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New here: hello and a few questions


#1

Hi there, my name is Tommy and I’m a 26 years old software consultant.

I’ve worked for the past 7+ years as a web, mobile and software developer for multiple small to medium firms here in Québec, Canada. I have a few good clients and a good revenue stream with them but it’s been years I wished I had started a product. I did try my hand on multiple prototypes, a few of them did see the light of day but always were “a solution looking for a problem”.

For some reason, this year I feel like I have enough experience in managing my own life and work to finally get serious about starting a real product. I heard here is a good place to ask question about one-man startups so here I am, nice to meet you everybody!

I’d like to know the best way of validating an idea without having to network too much, I know this sounds lame but I do my work mostly from home and always see the same circle of friends and family, so trying my ideas with them always result to something like “yes sure this is a great idea, you’re a genius!” with whatever I might tell them, they just want to encourage me and I think they’re sweet but I just need straight honest answers without being afraid of somebody building my idea overnight and launching it the day after haha

I heard good things about the Micropreneur Academy, what do you think? It sure looks like a real good way of learning the knowledge I might still miss but I’d like a second advice about it.

One last question, I guess this is asked 10 times a day but what’s your way of finding new ideas to work on? I don’t want the ultimate solution but just your personal way of doing things. I’m always looking to share my workflow with others and would love to learn from others as well.

Ok I guess I wrote enough words now, see you soon and thanks for all your future responses!

  • Tommy

#2

Hey Tommy,

Another Quebecer here!

You might find this quite simplistic as an answer, but in my opinion the best way to validate an idea is to find a customer. By customer I mean someone who’s ready to give you the cash; not your friends or family. Are you able to find customers without networking? (Not rhetorical, I really do wonder if you can.)

Does it mean you might have to develop a product without being sure in advance? Probably.
Unless you do the whole fake website thing… personally I hate the idea.

If someone can build your idea overnight, what value are you bringing? Why should someone pay you?
Also, your customers most likely don’t have the same expertise as you do. Developing the product themselves would never cross their mind.

You say you’ve done work for small and medium firms… is there anything from your previous work that you could ‘package’? Anything that could be generalized and resold as a product/service for other businesses? If one needed it, it’s probable others need it too.

By the way, what product/service are you looking to do? In what domain?


#3

Glad to see I’m not the only one from Québec in here! :slight_smile:

I could find potential customers to validate my idea via platforms like LinkedIn and community-based websites about the specific domain I’d like to get into. But otherwise, finding customers without networking sounds pretty much impossible when I come to think about it.

Did that once, it was cool, got a few emails from people interested in the product I “announcing” but not enough to get serious about the idea (17 emails). I’d rather like to work the product than to create fake pages in the future though, I guess it can be a good way of finding people to build buzz around an idea but like you said:

I totally agree on that point, I shouldn’t worry about getting my idea stolen you are right. I was more talking about online places like here, (when fearing of getting my ideas stolen) but then again I don’t think it’s likely to happen to be honest.

I could think of a few “package” I could resell/reuse but nothing extra-ordinary, I can develop pretty much anything I want technically-wise but the projects I’ve worked on in the past are not my property so I doubt I could simply roll another version with another color and sell it. Yet, I still love your point:

I’ll try to dig deeper into what I’ve been doing over the past years, maybe I could find something I could repackage and get started with.

I think that’s currently my biggest problem right now, I don’t have a well defined domain to work into. In the past I worked on ERP solutions (enterprise resource planning), I’ve worked on a social network for wineries, a service directory for local enterprises, and on a few more technical-focused (tools from developers for developers, i.e. building frameworks in diverse languages, ui libraries, etc). So right now I’m kind of a “jack of all trade” and I hate this because I feel like I need to focus on something and become not just very good with it but become a total expert about it. Correct me if I’m wrong though, this is just how I feel, I could be totally clueless! :stuck_out_tongue:

I come up with ideas almost everyday but they’re mostly already exploited to the maximum (multiple products are using that idea already) or they’re more of a solution looking for a problem most of the time. I’d like to find a good idea to start for a software-as-a-service so I could get customers and enrich their experiences over time so they stay engaged, etc. I’m just feeling like it’s never the good one.

I’ve come up with:

  • content managers to store web discoveries (links, etc)
  • an excel alternative for storing data but in a simpler fashion
  • an app that scan receipts and remote prints them when needed
  • a website with an easy interface to schedule RSVP and call-based reminders for those scheduled customers
  • a mass social aggregator that display all your social info on one page
  • a social-based wish list (with amazon links to generate revenue for what’s wished)
  • a cms as a service (pluggable via an API)
  • a pingdom alternative that takes screenshots of your monitored websites so you see if something is wrong
  • and way more over the years

But none of them really struck me, I built a few of those ideas but never got them out in the wild yet.

Sorry for the wall of text and thanks for your help!

Have a nice day,

  • Tommy

#4

I’m channelling my Amy Hoy here but if you want to build an online product (I assume) why do you think you need to do offline networking? A better approach would be to find an audience online and do your “networking” there (well, really just become part of that community).


#5

First, thanks for responding!

