The 7(ish) Day Startup, Day 1: ‘The Idea’

I’m on holiday (in Croatia, see slightly smug photo above) at the moment but because…

  1. I have a sickness where I’m still thinking about business stuff
  2. I like to read on holiday
  3. I have a little time in the apartment every afternoon while the baby is asleep

…I thought I would work through the exercise of doing Dan Norris’ (@thedannorris) excellent The 7 Day Startup book.

Yes, I say doing and not reading because I’ve already read the book once.

However because I have a problem where I like to read excellent business books (including The 7 Day Startup) and promptly do little or nothing with them, I thought it might be novel this time to actually work through all of Dan’s great suggestions and not just some or none of them.

Also I’m going to cheat and probably allow myself a little more than seven days to launch (sorry, Dan) because (excuse alert) I’ll be travelling a lot around the time when according to the book’s schedule I should actually launch.

Not that I expect a stampede of customers (a few would be nice though) but for those people that are smart enough to sign up / buy whatever it is I’m selling I would like at least to be close to a computer when they do so, so I can make the whole process (for them) as smooth as possible.

Excuses aside then, I’m officially back in the office on Monday 7 July so my goal then will be to launch on or around then. Certainly not six months from now or never.


So my first task is:

Day 1 Task – Brainstorm a bunch of ideas and evaluate them against the checklist. Chose the idea that stands out as the best option for you.

I’m sure Dan wouldn’t mind if I repeat his checklist for determining a good idea for this purpose (and I recommend you buy the book if you want to follow along with everything I’m doing), which is:

  1. Enjoyable daily tasks (/ passionate about growing business)
  2. Product/founder fit
  3. Scalable business model
  4. Operates profitably without the founder
  5. An asset you can sell
  6. Large market potential
  7. Taps into pain or pleasure differentiators
  8. Unique lead generation advantage
  9. Ability to launch quickly

Now again I’m cheating slightly because I’ve already got a few ideas, not necessarily good ideas but ideas so I’ll weigh my existing ideas (some half started) plus any new ideas I come up with against Dan’s criteria and pick one.

I’m not going to spend more than one day / 24 hours on it though because as Dan says:

If you only spend one day on your idea, you’ll be more open to changing it if it doesn’t work out.

And in the past I’ve definitely been guilty of obsessing solely on my version of the idea above any indicators to the contrary.

Here are some of the ideas I have / had, considered against Dan’s criteria:

DesignToWebsite.com

Yes, this website is already live and it’s a website where people can contact me with a Photoshop design and I will turn it into a WordPress website for them.

So isn’t that already a business? Yes, it is.

But as I’m not sure how scalable it is (most of the time it’s me doing the coding), at least at the level of personal service I like to provide, so abandoning that as a scalable startup idea I I thought why not instead teach other people (coders / wannabe coders) how I turn designs into websites via DesignToWebsite.com

For a one off charge or monthly fee (I prefer monthly fee but if it’s teaching a process it’s probably realistically more a one time purchase) I could create a course they could take which tells them how to do it

Let’s see how it weighs up:

  1. Enjoyable daily tasks – Yes (1 point)
  2. Product/founder fit – Yes (1)
  3. Scalable business model – Yes to a degree, but probably not a recurring (0)
  4. Operates profitably without the founder – I could hire someone to replace me in future but it would probably just be me (0)
  5. An asset you can sell – Probably but not for a huge amount (0)
  6. Large market potential – WordPress is the biggest system for powering websites in the world and lots of people need designs converted (though less people want to be designers) so I’m going to say yes, but not a massive yes (0.5)
  7. Taps into pain or pleasure differentiators – Not really, I’m not sure how many people wake up one day and think I want to convert designs to WordPress websites, perhaps people doing this already that want to get better? (0)
  8. Unique lead generation advantage – if people have a good experience they might tell others, but it’s not an inherently viral idea (e.g. Facebook, Hotmail etc) (0)
  9. Ability to launch quickly – I don’t have all the content ready for a course but to start with I could teach people one on one (0.5)

Total points: 3.5 / 9 (meh)

I don’t think an idea has to be a 9 to proceed with it and I’m not going to let the score be the final decision maker, but this is clearly way short of the idea I’m looking for, at least in it its current form.

