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15 Comments

How we failed the MVP of Getlanding

Hey Indie Hackers! I'm Alexey, and with my co-founder Gleb, we're building Getlanding.io, a landing page generator for startups.

We are bootstrapping now, and we have no outside investors or funding yet.

We began our journey on Aug 2021 by making many mistakes, building a useless product solving no problem, and making no money.

We have spent three months building the MVP that is not good enough, and it doesn't truly solve any customer problems. We have zero real customers. The users we did have on closed beta didn't like it. Nothing was sticking. We felt frustrated a few past weeks and didn't know what to do next.

How did this happen?

Problem

Gleb has a technical background, and I have a business development background. We both have experience in launching startups and side projects in the past, but not together.

I handle content marketing and talking to users for Getlanding. Gleb does development and server-side architecture.

While working on various projects, I would always find the easiest way to create a good-looking and fast-performing landing page for launching my new project.

There were always multiple options on existing website builders and pre-made templates, but nothing fit my needs or budget. I had to edit the template, which, after my edits, didn't look as pretty anymore. And it wasn't so easy to nail copy that sounded clearly and concisely. It took a vast amount of time.

Gleb had a similar experience, so we decided to build it ourselves.

Idea

The original idea was to create a self-serve, affordable generator that marketing people could quickly use to generate their landing pages. We wanted to create a digital designer to simplify all the grunt work required to design landing pages.

Most people think of pre-made templates or website builders to build a landing page for their project. These solutions have a learning curve and require copywriting or design skills, which very few people have. We wanted to make an automatic landing page generator: you describe your project step-by-steply, and our solution creates a beautiful landing page in seconds in various designs.

MVP

We started building Getlanding in Aug 2021. It took us three months to build the first version of MVP.

We were trying to build it as quickly as possible to launch, test, and get feedback.

In the meantime, we created content on social media and communities like Indie Hackers, Product Hunt, YC Startup School and gathered subscribers to the waiting list.

Because we were looking to launch quickly, we built a highly generic MVP that was compromised on multiple levels and ultimately did not help our users solve their problems.

Distribution

We didn't start with customer development. We didn't have personal networks we could tap into to get connected with target customers. There was also no email list of subscribers.

We pre-launched our landing page with the "Join Beta" button and collected the waiting list of a totally diverse audience.

Instead of starting from the right audience, we placed great emphasis on our assumptions. When we launched our MVP, we invited some people from the waitlist to try it and give us feedback.

Fail

On the outside, it was pretty simple. Nothing unique or out of the ordinary. But it was not very good when it came to handling customer use-cases.

The product didn't do an excellent job because it had no clear customer profile in mind.

We took the freemium business model approach - we planned to launch a free product, gather customer success stories, then eventually create a paid plan with premium features.

We collected 219 subscribers on the waitlist, invited 86 users to try our MVP, got feedback from 18 of them, talked to 10 personally, and realized that our MVP doesn't solve the problem and people don't want to use it.

People don't like the landing pages they get. They said they expected to see something more than a single-screen site with ugly colors and fonts.

We realized that we got different audiences and we don't understand who is our customers and what problem we're going to solve. That was a fail.

We realized that we know about marketing people nothing. We don't know what problems they have and what they want. None of us worked as marketers.

Most subscribers on our waitlist are startup founders, product makers, and indie hackers interested in trying something new in the website building field. And they are all different people with different problems.

Pause

It was extremely tough for me, and I stopped inviting new beta users and hustling on content marketing to get more subscribers on the waitlist.

We don't have any traction, growth, or promise after our efforts on our part. Thank goodness it happened in three months, not a year of hard work on the product.

Gleb and I decided to get back to roots and figure out our customers and what problem we want to solve.

We looked at what we did and decided the best option was to start from customer development.

Learnings

We need to be honest with ourselves, start by asking the right questions, and dig further to turn things around.

What do we want to make it easy for startups: to build landing pages or full-blown websites? We have to work backward, starting from understanding what customer success looks like.

We decided to analyze popular website and landing page builders extensively and understand what problems we have personally.

We need to have an ideal customer in mind. We need to talk to more people and create a customer persona. We need to find out the ideal customer that we will use to determine decisions for Getlanding. It will take time to understand and focus on the customer use-cases from our learnings.