Because a lot of other “entrepreneur” told me so, so over time I started to think the same. Logically speaking, I’m totally agreeing with you. I want to make an internet business, I should use the internet to spread it.

I’ve been trying my best to stay alive in certain communities like Stack Overflow, GitHub, etc but that was more for the technical stuff I was trying to push (node.js framework, librairies, etc). I’m also trying to publish every “package-able” component I can, so when somebody else uses it, it brings more attention to what I actually do.

Domain-wise though, I still don’t know in which domain I’d like to operate into, there’s so much things I like to do and work for. I always thought I’d get that good idea that would push me in the appropriate domain. Any suggestions of communities I could get into?


#6

Here’s a few criticisms. Please don’t take it the wrong way! It’s to test your ideas and your resolve! :smile:

Are people ready to pay for this? Is this for consumers or for businesses?
How would it be better than bookmarks? Notepad with a list of links?
If it’s for businesses, how will you explain the added value? “You will save thousands of dollars, because…”

Baby boomers (mostly) love excel.

Omgz excel can do everything !!!11!!

Many have tried and failed to dislodge Excel. Hell, even free alternatives to Excel aren’t able to make a dent in Excel omnipotence.
If you want a chance at it, you must have a truly unbelievably superior product.

People already know how to use Excel (or at least they think they do…). In the eyes of the user, even if your solution is simpler, it will appear as something new to learn.

Okay, now this is clearly for businesses (great!).
However, I fail to see what you mean by remote prints.
Also, keep in mind that most businesses already have some kind of inventory management. Your app must be able to adapt itself to all these different softwares.

Sounds a lot like @patio11’s https://www.appointmentreminder.org/. He seems to be doing great with it, so clearly there’s a market. You could also probably abuse the Hell out of the law 101 and other stupid French laws to kick your competition out of Québec.

How do you make money? Who’s gonna be interested?

Again, who’s gonna be interested? What do you mean by social? Facebook widget?
Many people have browser extensions placing their own Amazon referrals IDs when the user visits Amazon. This could potentially take a huge chunk of your potential gains.

How is it better than what’s already out there? Can you easily show the added value to your customers? Do people really want an API, or do they prefer a GUI?

As someone having a website, I want to know if it’s down, I don’t really care about the screenshot. Do you know anybody interested in seeing a screenshot of their website?

Cheers!

Again:
"Please don’t take it the wrong way! It’s to test your ideas and your resolve! :smile: "


#7

No worries, I’m totally looking for constructive criticism! :smiley:

I replied to what I consider needed a reply (a few of my ideas really sucked and I can only agree with you on what you said)

I always find myself having trouble to search through my bookmarks, it always end into a very long menu with multiple levels of directories and all browsers lack a good way of looking through them. I’d love to be able to tag them (I think Firefox does it), etc but I also understand that the minute the browser will implement those features, my market would get crushed to 0% and I also don’t think I’d pay for it.

The initial problem was me having to store receipts for warranties at home, it always end up in a huge mess of tiny papers so I thought it would be nice to be able to quickly take a picture of them, identify them and store them for later usage. Ever need one for a replacement? Open the app/software and print the one you need. (remote print using airprint). Small business could use it but I don’t see big businesses use it as like you said they all have inventory softwares like SAP and such.

I agree it’s very similar to appointment reminder, I didn’t thought it was that much similar, went back to check it out and it’s indeed very similar. I know a few business with such system in Québec, having french messages but I doubt it’s a SaaS. Maybe exploiting Québec would be a good idea.

Share wishlist between friends and family members but after coming up with that idea I realize Amazon has that exact same feature :-/

In my early consultant days, I had to monitor a lot of websites that I hadn’t any shell access to setup something to monitor them or change their behavior so sometimes a shitty Wordpress blog plugin would cause the website to fail and the website would still return a HTTP 200 and respond quickly but it was a messed up PHP error or SQL message. So I wouldn’t receive any notifications, wouldn’t notice anything wrong. If I had a way to visually quickly check over them, I would have seen a white only web page and would have understood there’s a problem with it :wink: That’s the thinking behind it, and I would have paid for it big time back in those days.

Thanks again for taking the time to discuss, I could never talk about that stuff enough!


#8

Another idea that I could exploit is:

I developed enterprise resource planning softwares in the past, they’re all huge, needs a big windows server and big clients and costs a LOT. I still have a client that uses my suite of apps (C# .NET apps with a MSSQL database) I could suggest them my next product and offer them a deal to migrate them.

Web based ERPs seem very rare, the only one I found is http://www.weberp.org/ and it sure looks ugly. Inventory mangement, purchase order/invoices management, client management, etc all for web. You own a bicycle shop? Use our SaaS to manage your clients and inventories, etc.

@Frozenlock what do you think of this? :wink: better?

That could have yearly plans, and extras like managed accounts, premium support etc

EDIT: THAT could be a domain to operate into :smiley: Thanks for the help, I’m making progress here!

EDIT2: Here’s the elaborated idea:

Web-based minimalist yet powerful resource planning. Use our software to manage your clients, inventory and purchase orders/invoices.

