7th Wee: How to Keep from Becoming Overwhelmed

•February 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Seventh week and we continue our journey. We have thought that we will feel so lonely without this blog. Thanks for the great response, for commenting and taking the time to follow our journey. Last week we share about our pitfall with the technical side of the company, we have not find the right one and so we continue recruiting, and so if you know someone with entrepreneurial spirit and technical savvy, let them know about bigpocket.

However, there were things that could not wait. We wanted to create our website for the longest time, but between validating our customer hypothesis and recruiting a new member for the team, the website project was left behind. This week we decided not delay it anymore.  Early on the week, we hire a great web designer that helped us with the project. Now our website will be up and running. We will provide links to it on twitter.

While building a company, there are thousand things you want to do plus another thousand you need to. Between all the tasks and milestones it is very easy to become overwhelmed.  We believe that a startup is like a baby and it needs to have good foundations to be able to stay up once it grow.

Here is what we are doing to keep from becoming overwhelmed.

·         Defining short term goals:  On a start up at the end of the day it is very clear what the team is trying to reach (to build a company). However, it is very important to define the small steps that need to be taken in order to achieve those goals. Meet at least once a week to set goals for the week.

·         Measuring ourselves: the best way to learn is to analyze what you have done. For us having this blog has helped us a lot because at the end of the week we need to look back and look deeper into our actions. Ask yourself a question, could this get done better? Have a couple of metrics only.

·        Communicating with each other: Communication is very important to make sure that everybody is on the same page. Beside our weekly meeting, we constantly  chat with each other about what we are doing and how we feel about our progress on the week. It has helped us a lot because we have a better understanding of what others are doing and we can identify mistakes early.

Now, we have more great news to share with you. Early on the month people from GetYourBizzSavy contacted us to invite to have our blog on their website. These were great news for us because we will be able to share our journey with more people. So, we earn our minute of fame and just wanted to celebrate with you. Besides this journey you can find interviews and good articles of other entrepreneurs too.

We are challenged this week to review our hypothesis validation, we will let you know what came out. Stay tuned. Have a great week!!

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6th Week: Building a Strong Startup Team

•February 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This is our sixth week! A month and a half has passed since we started this project. Sharing has been a great way to learn, when things go wrong, you have to accept it to write it, or it will not come out. Embracing failure is not just words, you have to feel it. This week had its ups and downs, but overall these experiences helped us to analyze what we were doing and look for ways to improve it. In a Startup you have to maintain your own energy up every day, every week.

This week we were recruiting. Not only because we continued recruiting people to validate our hypothesis, but also because we are looking for someone to join the Bigpocket team and help us with the technical stuff. We thought we will have the resource available but it did not came true, when we need it. We are solving this issue subcontracting a person, but we know it will take time to find it and also we will have to spend time to find the right person. So, our lesson learned is to make sure that you have your resources 100% commited to what you want to do. We see at least 15 days of loss time due to this issue, we are replanning to make sure we do not have the same problem in the future.

That is why we believe working on a startup is not a glamorous job, it takes a good stomach to be an entrepreneur ( Tough Truths About Being an Entrepreneur)

As one of our co-founder says, a startup is like a baby. It needs a lot of attention and dedication to be able to grow. When recruiting people for a specific job the HR department would creates a job profile and the characteristic needed for the job, but when recruiting someone for a startup these process goes above and beyond.  Not having a strong technical skilled partner on the team has definitely slowed us down. However, we prefer to take our time to find the right person.

Our hypothesis validation still in process, finding people willing to share their thoughts is not always easy. However, perseverance is the key element. This week we were having troubles finding people to interview, and we were not sure why, lack of planning we guess. We were doing the same things we did last week, and compared to last week we were not having any progress. For that reason we decided to implement new techniques to find early adopters, and they worked, fourtunately!!

·         Find the forums where people from your target markets hang out: Forums are great place to find early adopters to interview. Since people are already discussing the topics you are interested in, it is very easy to interact with them. Post comments and create a connection, then ask them for help a high percentage of the time they would be willing to help you.

·         Personalize your emails: If you are sending emails to recruiter people, make sure to personalize every email. People tend to replay to emails more often if they feel the email was send specially for them. Sending a general email to a bunch of people may help you to send it faster, but would not give you the same results.

