: WonderBug
This one came up during my after-run shower, and the value proposition is straightforward: "Create quality bug report directly from your website."
It's the classical "I wish I had this in my old job" product idea, but in itself, it is worthless and what matters is the opportunity and the execution. To convince myself of the product's viability, I decided to write the most straightforward and concise business plan I could.
If you want to read it, here is the PDF version. Such an exercise's value is not the document itself but the question that emerges from its redactions.
In particular, just by forcing myself to write a one-page summary of the idea, I got to answer the following:
- How can I sum up the product in one sentence?
- What is the problem I try to fix?
- Is this problem a real problem or an "it's annoying, but nobody cared enough to google it" ?
- Is there a significant number of customers that could be interested?
- What is the competition?
- What is their price range?
- Why me?
- What are the features of such a product?
Once done with the summary, I scheduled two interviews with former colleagues that belong to my target customers.
I began the conversation very excited and pitched the hell out of my idea, but in the end, I learned nothing from these interviews. I did not get clear answers, and I quickly understood why.
First, I did not get clear answers because I did not have the right questions.
But most importantly, I did not know how to conduct such meetings. I was asking for validation and encouragement, which gave me nothing else than false-positive signals.
Hopefully, I remember I got that book called "The Mom's test" on my bookshelf, and I started reading it. Ouch, my ego took a hit because of how bad I was. But I promise to write a summary of what I understood once I finished this book.
Idea #2: FeedbackHR
This one was not planned at all, but during one of my catastrophic customer interviews, my interlocutor told me about a product that his company was seeking. They had a clear need and already researched existing products but did not find what they were looking for. He even told me that another company he knew was having the same problem.
It felt like a dream! The need was simple and straightforward, I got two promising customers and no competitors to beat!
It was all it took to give me the motivation to write a full-fledged business plan. You can find the PDF version here (spoiler, it's not interesting).
I spent the majority of my time reviewing competitors and made two significant discoveries.
The first one is that having competitors is not a deal-breaker.
Before this exercise, I aimed for the idea that nobody got before me because I thought there was not enough room for two.
Obviously, I was wrong since I found many companies doing well with more or less the same value proposition (sometimes precisely the same).
Even better! The more I researched my competitors, the more I thought that they were, in fact, a tremendous help. Thanks to them, I had a price range, marketing strategies, features, and possible differentiation. It's also beneficial to read various formulations of the problem and solution.
My second discovery was that it's hard to find real numbers about companies. For instance, I was wondering how much sales do these companies made. Impossible to find any clue.
Similarly, I tried to evaluate the market's size and even with a clearly defined customer (in my case, a French IT company with more than 50 employees) but cannot find this data anywhere.
I did not solve this issue yet, but I am meeting one of my advisor this week to address precisely this question.
Eventually, I discovered that my two leads' essential feature was freely available in one competitor's products. That's why I did not finish the business plan. Next!
Idea #3: Chuchote-Moi revival
Let's be realistic and assume that if you are reading this piece, you already know me. If so, you also know that a friend and I created a successful (but not profitable) website that allowed amateurs to publish erotic stories. After a year and a half, we decided that we had enough and shut down the server.
Retrospectively, we were wrong. Most of the time, businesses fail because they did not manage to build their product or have enough customers. It was not our case.
We didn't have a business model (oups).
We were conscious of this and tried to recruit a business co-founder, but you know what is even more difficult than creating a business model? Recruiting someone!
Anyway, the recent success of the Porn Instagram "OnlyFans" made me think about the business model of Chuchote-Moi, and I want to explore this path further more.
And the winner is?
Well, currently none!
Very surprisingly, I could not learn everything I need to know about business in one week (shocker)!
So this week's objectives are:
- Write the full business plan for Chuchote Moi. Whether or not it is a good idea, it is still a great exercise.
- Finish the Mom's test
- Conduct at least three interviews with former Chuchote-Moi users to understand if they still want to use the site.
- Quickly read through "Business Model: Nouvelle Generation", a book I have for a long time now that introduces the concept of Business Model Canvas
- An idea is worthless and what matters is the opportunity and the execution.
- Until I honestly try, I perceived building as the fun part and doing business work as the boring, tedious part. I finally feel like I crossed the bridge and learn to fancy doing some business.
- If you are not motivated enough to work 5-10 hours on a business plan, you probably won't make it as a founder.
- Having competitors is not (necessarily) a deal-breaker but can help you define your target, marketing strategy, features, price range, etc.
- Unless you can talk to an insider, you will not have a clear answer about companies' financial data.
- Talking to customers and get actionable information from them is a big challenge that requires a bullet-proof method.
- Being a solo founder is brutally hard. I am not sure I will be able to do it. That's why I ask for as much advice as I can and spend a lot of time in meetings, chatting with "the ones who know."