ThemeValet.com

I’ve had this idea kicking around and a live website up for it for ages. I’ve even taken some orders for service but I’ve not pushed on with it.

To take a step back, the pain point around the idea is that people buy WordPress themes (off the shelf designs for their website) for $50 – $150 dollars but then don’t have the motivation / knowledge to set up the theme themselves.

(Well they probably will set it up eventually if they have no other option, but they’d rather be doing other stuff).

Also a lot of the time people install the theme expecting it to look like the demo version of the theme they bought but, because they don’t have the content set up to go alongside the theme, it can look like a bit of an underwhelming mess at first glance.

So the idea of this business is that you tell me which theme you bought, you send me your website login details and I set it up for you to either look like the demo or (for more $$$) I add your content / images instead (up to ‘x’ number of pages).

The whole thing would be done in 24 – 48 hours. Let’s see how it ranks:

  1. Enjoyable daily tasks – I do like to help people (really) but given the huge variation in knowledge of everyone contacting me (could be partially offset by some smart on-boarding process I guess) and everyone’s different idea of what the service should entail, I’m going to put this, maybe slightly harshly, as a no. Growing the business could be a lot of fun but while it’s in the ‘me doing everything stage’ I’m not sure I’d absolutely love it (that doesn’t mean I won’t do it) (0 points)
  2. Product/founder fit – Absolutely, I do WordPress stuff every day (1)
  3. Scalable business model – Not scalable in a recurring revenue sense (money coming from the same customer each month / year) but definitely scalable with the right systems in place (1)
  4. Operates profitably without the founder – I can hire people to do this (1)
  5. An asset you can sell – Yes (1)
  6. Large market potential – WordPress is huge (1)
  7. Taps into pain or pleasure differentiators – People already spent money on a theme or hosting, they are busy, they would probably pay someone to do it for them (1)
  8. Unique lead generation advantage – Again, not inherently viral, though of course I would try to blow people away with the service so they talk about it to others (0)
  9. Ability to launch quickly – Absolutely, just me and an internet connection (1)

Total: 7 / 9

An impressive score but to attack the idea for a moment, it’s not a great recurring revenue business like WP Curve (Dan’s startup) so I’d have to find new customers all the time (most people don’t need a theme set up for them every day) and it’s not inherently viral.

The scalability I have no doubt on, it’s a question of can I figure out repeatable system of reaching enough customers at a point where they’re just going to buy or have just bought a WordPress theme.

WPOwner.com

If you know me at all you are probably sick of me talking about doing this idea or a variation of it for so long. Again, yes there is a live website for the idea but I haven’t launched it.

The idea is this: hiring a (decent) WordPress consultant / developer costs a fair amount of money, but because you can do lots of powerful things with WordPress yourself without touching any code, if you just knew what the consultant knew already you could probably go and set up the e-commerce system you need by yourself (or mostly by yourself) instead of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to hire people like me to a) advise you on the best system for your needs in the first place and b) do it for you.

In fact, I got so far along with this idea, I asked people for money (and two or three customers paid over $200 each) at the tail end of last year at a pre-launch stage but for whatever reason I talked myself out of it or wasn’t sure how to tackle it.

I also really wanted to set it up as a recurring revenue business rather than as one off payment but I let feedback from some customers talk me out of it (perhaps rightly, time will tell).

The problem is though I didn’t want it to be another ‘fly by night’ info product / course and WordPress and the ecosystem around it is changing all the time so the content and advice will need to be updated too.

So therefore I do believe a recurring revenue model is better to account for it. Also to flip it on it’s head, people that are nervous about paying a few hundred dollars once might be happier paying a lower amount monthly knowing they could cancel at any time (the challenge is then on me to keep providing value).

The pitch then is this: spend a fraction of what you would pay a WordPress consultant for a few hours of her time ($500, $1000 or more) and instead get access to a whole boatload of knowledge of best practice and how to’s for your WordPress powered business for a fraction of the price monthly.