·         Try twice before giving up: People are busy and they may not be able to get you call or replay to your email. For that reason it is very important to keep track of the people you have not been able to contact and keep trying.

Perseverance is a key element while working on a startup. As someone said last week Success = iP^2 (ip square) where i = intellingence and p = perseverance.

Finally, we will appreciate your help, we are going to start releasing some stuff soon, and will appreciate that you spread the word out to all of those you know that like to cook, save money and do not like to sacrifice quality. Thanks again everyone who had read our blog, leave us a comments, and/or helped us on our hypothesis validations, all our love for you!!

5th weeK: How to Build a Product that Solves a Real Problem

•February 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Closing our fifth week and we are very satisfied with the results we have had so far from our interviews. Although we got a bit cranky by the middle of the week, due to the lack of metrics we had. We decided to do a post-mortem every Friday and to define two to three metrics that can inspire us to move forward on our process.

Once again we want to thank everybody who has participated in our hypothesis validation process. This week we did a good number of interviews and schedule more for next week. This process has been an eye opener for us. Every interview is different and we can see that some of the hypothesis we started with have taken a different direction. It is too soon for us to decide if a hypothesis is valid or not, but when to know that enough is enough. ( Building a Company with Customer Data by @sgblank) However, this interviewing process has helped us understand our customers better. Our validating process still in progress, we want our early adopters to be the ones that define our product. Friday we had a meeting to review our hypothesis, some were added and other modified. We know that our final product will be very different from the one we had on mind at the beginning of this project, and we are ok with that.

This week we came across the MVP (Lesson Learned by @ericries) concept. It is a great idea and we believe it fits our startup model. At the beginning we all got very excited and started brainstorming and planning what we wanted to create for our MVP. We started planning the features and how to get early adopters to test it. Then we realized that we were creating an MVP based only on guesses and not on real customer date. We decided to wait until we have more information from our future customers, and bring them an MVP designed from them and not from our guesses. When being on a startup it is very easy to get too excited with an idea and start building a product without a solid base.

From our own experience here are some tips to help you avoid getting too excited:

  • If you start thinking on features instead of problems you are on the wrong direction, step back and focus on problems first.
  • Always remain yourselves that your hypotheses are only guesses/opinions. Only until you verify your hypothesis with real customer data, your product may be solving a problem that does not exist. It will have a high probability to fail.
  • Be patient: as Steve Blanks (@sgblank) mentioned on his book, the customer development model looks like circles. You will find yourself creating your hypothesis, realizing that they are not valid, and creating new ones. This will go on and on, but persistence is a key elemen
  • Recognize that your final product may not look the same as the one you started with: every time you modify your hypothesis, you will be modifying your product hypothesis too. At the end of the process you may end up with a completely different product, but it is fine because this product will be solving an existing problem.

We are still recruiting to participate in our customer hypothesis validation process. We basically want to have a conversation to talk about what we think is a problem for you. If you want to help we will enormously appreciate or if somebody you know wants to help let them know and contact us at (bigpocket2009), we will love to chat with you.

4th week: How to Start Validating Your Hypothesis

•January 25, 2010 • 1 Comment

This is our fourth week, time goes fast, and many things happened last week. We would like to thank all of those that have been willing to talk to us and help us discover your life. Going to the supermarket seems to be an intimate, very personal and relaxation activity. Is it not exciting getting into the life of others and being able to help? We are finding it super duper fantastic. We love to help.

There are lessons learned this week that we would like to share with you. When we started our recruiting process to validate our hypothesis, we had no idea where to begin. We knew which kind of people we wanted to interview and we had a well elaborated list of the topics we wanted to talk about during the interview. However, the big question was: how are we going to find them? The only thing we knew was that we needed a lot of people and we needed to start as soon as possible. We decided to start with friends and family and go from there. This is common sense, you go to your closest connections and to the ones that can help you improve on your content and techniques. But, we wanted other people outside our closest connections, perhaps go to level 3 or level 4.

Based on our experience, here are some tips when recruiting:

1.       Start with friends and family: They are the more accessible people and it will help you get familiar with the process.

2.       End you interviews asking the person to help you recruit others: After thanking them for their time ask them if they could refer you to a couple of their friends. It works 80 % of the time and speeds your recruiting tremendously. They make an introduction and then when call them your are already Mr. bigpocket for them. When you interview and they like what they hear and the interaction they will do it.

