As an entrepreneur you must get to hear the fact that your startup is your baby and when you give birth to a new born, you are careful when it comes to who gets to cuddle and play with the baby? We believe when it comes to startups, absolutely!
As with a new born baby, do you go all out and invite the world to hold him/her and play around? Aren’t you extremely careful as to how and who comes close because your baby means the world to you and is a sensitive creature?
We believe the same psychology applies to product startups with an added connotation that every product startup from the day it is born is kept in ICU with the chances of death “VERY, VERY HIGH”
This is why we believe that before inviting the world to come and test your product it is extremely important to have a limited set of real target users use it and help it become stronger and mature enough to face the rough and tough world.
Here are the five things we learned by doing an invite only beta from November 2015- February 2016:
Invite your users
A lot of times entrepreneurs fall into the trap of thinking that the moment you announce the product via social channels, users will come in hoards. Most of the time, it is not the case.
At ShotPitch, out of the 1000+ startups who expressed interest to be a part of the alpha, we had invited only 15 of them after taking phone calls/Skype Calls/ Meetings and everything possible. This was done to make sure we set a quality standard on the product and also there was no expectation mismatch. The bigger task was inviting investors to be kind and experience the product during this time. After writing to 300+ investors, we had 40 of them on board mostly from Silicon Valley and India and the rest of them are in pipeline right now.
The point here is, at ShotPitch we knew who our users are, and went all out to invite them one on one. In most of the cases that is how it is, and if you don’t do manual on boarding in the initial days, it is going to be very tough to match expectations of your unknown users!
The only job of the founders and team during the time your product is in beta is to keep listening to each and every thing your customer is saying. The more you listen, the more you will be able to narrow down whether the product solves what you want to solve. One of the hard things to do as an entrepreneur is to remain calm and humble when you hear un-favorable things like “This is a piece of crap, I am never going to use it”. In these scenarios, keep your ears wide open and see how many users are expressing the same concern, if it is majority of them, then there is something wrong with the product. If it is few and far in between, then relax as trust us you can’t satisfy 100% of your users 100% of the time.
Listen, note down, discuss, build and then listen again. You cannot be in a position wherein you integrate and build everything your customers are saying, if you do that then you are sure to make your product confusing. Don’t try to please everyone, be open to suggestions discuss with your team and implement the most important and desired features.
When the first version of your product comes out in the market, although the entrepreneur thinks that each and every aspect of it is perfect and will work like a charm, it is seldom the case. A lot of times, there is so much of assumption ingrained that it is hard for real people to digest what exactly it will do for them. Haven’t you seen products that came out because there was something fancy happening in the founders head and when it came to real people no one understood why to use it?
When in beta, it is important to realize and have an open mindset to accept the fact that your product might get completely thrashed or will require consistent iteration. If your first few users are not telling/asking for things to be built on top of your base product, then either they don’t care or don’t like the product, both are bad for you as an entrepreneur.
At ShotPitch, we came out with the product after months of research and understanding of the ecosystem, and have been consistently going back to the drawing board for iterating as both the startups and investors have loved our base product and they want to help us build the next version 🙂
If you are looking at satisfying 100% of invited users 100% of the time, then trust us you are going to have a tough time arriving at a point where your product works 95% of the time for 90% of your target users. We had our fair share of invited users who felt, it didn’t make sense to use ShotPitch and we took their feedback and suggestions in good spirit.
Had we gone out chasing them and trying to to make them stick around, then we would have lost the other 95% who are a fan now.
Know your goals
When you go into private beta, you have to know what you want to achieve. Is it because you want to test some basic features and expand from there? Is it to test PMF? Is it to spark viral growth? It is important to know what the goal is because if you don’t, then your alpha/beta might keep extending and you will have no idea when to stop and take the next step for your product.
At ShotPitch, we had targets in our minds when it came to the number of interactions we wanted to enable between the invited startups and investors. When we crossed that mark (and way beyond), we knew that there is PMF and had validated every assumption we could have made.
Remember that your child is in ICU and can die any moment. It is your responsibility to make sure that you handhold your child and make them become a part of this world in a gradual manner, where it is ready to face the cruelty and brutality around 🙂
We just came out of emergency and our child is doing well. Becoming the second most voted startup from India on Product Hunt is a testament to the fact that it is healthy. Oh and did we miss to tell that the parents aka Founders are healthy and happy as well 🙂