Use cases:

- Selling video games?
- Need to keep your enterprise's inventory from falling apart?
- Selling bicycles?
- Need to keep track of what you buy?
- Selling stuff on eBay/online?
- You are an artisan and would like to start a local store?

Simple comprehensive interface *à-la 37signals*, responsive design to support all platforms and devices.

Yearly fees, extras for premium support and managed accounts. 

Multiple languages support, available from anywhere at any time. No need for installations, no downtimes, 99% uptime guaranteed.

#9

Hi, it seems like you’re pretty much on collision course with Odoo (formerly Open ERP), both in terms of product (web ERP) and marketing (SMB). Might be a tough place to be!


#10

Again, channelling Amy Hoy: what communities are you already a part of? That’s where you should start looking.

But I’ll shut up and say you should read every scrap of content at http://unicornfree.com/, signup for that 7-day drip email course on the homepage and investigate the 30x500 bootcamp.

I hope it will turn your process around because at the moment you’re coming up with ideas in a vacuum before finding a) an audience that buys stuff that you can reach/sell to and b) what their problems are that they’ll happily pay to have you solve.


#11

Oh wow that’s a pretty big platform, I haven’t done my research homework enough. Thanks for pointing this out.

I started reading her website and also watched a few videos from it, signed up for that 7 day email course, also signed up for Micropreneur Academy http://www.micropreneur.com/ and I cannot wait to start them to get better at this process.

For that last idea I already have a small audience (one client and a few contacts interested in such product), which is why I thought it would be a good idea. I worked in that industry for long and worked with shitty ERPs all-the-time. I’ll keep on refining and absorbing knowledge hehe


#12

I vehemently agree with everything @ideasasylum has said in this thread. Forget coming up with an “idea”. Go listen to what real people are saying online about pains they have. Start with the pain, and go from there.


#13

I found my niche by accident. Got into a field and never left. Similar with you and ERP, I guess, except it sounds like you’ve branched out a whole lot more.

I wouldn’t worry too much about existing competitors. In fact, that’s your validation right there.

That said, if you do go down the ERP route, don’t target video games + enterprise inventory + bicycles + purchase tracking + ebay + artisan. As @tnorthcutt said, you want to find a pain, and ideally, you want to find a specific and quickly solvable pain.

From what I’ve read, the 30by500 approach seems brilliant, and if you prefer not to do one-on-one networking/sales, then it’s a good place to start. For me & my niche, though, it’s high-touch all the way. Don’t disregard the value of your existing client base. If you’ve got an existing client who might be interested in a product, then that’s a great start versus needed to build a new audience or reach prominence in a new community in order to then discover a product.

You know about ERP. You’ve got ERP contacts. Consider an ERP-y product (might be an add-on, might be in a related field - doesn’t have to be a full blown ERP.)


#15

Thanks @danielstudds for this great advice.

People telling me about competitors never brought this point: if there’s healthy competitors, there’s my validation. That’s a good way to start, better than trying to find a domain randomly IMO.

Didn’t think of it that way until I saw Odoo and their dozens of features, it only made me dizzy. I wouldn’t like to shoot at so many directions, but would better like to start small and specific so my initial customer base would help me to refine my product. I still have a lot of work and research to do to find on what to focus but that’s a cool problem to have hehe

It sure sounds great, I registered my email and cannot wait to receive more information to get better at the whole thing.

Again, thank you for the good advice and taking the time to reply. It really help me to keep pushing on my ambitions and to stay focused.


#16

After reading the thread just be careful you don’t consider an idea validated or worth doing just because we decided it sounded interesting.

Go out there and get feedback from real people. Ask how much they’ll pay and get used to taking criticisms and rejection from people. Its the best way to actually gauge the market. :wink:


#17

No worries. Just repeating what others have told me :slight_smile:


#18

Don’t worry, I’ll do more research than simply asking 4-5 people in here hehe. I’m here more for the advice and tips than for doing market research :stuck_out_tongue:

I started gathering feedback and contacting former clients and employers who could be interested in the solution I offer them, so far I’ve had at least one good comment with a few nice advice. Making progress! :smile:

Still have a lot to do though, thanks all for your help!


#19

One thing I’ve been curious about: where to look for pains?

I mean, I read often on Amy Hoy’s blog to research online for pains. But where?

I guess if I want to research pains from software developers I’ll simply go on StackOverflow chat and ask away but what if I want to research pains from artisans? What if I live in a town where there’s not much artisans around?

Do I try to find online forums? Where do I start my research?

Anybody has some kind of online resources for this? Like a wiki of top websites to meet and chat with X kind of people?

I’d love to wait up for the next 30x500 but last one was in April so I guess next one is going to be in a long time and I’d love to get started with research and get more involved within communities to find out where to go from here.

Thanks all!


#20

Try a Sales Safari with Amy Hoy here: http://unicornfree.com/2013/video-sales-safari-in-action


#21

That’s awesome, I haven’t encountered that video on her website yet. Thanks!

EDIT: This place is amazingly bullshit free and filled with nice people, so glad I got here :smiley: