When a missed flight is not a lost opportunity – the birth of a product

“If you never miss a plane, you’re spending too much time at the airport.”
George Stigler, U.S. economist

shutterstock_59317648In my case it was more a combination of a traffic jam and an invalid ticket that caused me to fly to Madrid a day later than originally planned. Most people would consider this a nuisance. For me it was a gift.

The most valuable gift of all: free time.

Here a full day with unallocated time.

When this happens my little black idea book comes out for a review. I decided to use this extra time to take some baby steps for a new product idea. I settled on a personal pain point I’ve been having for a couple of months.

Whenever I create proposals, plans or any kind of non trivial document I end up taking a corporate template and then start copy pasting from existing documents and hopefully end up with a useful starting point. I still haven’t started writing the actual document yet! Definitely something that can be improved on, right?

The main venture I work on (WhatAVenture) is all about improving and simplifying the way to develop business models from ideas just like in this case. Even though this is “just a small product” I’m approaching it the same way I would approach a much bigger idea.

In our approach which is very lean oriented I need to start by testing some of my basic assumptions. Specifically I must ask myself: Am I “normal” or not? I’m not talking about talking to a psychiatrist, but rather is my painpoint something that is unique to me or are others out there that have the same problem. I’m not going to write a single line of code before I at least know that I have a handfull of early beta testers that can’t wait to try it.

1. Problem

Let’s begin with defining what my painpoint is in detail. While I’m writing this I’m automatically creating a set of assumptions. These become the hypotheses I have to test!

Small businesses (<50 people) create proposals by copy pasting elements from other documents. This approach costs time (time for creating the basics of the proposal takes about 50% time of creating a propsal) and causes errors (at least 1 recognized error per 10 proposals).

Notice how this is formulated as a measurable and testable problem hypothesis. I could start to test this by simply talking to potential customers. Then again I want to work somewhat efficiently, so I will also describe my proposed solution but I must take care to always ask about the problem first.

2. Proposed Solution

A hosted service that manages a toolbox of document elements to create proposals in Microsoft Word.

This is keeping it simple for the beginning. A click and point solution for creating new proposals for the dominant technology in the small business space. (Strictly speaking testing this will involve testing if Microsoft Word is still the dominant player her).

Armed with two hypotheses who do I ask? I’m going to also go ahead and propose a primary customer group (based on my problem hypothesis) which gives me an idea of who to ask for feedback. The customer group may also be wrong, so even if my feedback is negative, I have to ask if need to change my customer group.

3. Customer Groups

The hosted solution solves the problem for small businesses (<50 people).

Introducing easydocs.co

Granted it took some time to come up with these definition, but it didn’t take up all of the 12 hours that I had just gained. So where did I spend the rest of my time?

In addition to in-person interviews I created a landing page with some basic product mockups. This is an approach a lot of bootstrapped entrepreneurs and other startups (should) take. It gives me something to point people to (if I can only reach then async), people may pass it on by themselves (free feedback from other sources) and if I want to test via ads I’m prepared to do so. A little investment for a lot of options..

So all that’s left is to walk out the door and start talking …

Check back for updates. (Or go to easydocs.co and if you have feedback send me a message.)

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