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31 Comments

Is my idea dead or is the market bad?

Hey guys,
so for the last couple of months I've been working on examportal.site, and so far 0 customers. so exam portal is basically an all in one online exam software made for educational institutions.
Although this not a new idea , a new market opened up for this in India because of the lockdown: primary and high schools who have no way of conducting remote exams online securely. I admit we were a bit late, so most of them claimed the free Gsuite version of google classroom and started using forms but it was functional but not secure in a lot ways.
So the engineer inside of us started building it after 1 school in town said they were interested in a demo(rip validation logic :P) . but they cancelled a day before the demo was supposed to run.
And every other school had sort of this similar situation, they were interested at first almost going for a trial then either postpone indefinitely or don't want at all. Usually they give us a reason but when we say we can solve it they just sort bring up a new reason.
Is this a normal market behavior or are my sales skills that bad(yeesh).
We also tried bunch other institutions like colleges and they all say they have a problem but they don't really wanna fix. Coz we were really flexible and were ready to modify to their needs.
So I came to a couple of conclusions but I don't know which one is the right one, help me out with this, please

  1. I have terrible sales skills and I botched every client I went to from the get go (highly probable but I assumed at least one person would sort go for the free 2 week trial at least, literally no one did).

  2. a) The market pain we are trying address is not that big or since classroom is free and ours is paid people rather suffer the pain of the former.
    b) The market is not used to buying software products at all, in fact quite conservative when it comes to tech especially paid tech and almost illiterate when it comes to tech( for which we were willing to provide a 1 week workshop that not only tackles our software but software in general)

  3. miscellaneous stuff: Indian schools wanted their students to write not type so they used google meet to invigilate and google classroom assignments for submission or something similar. Our tech cant really handle this but schools cant consistently keep tests with this trick as its too labor intensive so we added AI proctoring to our tool and tried to pitch, no luck still and they seemed not even care it exists, maybe coz of 2 b). And we targeted those using forms.

So is my idea dead or are my sales skills terribly bad?
Is this idea worth pursuing?(loaded question but try your best)
be as brutal as you can!
Don't have time just reply with 1 , 2, 3, or all.

  1. 4

    Hey,

    First off, I would say don't give up.

    You've obviosuly put a lot of work into this and the product site looks good!

    Are you only focused on the Indian market?

    I would say that larger schools would need all kinds of reassuarance to work with a startup, but smaller schools might not.

    Maybe you could target this at a different audeince? I'm thinking you could try people running online courses that have a test at the end?

    1. 1

      Right now only the Indian market.....we tried smaller schools...they just dont care about the problem...they are usually waiting for govt's order
      the courses thing I'll definitely look into.
      And thanks a lot for the first two liness....really needed it

      1. 2

        I haven't taken a deep look at the product but what I understand is that it's a way to set up some questions, deadlines, mark answers, and update everyone about the success of this activity. There is more to it, but this seems like the core offering.

        If schools don't want to use this because for them, anything new is too complex. I would say think about what other scenarios this functionality can be useful in without really changing the product.

        Pivot the market, not the product.

  2. 2

    There are lots of other good suggestions on this thread, but here are a few to consider:

    1. Give it away for free to some customers (for a limited group, limited period of time). You’ll learn a lot about how they use it and be able to improve the product based on their feedback. Once you know more about their pains, then open it up again and charge customers. If it’s free and no-one uses it, then you’ll need to figure out if it’s because the product doesn’t provide value to those customers OR your product isn’t usable.

    2. Consider a self-service free trial. Let the school run a few exams without making them contact you or see a demo. This will allow them to see value in the product without you needing to get better at sales. Read about Product Les Growth if you try this.

    3. You’re targeting India markets but the product is in English. Is this a problem for either teachers or students who might not be proficient enough in English to feel comfortable using it?

    4. Your hypothesis is that schools who run remote exams care about security of the exam, which means the student took the exam and didn’t cheat by looking for answers. Maybe schools don’t actually care that much about the problem but other audiences might... for instance, what about professional organizations that provide certifications? Recruiters who test candidates knowledge for a job position? Potentially others. There might be a different group that experiences the same problem but not in an educational context.

