This week we all took a day away from our usual tasks of building GoSquared, and built seven new SaaS companies in a day.
Sounds unrealistic, and well, we didn't exactly incorporate our businesses, or all have fully working products. But, what we did do was get into the mindset of a group of people we haven't entirely focused on before. We made ourselves feel the pain, the nerves, the excitement and the momentum of those early stages of starting a new project.
It was signing up for your own product, on a pretty extreme level.
We learnt a ton about ourselves, our ideas, our ways of working, but most importantly: we understood how GoSquared truly felt and looked for people just setting out on their journey.
So here's what happened.
9:10 am - Your project name and one-sentence description needs to be posted in the Slack channel
9:30 am - Launch day Kick-Off
2 pm - You need to have a shareable website
4 pm - You need to have shared your website publicly with potential users
5.30 pm - Present what you have done today and your learning from the experience
We all managed to get something live. A website shared publicly, and a linked GoSquared account. These projects came from personal pain-points, interests, or even a couple of pre-existing (but very early) side-projects.
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The fear of sharing.
For some of the team sharing their project online felt like the most daunting part of the task. Alongside people not wanting to pay for products or tools in this early stage, sharing publicly was the top blocker in the team.
Some of us were lucky to have had previous experience posting and engaging in public spaces. Our CEO, James, being the most comfortable with this form of public speaking, while others on the team never tweeted or posted online before in their life.
Here's some of the posts we made right here on IH (after a few nudges):
The importance of momentum.
Another thing we all bumped into, around the time of the post-lunch slump, was a loss in momentum. Every single dead-end we hit was another thing slowing us down and, frankly, making us less enthusiastic.
The morning was full of drive forwards to get our ideas started and put them live, but once we hit roadblocks, this energy did begin to fade.
The most common dead ends we ran into were:
Having to pay for a product to do 'anything good'. As one of our team wrote to the slack channel, in all caps: "WHY ISN'T ANYTHING GOOD FREE!?". Paying for tools is not an issue long-term, but it emphasised the importance of demonstrating value to the customer before asking them for money (and yes, enter your card details to be charged later counts).
Having to stop and think "what do I do now?" We noticed this within our own product. Being unestablished, once we got into the GoSquared platform and had only one site visitor - ourselves - we were limited with the amount we could continue to do within that tool.
Delays in responses. Those of us who had larger personal audiences, or who were more regular users of communities and forums found that their posts received comments and feedback quicker. For others, waiting for their post to gain traction became another "what do I do now?" moment, and emphasised the importance of finding a small, targeted audience.
Insights to our own product.
We didn't go into this day expecting to find new businesses to build. In fact, that would be quite counterproductive to GoSquared if we did! One of the key outcomes of the day was getting insights into how our own product works, from a wildly different perspective from what we're used to in our day-to-day jobs.
We tried to pretend like we didn't know our way around the product. Limiting ourselves to only using the features that would be obvious if this was a 'first look' and, even, acting clueless in our own live chat support.
The experience of doing this was so incredibly valuable, so much so that we are considering making this a twice-yearly event.
Our biggest learnings, insights, and thoughts about our own product from this experience are:
We'd like to unify the features in the platform. The different aspects of GoSquared felt disparate to use as a brand new user, and that made us miss really useful features that were tucked away in a corner.
We should make so much more use of our empty states. For this specific use case of a brand new project, our dashboards look...empty. Seeing a tiny number of site visitors on your analytics dashboard, and a lot of space for yet-to-be-created data was one of the momentum dead-ends. If we integrated our Blog, all the knowledge and guidance we have in the team, and some 'now do this' direction, this would have felt very different.
I hope these lessons are interesting or useful to you! And please let me know if you decide to do something similar with your own product.