We have to find our ideal customers and solve their problems. We should talk to potential users. When we have our customer profile, we speak their language.

If we focus on our target customers, our product will fit these customers much better than any other type.

We have to create the best product that we can for our customers. We don't need compromise to go quick. If we're starting from scratch, we should uncover the true use-cases for customers or what's holding them back. It's harder said than done.

We have to be selective with our customers. Our product isn't for everyone, but this works out much better for everyone in the end.

We have to be prepared to spend a lot of time, effort, and self-doubt. Our progress can be slow and steady. There is no single thing that stimulates growth. It's a combination of a lot of different things. We have to hang in there, stay alive long enough to find what we need to change.

Steve Blank says:

"The greatest risk or the greatest cause of failure in startups is not in the development of the new product but in the development of customers and markets.

Startups don't fail because they lack a product; they fail because they lack customers and a proven financial model.

You want to get a product to market and sell it, but that cannot be done until you understand who you are selling your product to and why they will buy it.

The ability to learn from missteps is what distinguishes a successful startup from those whose names are forgotten among the vanished.

Startups should focus on reaching a deep understanding of customers and their problems, their pains, and the jobs they need done, discovering a repeatable roadmap of how they buy, and building a financial model that results in profitability.

Finding the right customers and market is unpredictable, and we will screw it up several times before we get it right.

The nature of finding a market and customers guarantee you will get it wrong several times.

Going backward is a natural and valuable part of learning and discovery."

So we decided to start from scratch, but with customer development.
I hope you enjoyed the story. Thanks for reading and support.

Follow Gleb and me on Twitter.

  1. 5

    Thanks for sharing this story, Alexey. It sounds like you and Gleb have been working hard and learning important lessons. I wish you luck in the next phase of your startup journey!

    1. 2

      Hi Brandon. Thank you for your kind words and supportive wishes. It’s nice to hear that!

  2. 4

    Loved how much you have been hustling last few months Alexey!

    To be candid, I think you have to be honest when reviewing why stuff doesn't work.

    " I had to edit the template, which, after my edits, didn't look as pretty anymore."

    Builders like https://unicornplatform.com/ solve this well. Lots of customers love it.

    " didn't look as pretty anymore"

    This right here is currently impossible to solve i think, what happens when you insert your content is the layout shifts etc, so you need blocks that fit your content. So your customers will need to chose different blocks and i'm not sure AI can figure that out.

    Also customer interviews can be important, but the "best" indie hackers I have seen solve a problem for themselves or a close friend they can ask a million questions.

    P.S.

    I have seen maybe 4/5 landing page builders where the founders tried to do something unique and so far they have all failed.

    Something like JSON -> HTML.

    1. 2

      Hey Volkan! As always, I'm glad for your honest and insightful feedback. I can't thank you enough.

      Yes, you're totally right. I must rethink what problem for myself or for a close friend I can solve.

      Thank you for being honest with me all the time. It's very sobering and helpful.

      1. 2

        No problem, I wish i got better feedback early on.

        There most likely is space in the landing page builder market. But it is getting harder and harder.

        1. 1

          Really? Do you think there's still space?

          Do you think it's something niche, or is it a broad product that offers better performance than the existing players?

          1. 2

            Not sure about the startup space so crowded.

            But for other niches.

            However founder market fit is very important.

            1. 1

              Yes, I agree entirely with you, Volkan. Thanks again for your helpful thoughts and hints. Appreciate it.

  3. 3

    Don't start from scratch. You already have a solid codebase, users, and marketing channels. Just try to create a niche product first. Tweak your product to satisfy only them, then continuously expand the functionality.

    And... you're just doing it for 3 months... and you call it "fail" and want to rebuild everything. Are you serious??? 3 months is just nothing! Don't follow your willing to give up.

    Good luck!

    1. 1

      Hey man! You are right. We mustn't start from scratch. We need to figure out the right problem for our existing audience and build a niche product for them.

      Totally agreed. Thanks for your thoughts! I appreciate it!

  4. 3

    Thank youfo sharing the story, Alexey. All the best.

    1. 3

      Thanks a lot, Atul. I appreciate your reply.

  5. 3

    All the best Alexey Shashkov 👍

    1. 2

      Thank you, Anil! It's very pleasing.

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