3.       Ask people who are following you on twitter, facebook, bloggers, and members of internet communities: Even though we recommend start with friends, it is important to have a wide range of people to talk to. The internet is a great source for this. Recruit publicly, people interested will let you know. Appreciate it, recognize it. What they share is gold for you at this stage.

4.       Follow up your interviews: It is important to keep an open line of communication with the people you had interviewed, send them a thank you email and invite them to check your blog, website, and twitter. It is important to spread the word early on, it will help you with early adopters, they will soon be knocking at your door to see what you have for them.

When validating your customer hypothesis, most important is to get into your potential users life to understand them, to have a conversation and it is amazing how people share when you come with a connection intention. Well it sounded like a rhyme and it is what happen. You are there to hear and to be-friend, remember they could be your users and they will make your startup.

One of the reactions we found early on last week was that, when we told people this was an interview they were expecting us to ask them close ended questions or ask them to give us a range from 1 to 10. Event tough we refer to this process as interviewing, what we really want is to turn the interview into a conversation and let them express how a day in their life is.

At this point we have a concern, which is: when to stop on validation and re-iterate. Hopefully we find that out from the experts in customer development process @sgblank, @ericries, @danmartell.

Appreciations to all of those who voted for our startup logo. Also to all the people we interviewed and to all of those who will be chatting with us this week. Good news on our web domain, we solve the problems choosing some more generic domain name and one with a twist mybigpocket.com and grocerylovers.com. Not the ideal, but a step forward.

Learning from our last experience we bought these two domains before finishing the meeting. We wanted to make sure not to make the same mistake twice. Our website is not up yet but we are working on it and it will be up next week.

We have not finished with the interviews, we are still looking for people who like cooking, like or dislike going to the supermarket, uses a smartphone and would like to help a start-up.  If you or any of your friends meet any of these characteristics, contact us (bigpocket2009@gmail.com) we will love to get in contact with you.

For all of you out there, we have been receiving excellent feedback and greetings about our start-up diary. We will continue sharing each time with more to share with you. Feel free to make any comments, good or bad, we are learning and anything will help us to get where we want to. For you that are working on your start-up we are sure you will find interesting opinions from others and tips that will help you one step at a time. See you next week!!!

3rd Week: Learning from our Customer Hypothesis

•January 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Third week of our journey, stamina is still up due to surprises and learning experiences. We continue working on our customer hypothesis, as soon as we get to what is called: A Day in Customer life, we get stuck. First, we created the hypothesis based in our own experiences as grocery shoppers and the problems we face. What turn around was unexpected. When we started this project we had a problem and a solution to it. However, while brainstorming our hypothesis, we realized that our idea of a problem may not be the same for our future users.

Now our goal is to find out what are the real problems that our potential users have. We want to be able to understand how it is a day in our customers’ lives .

We are recruiting possible users that could help us validate our hypothesis (If interested please contact us at bigpoket2009@gmail.com). We want to prove our hypothesis with real customer data, and put aside internet surveys or other kind of metrics as recommended. Even though it has been hard to find people to interview, we believe that there are early evangelists out there that will be willing to help us. Now our job is to focus on finding them.

From a real startup
Your hypothesis is based on opinions, yours and your co-founders’ . You want to turn that into facts. And it seems that facts are not enough. You need to dive deeper.

We are trying to solve a “problem” that all of us experience when deciding, executing and living grocery shopping. We interviewed a couple of people this weekend, as not being experts on this model we are learning and executing at the same time. Here are some tips when interviewing:

1.- Ask open questions
2.- Do not try to complete answers
3.- Do not influence answers
4.- Never talk about features
5.- Accept all the information the interview provide, new question will be discover
6.- Set your mind in discovery mode
7.- Turn your interview into a conversation
8.- Have a list of topics you want to touch but be open to changes

Some findings:

One of our fist question was: How often do you do your grocery shopping? When we created this question we were looking for a number. Based on some statistics, we found that people do their grocieries twice a month. We wanted to check if this was right. When we asked this question it turns out that they shop at different supermarkets for different products, and the time range changes. They will normaly go the the supermarket once a week, but mostly to buy perishable products. However, They will buy more of their cleaning and canned food at a membership warehouse club located on a city close to their hometown. Even tough it takes them one and a halfh hour to get there. They do not see it as a problem.