    I would suggest trying to have as deep of a conversation with people who give you objections. Usually when they give an objection that seems trivial and you can fix, but then they give another objection when you say you can fix the first one quickly ... usually there’s something else they’re not saying. There’s some objection that they don’t want to say to you (eg, they won’t pay money for this solution because free google forms works for them), and they’re grasping at other objections because those feel more palatable. You can try something like “I would be happy to partner with your school and fix these issues quickly to make sure it works well for you, but it sounds like you’re still hesitant—why is that?”

    Good luck!

    1. 1

      i'll give the self sercie trial a shot ....also all the schools use english as their medium of instruction so i dont think thats a problem......i suspected 4 too

  3. 2

    I've heard schools and government are notoriously hard to sell to, due to bureaucracy and having to get every purchase signed off.
    The product looks really good by the way. I feel like the social proof of your first customer will make the subsequent customers a lot easier to land.

    1. 1

      if i had 1 customer atleast trying out the trial .....i could do that...but sadly none

  4. 2

    Try phone calling the school to sell your solution and/or get input and feedbacks.
    then you will see if there is a market

    1. 1

      been there done that...just got me pushed to the "send us the email" zone

      1. 1

        Have you tried Facebook group with professor in india. I guess there are many fb groups like that.

        1. 1

          nope but wont i get banned if i just post my ad there?

          1. 1

            don't post as ad. Just ask for help to test your plateform as beta tester, and then, you will start to get feedbacks

  5. 2

    You need to find someone related to an educational institution and talk to him/her.

    The point is they already established their own workflows for such things and it's always a battle which tool to work with, based on their (usually poor) knowledge of products, market, how secure the solutions are etc. So you need to figure out how you could access them and eventually make them buy your product.

    1. 1

      can explain the related to part??

      1. 1

        Not sure what you are asking about...

        1. 1

          someone related to educational institution?

          1. 1

            Sorry but I still don't understand you. I meant you need to find someone working in educational institutions, especially people making decisions. That's it.

  6. 2

    Exams are a critical aspect of school so would I entrust an unknown to deliver an effective system? Unfortunately the answer has to be no.

    Think about who makes procurement decisions for a school. My guess (and only a guess) is initial interest gets passed up the hierarchy to decision-maker/budget-holder.

    Are they likely to go with an independent when a well-known free household-name alternative exists? Not unless you convince them directly and even then could be a tricky sale.

    Your site looks good though. I am wondering if there is another route or a pivot.

    Is there a reputable company already operating within schools who could be interested in buying (or white labelling) your solution?

    1. 1

      not to my knowledge, the only product they seem to be using is google classroom in the way i mentioned above in my post ...one of the reason we chose this space is cause its new and recently pooped up coz of the pandemic... but ill look deeper to see if there are any....but how do i approach them if there is any.....like cold email and hope they respond? I've never done something like that before...any tips on that?

      1. 3

        Approaching people with cold emails can work. There are tricks you can use to help increase chance of success. But being referred is better. Carries weight. But it is not obvious to me currently what your product offers over google classroom. Is there a killer difference? If not then you will always be swimming uphill. Tell me the killer difference.

        1. 1

          well google classroom has no way of running a timed and proctored exam and have a grading system that keeps track of the of the students score and they can easily manage it

  7. 1

    Hey,

    My only piece of advice is that you should never give up. If you don't like the numbers, just pivot and hope for the best.

    I want to ask you about your tech stack. What are the frameworks and libraries that you used for your project?

    1. 1

      react + ruby on rails

  8. 1

    Why you don't want to try your luck with US or other English speaking countries?

    1. 1

      well i assumed there are alot of players ther already....u think i should try theree....do i go for the schools or teachers and arent the schools opening up there

      1. 2

        Don't think the situation with covid will get any better in near future. Anyway I wouldn't rely on such a temporary thing so much.

        Americans are more open to things like this and they are disapprove cheating. They want fair play.

        Not sure how is it in India but for example if you decide to find clients in my country (Russia) it could be hard to succeed.

        People in schools here doesn't care that much about it. Ever heard about Potemkin village? Teacher can easily leave a room during a test so kids can look for answers so everything would look good on paper. That's what schools care about.

        So I wonder how is it in India. Also as someone mentioned above your clients have to be somewhat open to things like this, especially if your sale skills are doubtful.

        About competition, at least you could try it.

        1. 1

          should i selll to the teachers or to the schools?

          1. 2

            Hard to tell, I would try to contact both groups to find out what's the best result.

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