Self Assessment of First-Time Startup Founder

On 20th April, we launched a publiс beta of Lini – a tool to perform batch operations on Linkedin contacts list. The first version of Lini worked as simple as this: it collected your connections from Linkedin and allowed to apply various filters to them, so that it was possible to create customized segments (e.g. CEOs from Internet industry in London) and then export data on users and send messages all at once.

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The history of making

The idea came to me in October 2014, when I was working as a Business Development Director for a startup and using Linkedin extensively, I needed a tool for reaching my professional contacts in different industries, locations and positions smarter. The basic functionality of an app was ready by the end of October, I started using it by myself and then I was suddenly hit with a though, that someone else might have the same problem as I do, and I should try make the tool public. I collected some initial feedback from friends and experts, but was a bit demotivated by the lack of enthusiastic feedback, also faced problems with finding a technical co-founder, who would be dedicated enough, and decided to give the project a pause.

Lini was my 4th idea already: previously I already participated in Hackathons, applied to accelerators and collected initial feedback on 3 more ideas, but all of these times I was receiving too much negative feedback from advisers and had problems with finding a technical co-founder, so I gave up before even creating a working prototype.

This time I was more determined to at least launching a public beta, so in couple of months I stumbled upon a Facebook post of a friend of mine, whom I knew for more than 2 years, where he was looking for a new project to take part in, and I told him about the idea. We decided that we’ll launch an app and test the hypothesis fast – whether someone will find such tool useful as well or not.

The results 

Recently Lini hit the milestone of 600 registered users who have on average 1000 professional contacts, got featured on Product Hunt and received positive feedback from influencers and early adopters from Reddit, Hacker News and tech communities on Slack.

Product Hunt:

75 upvotes, 8 comments

Hacker News:

25 upvotes, 8 comments

r/startups Reddit

24 upvotes 28 comments

Screenshot 2015-05-05 21.29.01

But although we definitely got some results, we were not sure that these results prove that the direction we’ve chosen was right.

We came to the point that in order to decide whether to move Lini further or not (and where to move) we need to create own assessment system, which will help us to make the right decisions.

We got inspired by Mike Michalowicz  book “The Pumpkin Plan” and his advice that in order to grow your product to a big company, it’s important to constantly weed out the losers (negative comments and too demanding customers), who don’t really bring value to the product and focus on the most important customers.

Assessing the experiment

Although we got so much positive feedback from our supporters, sometimes we realised that people were just too positive about supporting someone, and they didn’t even check the product. So not to become over optimistic, we were always proving the positive feedback with metrics, and making as detailed personal interviews with our best customers as it was possible. One of the great success metric for us was a viral factor: some of our influential users made a great effort of evangelising Lini and sharing it with their large community.

Screenshot 2015-06-08 18.35.40

Screenshot 2015-06-08 18.37.40 Screenshot 2015-06-08 18.38.10

We really enjoyed getting constructive feedback about the product from users and influencers who were manually targeted and known to have a huge network, since it confirmed that they were indifferent about the solution and the problem really bugged them.

Critics that we considered non-constructive and didn’t assess our results upon it was feedback with just negative emotions, too much biased to previous experiences or failures, which didn’t help us to grow.

We were a bit overoptimistiс about reaching out influencers and getting their immediate feedback and response, some of the people, who we thought would be very enthusiastic about our project, just didn’t response, even considering that we were connected in social networks. Although we were counting on their support, some of them were just not interested enough, and it’s ok.

We collected every feedback that we got in Trello team board so that we can get a full picture. If we got a suggestion for a new feature, we created a new card for it, and features that were mentioned most of the time were given higher priority in our roadmap.

Thanks to the approach which we’ve chosen we were able to prioritise our roadmap and make a small pivot from our initial solution based solely on Linkedin. In the next version, we’re planning to ship the features that our most valuable customers wanted and focus on improving their satisfaction from the product.

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