Growth May 23, 2020

When do you throw in the towel?

Brent Smith @smithgeek

I launched my latest project a week ago. I've had a decent number of visits to my site(at least for me) , but nobody has signed up for a free trial yet.

I'm not giving up yet, but that got me thinking. When do you decide it is no longer worth the effort to pursue an idea further? Does anyone have a good metric they use? How many visitors should I have to know I have a good selection (I know quality of visitors matters too).

  1. 4

    I have two trains of thought on the topic.

    1. If its a startup (by my interpretation of the Y Combinator definition) then it must have the potential to grow fast, SaaS, there is a market and there is a popular problem (without having to explain it to the market). I have done a few of these and canned my last 3 because the response didn't justify my 'numbers'

    2. If its a business (growing the traditional way) starting from business plan to 'regular' business.

    My metrics where simple because I did start my own business (#2, Consulting) and only have part time availability for my current SaaS startup idea (#1). So here are my [shut it down] compass...

    1. I canned it because there was no pre-existing market (or a confirmed hidden market) of 1m people (aka, is the problem popular). Early on I was trying to force a square through a circle.
    2. I canned it because I realized I was making a solution for a problem that didnt exist yet.
    3. I canned it because the space was too tightly regulated (.gov space)

    Fast forawd to today I have made a huge stride by addressing the issues (specifically the 3rd one). I researched how the .gov space moves, buys and uses SaaS. Now I am well on my way to hopefully quitting my traditional job and running a SaaS startup fulltime. (fingers crossed)

  2. 3

    Throw in the towel when you run out of ideas for how to make people sign up. Best way to not end up there is to ask for feedback from potential users (here for example) and analyze behavior through full story / hot jar. As long as people are telling you what’s wrong, you should be good to keep iterating.

  3. 2

    If you're talking about Clientportals, I would install Hotjar on that and take a really, really close look at what users are doing once they get to your site. Alternatively you could recruit some testers for some 5 second tests, or one-minute nav-path walkthroughs.

    My hunch is you either have a bit of an audience mismatch or a messaging issue.

  4. 2
    1. Low conversion or interest
    2. Trying different ways to present the product didn’t help with #1
    3. Re-analyzing the problem or solution and realizing there is no market or existing solutions are enough
  5. 1

    Hello Brent!

    Having clear metrics is a discussion to which I never got an answer. Even as part of the YC online thing. So, it all depends on what your projection for the business is, but before that, let's discuss other things.

    1. I am not sure whether you already built something or you are testing the waters. In any case, counting the number of visits to your website only helps to validate the keywords you used. If you are attracting people from, say, reddit because of a post you shared, then you know there is an audience that resonates with those keywords. But, having an audience does not mean having a market. I shared a post to my personal blog on Hacker News that got me over 10k visits in less than 12 hours. But, I don't sell anything on my blog. I, however, untapped a topic that resonated on a specific community. Now I know how to address that particular market if I ever want to.

    2. Once you have some people visiting your website, you would like to know if they are interested in signing up for what you offer. Since you are just starting, I would remove the pricing and limits. If we are talking about Client Portals, 10/month for 1GB storage is WAY more expensive than Dropbox or One Drive, which may prevent people from considering your service. In this way, you can test three different plans and see what people opt-in for. At this stage, I would argue that the most important thing for you is to collect potential users data, such as their e-mail. It is way easier to know why someone decides to register than why someone decides not to register. Are you in contact with freelancers? Ask them for feedback on your page (no strings attached). So, two paths open:

    3.a) Reach out to the people who signed up and interview them. Try to understand what they saw in your product that was worth giving away their e-mail/phone number. Learn as much as you can from their pain and what you can do to solve it. You can see whether your idea for a product is actually in line with those initial users. Offer them some beta tests in exchange for feedback, so you can polish up and perhaps see missing opportunities.

    3.b) Do the simple ratio of sign-ups/visitors. Let's say 1 in 100 people registered. And getting 100 people to visit your website took you 1 week of promoting on social media, etc. This means that after 1 year at this rate, you would get ~50 customers. Can you survive 1 year until reaching 50 users? Are you running out of money earlier? Out of my post on hacker news, I got 10 subscribers to my newsletter (1 in 1000). All things considered, I am mroe than happy with the outcome.

    The bottom line is deciding why are you building what you are building. Not every idea needs to explode and have exponential growth. Perhaps you are solving your own pain, and regardless of whether people use it or not, you would keep making it better. This is what I do with Privalytics, it has the potential to grow? Maybe, but it is not may main focus, I just work on it for myself and my own needs, but I do it open so I can also see if there is any interest out there.

    Perhaps you just want to work on ideas with an exponential potential, and therefore the best you can do is to validate and iterate as quickly as possible at the beginning. Build as little as you can to test if your visitors are interested. If you see they start piling up, you are in the right track. If they see your site and move away, try to understand why. Is the idea, is the design, is it both? Put yourself clear mental limits on how much you are willing to invest. Once you reach that limit, either you validated and keep going, or you ditch it.

  6. 1

    If you don't have clients lined up for your products or services or if you or your team doesn't know how to do sales & marketing for a decent number of customers before you start, you may want to think hard about starting that business...

    Here is my thought on this topics...

  7. 1

    Well, it took Stripe 1 month to make some revenue...and look where they are today!
    Some projects stay in the dark for many months before making any dollar...

    I think it all boils down to how much passion and money in the bank you got to keep your service running or to pay your bills if you're working full time on your indieproject.

    There's no answer that is white or black. It's all a depends.

    Here's a personal story:
    Co-founder (who is a friend too) managed to convince me to build a health app together.

    We build an MVP, we talk to doctors, they love it, we get some funding...but no one uses the app. I step away calling the project a valuable learning experience but a business failure.
    But...he keeps going...1-2 years pass.
    He's still at it...nothing is coming in revenue-wise...still nobody uses the app.
    At this point, maybe an extra few people on TestFlight have used it.but nothing "real"...

    I think (I moved away in the meantime) he's still trying to find his first real customer...5 years later. He's motivated and he truly believes that he has a golden nugget in his hands. Sadly I didn't believe it as hard as him and moved on long time before him.
    He has passive income so he can keep sustaining his "addiction/obsession" with this app forever...I find it quite a story!