Enough talk, let’s rank it:

  1. Enjoyable daily tasks – I like helping people figure out something in five minutes that they would’ve spent hours trying to figure out themselves. Really, I get a warm glow (1 point)
  2. Product/founder fit – Uh-huh (1)
  3. Scalable business model – Hmmm. I’m going to say yes, is Treehouse (a ‘how to code’ educational website) scalable? Yes. Then so is this (1)
  4. Operates profitably without the founder – Definitely not to start with, but it absolutely could once it reaches a certain number of (recurring) customers. Again using Treehouse as an example they have lots of different instructors, I could have different people contributing too.
  5. An asset you can sell – Yes, at a decent enough scale (1)
  6. Large market potential – It might seem uber niche and as I discussed in my previous idea, not everyone wants to do WordPress stuff themselves but if you can save / make a lot of money by following my advice then I think enough ‘non-techy’ business owners would see the value, and yes, WordPress is massive (1)
  7. Taps into pain or pleasure differentiators – I think the challenge with this is people think it’s just another info product they buy and never use, but I want it to be more like a trusted guide. Lots of business owners are spending money on their website already though (hosting etc) and developers / consultants / agencies too (many times correctly but many times not realising just how simple it is to do something themselves). Therefore I think that WP Owner can save them a lot of pain and make them feel great too when they feel empowered to do stuff themselves (1)
  8. Unique lead generation advantage – Again, not viral (other than trying to blow people away with awesomeness etc) (0)
  9. Ability to launch quickly – My initial reaction is no, I need to write a lot of content! But as I’ve sneaked into looking at the next chapter of The 7 Day Startup I think I’ve figured out a (fair) way around it. That said I think even half a point is maybe pushing it (compared to Theme Valet) so I’m going for nil points (0)

Total: 7 / 9

A tie with Theme Valet. My thoughts are that it might be a stretch initially to get people to pay monthly for this but I think if I can get people to get some wins / build trust with their website they will start to see the value. Plus, spending a few dollars a month, compared to hundreds of dollars on a consultant when they need one, will hopefully be chalked up as a win by most people.

In terms of getting customers, I don’t have a big existing audience so like Theme Valet it’s probably a question of figuring out the best way to reach people for the business and it may be a case of one person at a time to start with, but that’s fine by me.

My other challenge I think (right or wrongly) is to make it not just another ‘info product’ but I believe I can.


The winner?

Based on all of the above I’m going for WP Owner for two key reasons over Theme Valet:

  1. I think I will enjoy growing the business more (and I’m definitely going to have to work hard at it)
  2. Although WP Owner will have the same challenges as Theme Valet in terms of probably having to add customers one by one to begin with, the difference as I see it with Theme Valet is there is only a very specific moment or moments in the cycle of a business where the service is useful to people. Whereas there are lots of people with WordPress websites that aren’t making the most of them if they only knew ‘x’ at any one time.

To be fair though, I think the one area where Theme Valet wins is it’s possibly easier to have a stronger MVP (minimum viable product) at launch (i.e. me doing everything).

So that’s it. I’ve spent too long thinking and not launching, so I’m going to launch (and if necessary launch again) until I find the best way I can help the most amount of people in a way that works for me and my skills.

As Dan says:

You don’t learn until you launch

so here’s to launching soon.

[Update (28 June 2015): I actually took a slight detour before Day 2, but, if you’re following this chronologically, you can read the article for Day 1.5 next and see what happened].

PS If you’d like to know when WP Owner launches, you can sign up to get an email when it launches. I can’t promise it will work out as the next Lynda.com but I promise I will put my heart and soul into making it work for you.

PPS I’d love to hear any comments you have below.

4 responses to “The 7(ish) Day Startup, Day 1: ‘The Idea’”

  1. Gavin Bell avatar

    Looks great Nick! Really informative post as well 🙂

    1. Nick avatar

      Thanks Gavin, I was writing out all the reasoning for myself anyway and I thought why not just turn it into an article. I also think knowing that I’m going to be sharing my business ‘logic’ publicly forces me to be more honest about the assumptions I’m making (fully expecting many of them to be wrong / need tweaking anyway of course).

  2. Peter Ahlgren avatar

    Very nice and informative post.

    1. Nick avatar

      Thanks Peter, appreciated.

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