As you can see, asking the right question will lead you to unexpected places, which is good because you want to get there.

While discovering

We believe that if we build a stronger internet presence, it will be easier to find future users to help us. To do that we have two goals for next week.
These goals are: create our website and record a video pitch to show who we are, and what we are trying to do. For our website our first idea was to use bigpocket.com as our domain, but this domain was already taken. Although it is not being used, we have not been able to contact the owner. We did not worry about checking the domain before deciding our name, big mistake, at least it is early to make a move.
This is definitely a lesson to learn for future projects. Even though it is not a big deal, it was definitely something unexpected. However, we will not let it slow us down. We are already thinking about other creative domain for our website, and we will let you know as soon as it and our video are ready.

While recording our pitch video.

We tried to record ourselves giving our bigpocket pitch, but we found kind of lost. Is this really a problem our target market has? Good question, then we decided to go back to customer discovery.

Bloopers to be posted later, you will laugh about us 🙂

Now, it is time for all of us to get out of our offices and start meeting more potential users. We need about 50, help us ModernMom, Blogher. Some of our team members already interviewed some people, and we all are very excited to see what other grocery shoppers have to say. We want to learn what we do not know about them, and start building our start up from there. A different one from what we though, maybe.

2nd week: Creating the Product Hypothesis

•January 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The bigpocket journey just started, and we are very excited with the path it is taking. Our first goal was to get every team member on the same page. Therefore, our entire team is reading “The Four Steps to the Epiphany.” As a result we are having great conversations at lunch time, and a bigger picture of the customer development model. It is well known that, the best way to understand something is to look at it from different angles.

Around the same time we started this blog, we also created a twitter account. Our twitter community has been growing and we are very excited to see that entrepreneurs, supermarkets, moms, people who enjoy cooking, and others are following us. Last week we got some ideas for possible bigpocket logos, but we straggled to choose one. Since we want our followers to be part of our start up we decided to let them decide. A twtpoll was create and we are just waiting to see the winner logo. You can also help us voting here

We just finished the product hypothesis and it is great all you learn following the model. Creating the feature list and product benefits was easy, but not the Total cost of adoption, where some subjective data must come from future users, therefore we will need to generate conversations. Next week we will start recruiting future users that would like to help us to validate our hypothesis, enhance and drive our design. If you know people that like cooking, frequently go shopping and is (passionated about) technology please refer to us, we want to chat with them. Our email is: bigpocket2009@gmail.com

We did some research on our own and found several internet communities, such as Modernmoms, blogher, culinate, and momsloveshopping, that target some of our future users. Now our goal is to join their communities and start interacting with them.

We had an interview with one potential engineer/partner that may join the company, we will make sure to celebrate when that happens and let you know.

A Startup Diary

•December 30, 2009 • 1 Comment

At BigPocket, we are a group of entrepreneurs who want to share our experiences in building our start-up. Our idea is to create a product that will help man and women, between the age of 25 to 35, to help them have a better grocery shopping experience.

You, like me want to save money and want some help when buying. With the changes in the economy, and the creation of new technologies the supermarket industry is changing, and we want to be part of that change. At the beginning we just had the idea of the product, and a lot of “facts” about our future customer. At that point we were not ready to start and decided to mature the idea/concept. Then, one of our team members make us realizes that our start up wasn’t based on “facts”, but it was based on guesses and opinions.

He was reading the book: “The four steps to the epiphany” wrote by Steven blanks. We are following the costumer development model created by the same author. His book motivated us to get out there and understand our market. Right now we are in the very first step of this model. We are generating our hypothesis and trying to figure out ways to prove them.
As David Weekly pointed out cleverly in his presentation, we do not really know where are we going to end, but we are excited for this journey. Stay with us, I am sure you will laugh and learn a lot.

As entrepreneurs we know how difficult it is to start with a new idea. It is even harder because we do not have others to relate to. We all thought it would be great if we knew about other entrepreneurs and their experiences on building start-ups. For this reason we want to share our experience with you. If you are building a startup anywhere in the world, follow us. We are going to share all our obstacles, challenges, and success with you. Get on board with us and experience how to start building a startup.