Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?
Hi, my name is Nick, and I'm the founder of IdeaCheck.io.
IdeaCheck.io validates startup ideas by automating the process of gathering feedback from the idea's target audience. We generate a questionnaire based on the user's idea, and within 24 hours they receive a report on the idea's viability. In addition, we benchmark those results against all other idea evaluations that we've done so far, so our clients get a feeling for whether their idea is actually valuable.
We started building the site in mid-2016, and since then our revenue has grown to around $1500/month.
What motivated you to get started with IdeaCheck.io?
I'm always full of ideas and pester my friends for feedback, so at some point I ran out of friends who would put up with my constant stream of ideas.
Having studied statistics at university, I also knew that something called "interviewer bias" is at play when asking friends and family: Your friends don't want to disappoint you and will thus rate your ideas more favorably than they would if the same idea came from a random stranger.
Also, it's highly likely that your friends aren't actually in your target audience. Of course it's still valuable to hear their feedback, but whether your target audience cares about your idea is a crucial insight for which your friends' opinions aren't a good substitute.
A lot of startup books suggest building a minimal viable product (MVP) to gauge initial interest, but I would start even before that. Time is your most valuable resource — don't spend any more than necessary on something that you don't even know is actually viable. However, you need to find out if potential customers are excited about your idea.
At first it seems easy to whip up a survey on SurveyMonkey and send out emails, but I soon realized that a) identifying people in my target audience is hard, and b) getting them to reply to my survey is even harder. I thus built a platform to solve my own problem.
Another advantage of using a platform such as IdeaCheck.io instead of building your own survey is that we have a vast trove of existing idea evaluations, which we use to compare each new idea to. This means that instead of just receiving a rating of 3.6/5 for your idea's innovativeness, for example, we also tell you if this is a "good" result or not. In addition, we've had clients who used the report to increase their credibility when talking to early investors in the absence of early sales figures.
What did it take to build the initial product?
In the beginning, the site was just a glorified "contact us" form, and I manually created the surveys from the submitted ideas using an external panel provider.
As orders grew, I automated the questionnaire creation process using the API of a professional consumer panel. The panel allows for fine-grained targeting by age, gender, country, and language. I was able to bootstrap the development of the platform and spent weekends implementing the automation algorithm.
Did you use your own platform to test the idea for IdeaCheck.io?
Of course! Well, not the actual platform, because it didn't exist yet — initial validation before MVP, remember? 😉 But we applied our validation approach to the IdeaCheck.io idea, and the feedback was positive.
It's of course a rather niche product, but I think everyone has had the experience that they have a business idea but don't know whether it's worth pursuing. We offer an easy and cost-effective way for those who are serious about wanting to test the idea within their target audience.
What strategies have you used to grow IdeaCheck.io and find customers?
I posted the site to ProductHunt and Reddit and got 5 orders in the first week from these two channels alone.
From time to time I post answers on Quora when users are asking about ways to validate their startup ideas. With Quora, it is important to provide some solid, high-quality content that directly pertains to the question, rather than simply posting a link to your site, which will (rightfully) get downvoted into oblivion
When you're actually answering the question, rather than simply pitching your site, Quora can be a valuable traction channel that is currently under-used and, maybe best of all, completely free!
I'm still experimenting with paid search ads, which is of course a powerful tool, but one that requires fine-tuning to prevent overspending. We're working our way through the different marketing channels outlined in Gabriel Weinberg's excellent book Traction to see how well each channel converts.
So far, we've identified three main target groups for IdeaCheck.io, namely startups wanting to validate their assumptions, investors wanting to make sure that the startup they're investing in has a sound business idea, and larger companies wanting to test new product ideas. Each target group requires a different marketing approach, and I'm still working on finding the ideal channel for each group.
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How does your business model work? What's the story behind your revenue?
We offer three tiers, which are mainly based on the number of respondents that will provide feedback for the user's idea. They range from 25 respondents in the smallest package to 100 in the largest. 25 respondents give users an early indication if they're "on to something", but a statistically reliable/valid result can only be achieved with 100 respondents. Most users choose the 50-respondents-package, followed by the small package, and we use PayPal to process the payments.
Our internal expenses for each order vary by the requested target group — the panel provider charges more for a very specific group such as "females, age 25-30, Mexico" than "all genders, age 15-65, US".
Since our launch, the site has seen steady revenue growth to the current amount of $1500/month.
What are your goals for the future, and how do you plan to accomplish them?
My goal for the next two months is to build an interactive results dashboard where users can see new responses as they arrive in real time. The dashboard will include the ability to privately share your results and export them as a PDF.
On the business-side, I'm planning to tap into the corporate market by trying a direct sales approach. Small and medium-sized companies could use the tool to rapidly test new product ideas to get an early indication of where they should be focusing their energy.
IdeaCheck.io certainly isn't a replacement for extensive focus group tests, but it's a great way to cheaply test a larger number of alternatives.
What things have been most helpful to you so far? And what's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?
My co-founder and I both have PhDs, so coming up with a standardized questionnaire around the user's idea came naturally to us. For example, it's important to ask questions that will allow you to actually judge whether your idea is worth pursuing, such as, "How often are you facing this problem" rather than "Have you ever faced this problem". Ask what price your target audience would judge as "too expensive" rather than what they are willing to pay for the product — of course everyone wants to pay as little as possible!
One aspect that is often ignored when first starting out but that seems to be paying off for IdeaCheck.io is translating the site into different languages. The site is currently available in English and German, and I'm planning to add Spanish and French in the next few weeks. After translating the site (without adjusting our marketing efforts), we saw a noticeable uptick in growth from Germany. Even though nearly everyone in Germany can speak English, it seems that making the user feel at home can be helpful for growth in local markets.
Lastly, I would recommend Zero to One by PayPal founder Peter Thiel, as it is both very motivational and contains hands-on advice.
Another great read is David Kadavy's Design for Hackers, which is a must-read for developers who handle everything from coding to design in their own projects.
Where can we go to learn more?
Feel free to reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org! I'm also available to answer questions in the comment section below: