Pretotyping — A Way to Test Product Market Fit Very Quickly | by Daivik Goel | Jun, 2024

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Where Magicians and Startup Founders Intersect

Product Market Fit.

Three words that haunt every single early-stage startup founder.

That elusive moment where you hit your eureka, you have found something that hits, and you have conviction that you are building in the right direction.

Whether you have millions of dollars in funding or you are eating ramen while shipping code from your mom’s basement, if you want to build a successful business, you have to achieve some version of this.

Sometimes it takes people years and millions of dollars where they realize in spectacular fashion that the product they are building does not and cannot have it.

This is where the concept of pretotyping can be extremely important early on. It can save you millions of dollars, a bunch of time, your goodwill, and your reputation early on.

But what does Pretotyping mean?

How can we apply it to early-stage startups?

The term Pretoyping comes from Alberto Savoia, a former Engineering Director at Google and startup founder who goes over his lessons from building products at both Google and in early-stage ventures in his book The Right It.

It’s a personal favorite of mine as he doesn’t shy away from the fact that failure is inevitable in startups and that his techniques listed in the book are essentially just ways to optimize for failing fast and iterating.

Pretotyping is a method of validating a product idea before investing significant resources into its development.

You create an illusion, a fugazi, a way to test the market’s interest and gather feedback quickly and inexpensively.

It’s a way for you to double down if you know you have something or fail fast and pivot if you are way off without investing a bunch of time, money, emotions, goodwill, and countless ambition.

So what does that mean in implementation?

Here are some quick, dirty ways of how you can apply pretotyping in real-world scenarios:

  1. Landing Page Test: Create a simple landing page that describes your product or service and its key benefits. Include a call-to-action, such as a “Sign Up” or “Pre-Order” button. Drive traffic to the page through targeted advertising or social media campaigns. Monitor the conversion rate to gauge interest and collect email addresses for potential customers.
  2. Wizard of Oz Prototype: Create a mock-up or simulation of your product that appears functional to users but is actually operated manually behind the scenes. For example, if you’re developing a chatbot, have a human operator respond to user queries as if they were the chatbot. This allows you to test user interactions and gather feedback without building the actual technology.
  3. Concierge MVP: Offer a personalized, manual version of your service to a small group of customers. For instance, if you’re creating a meal delivery service, start by manually preparing and delivering meals to a handful of customers. This helps you understand the logistics, gather feedback, and refine your offering before investing in automation and scaling.
  4. Fake Door Test: Present users with a feature or product that doesn’t actually exist yet. When they try to access it, inform them that it’s coming soon and ask for their email address to notify them when it’s available. This helps gauge demand and interest in potential features or product expansions.

Seems simple enough, right?

While it is in principle, most people will skip this step and go straight into thinking about the logistics for scale or getting resources to build without doing any of this.

Then, a couple of years later, they find out that no one wants it, something they could’ve found out in a mere matter of days rather than years.

Pretotyping is something that a lot of really successful founders have done in the past. Initially, I was going to go over some of them, but rather than spit out examples you can google, I decided to go over some of the ways I have pretotyped in the last couple of months.

Indian Streetwear Brand: Tamasha Apparel

A couple of months ago, I had the idea of creating an Indian Streetwear brand. There were several hurdles with this idea.

First, I am not a designer. I have never designed any clothes. So I have an idea of what I think looks good but no real market validation.

Second, the definition of an Indian Streetwear Brand can be very diverse. It can be Indian Memes, it could be an infusion of classic Indian Design, or it could be an infusion of different styles with an Indian twist.

To go down the rabbit hole, I opened up Canva, created several designs for different collections using templates and AI, created an Instagram Page with those collections, and followed a bunch of Indian-focused pages.

I sent the page to a bunch of friends, family, and random people to get their opinions.

I spent $20 on Instagram Ads targeted towards several cities in North America with a significant Indian population.

I learned a lot in the next week.

I realized very quickly that the most popular designs were the meme T-shirts. The other collections would require me to make significant improvements to the design to gather interest.

I also realized that the meme t-shirts had to be narrowed down even more to target the sub-ethnicity of the Indian Population.

Although I ended up shelving the idea in favor of another idea, in the span of a week, I got several valuable insights which I could have also gotten several months later with a lot of money invested.

Female Founders Dinner

A couple of weeks ago, I got feedback that female patrons really liked my founders mixer as the discussion was focused on their startup ideas rather than just trying to get their phone numbers.

So I had the idea of potentially hosting a females-only dinner for founders and VCs in Toronto as a way to further this.

But, once again, this was based on one person’s feedback.

I needed a way to validate it in the market.

I could’ve spent time arranging logistics, finding sponsors, and going through the whole process to set up the event, only to potentially find out it wasn’t a big enough problem.

Or I could simply put a page on, send it out to a bunch of past patrons of my mixers, and see how many people come on the waitlist.

I could then gauge interest and use that information to figure out logistics as well as future steps.

I assume you know which one I chose.

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