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It has been almost one month since I started working in GrowthSeeker.io project, a virtual startup incubator that focuses on generate custom content for the problems of our entrepreneurs in order to accelerate their product-market fit.
In this article, I’ll share the process and tools I’ve used to go from problem to MVP test in just two days and 0 dollars for an entry-level tool for my new venture.
1. The hypothetic problem to solve + the target market
While thinking about the different customer segments and the different problems to solve, we hypothesized the next Job-To-Be-Done to solve for early or technical entrepreneurs, and SMB managers without experience/education in innovation, strategy, and growth:
“I want to… learn innovation, strategy, and growth by myself without spending money and time so I can… help my company grow”
We can add social and emotional dimensions to this functional job:
“…so I can be more trusted by my bosses”
“…so I can be perceived as an expert from my friends”
This JTBD is hypothetically driven from several business situations like:
- “Our company needs to improve the solution to the problem we want to solve in the product X”
- “We have to understand better the problem we are trying to solve in our products”
- “We must find a different business model to make the business profitable/scalable.”
- “Our solution/product/service/business needs changes to be different from others in the market to grow.”
- “Our growth is stacked. We need to bring new ideas and strategies on why, how, and where to grow in the next years.”
A long list of situations related to the JTBD statement can be added here.
A quick summary of this first step:
✅ Tools: Miro, Whiteboard
✅ Target Market: early or technical entrepreneurs + SMB managers without experience/education in innovation, strategy, and growth.
✅ Problem To Solve: they want to learn innovation, strategy, and growth by themselves, not spending too much money and time to help their business grow (or other emotional/social jobs).
✅ Time spent in this step: 3 hours. This time does not account for all the information I have from the research on GrowthSeeker. I am benefiting from knowledge synergies in this step.
✅ Cost: 0$
2. Competitive landscape and compensating behaviors
Before working on a solution, I prefer to have an idea of the competitive landscape to know how other products solve the same problem for the target market, and how the people are behaving to do the job.
If you are a mature company in a mature industry or are developing a complex product, you probably need an in-depth strategic analysis of the industry, geopolitical and economic trends, competition, and other factors.
In our case, we relied on the information from the entrepreneurs we have been mentoring, and the SMB managers we have been working in the past. With that information, we built an attributes map of the competitive landscape with behaviors and products to solve the job:
Is there space for this solution in the market?
It depends if the hypothesis of step 1 is correct, but comparing with the competitive landscape, it seems so. We can build a different product aggregating the best frameworks and articles, about both worlds management and innovation for growth, with better filters, at hand (cellphone app), and cheaper than the 19$/mo that MindTools is charging. The goal is to solve the job almost as well as the self-research (in green color in the image) but more conveniently and quickly.
What about the entry barriers, and how easy it is GrowthStack to copy?
Ok, you caught me. This product has no entry barriers for competitors (the fewer resources we need for the solution, the lower the barrier entries) and is easy to copy. Any other person with his/her own curated database of articles, tools, and frameworks can do this as fast as us. However, if that happens or the hypothesis is not correct, we will still have a useful tool to give for free to our customers, probably helping to improve brand awareness rates, growing lead generation, and maybe increasing the willingness to pay for our consulting services.
The go/no go decision is not driven by building a competitive product and business model. We will try to use it for marketing purposes (or nothing) if it does not work.
A quick summary of step 2:
✅ Frameworks: Jobs-To-Be-Done, Attributes Map
✅ Tools: Search engines, Miro, Whiteboard
✅ Time: 2 hours
✅ Cost: 0$
PRO TIP 🚀 Use the JTBD Growth Matrix to map the competitive landscape and design a more consistent and complex product innovation strategy.
3. A hypothetic solution for a hypothetic problem
To remind you, we think that an MVP aggregating the best frameworks, articles, and tools, about both worlds management and innovation, with better filters, at hand (cellphone app), and cheaper should be enough to test the hypothesis.
I would usually suggest Design Sprints 2.0 to ideate, prototype, and test solutions for the problem(s). In this case, our goal is to test a solution with no expenses and very quick, so we decided not to use Design Sprints and think on a quick no-code solution. It all depends on your decision criteria to use design & ideation methods to design your solution:
👉 Dealing with a problem that is difficult to solve, and you want to excel in solving it? Use Design Sprints.
👉 Just need a good-enough solution + want to be quick testing your hypothesis+problem is not complicated? Use HMW questions
However, if we test our hypothesis right, we should come back to this step and design a better solution with Design Sprints at some point.
In our case, we used How Might We questions to transform jobs, pains, and gains statements into opportunities, and then figured out what features we should add to the app. Then, we’ve researched what good-enough no-code technologies can do with the curated resources that we already had, and we quickly picked the features that fit with the no-code tools.
A quick summary of step 3:
✅ Tools: Miro, Whiteboard, How Might We Questions
✅ Decision criteria to use or not design sprints: Time-To-Test, 0$ Expenses with MVP
✅ Hypothesis: a good enough app with aggregated frameworks, articles, and tools, about management and innovation, with good filters, at hand (cellphone app), and cheaper can help to solve the problem.
✅ Time: 2 hours
✅ Cost: 0$
PRO TIP 🚀 Use Idea Check to check your problem and solution before start prototyping or to develop an MVP.
PRO TIP 🚀 Use Design Sprints 2.0 + Marvel to ideate and prototype solutions for complex problem-solving.
4. Developing the MVP
The first prototype of the app was developed with Airtable. Inspired by ScrapBook we started to build a database with filters and three main screens. Here is how it looks like:
✅ Quick to fill out the fields and maintain the database.
✅ Quick to add/modify/delete fields and filters.
✅ Excellent user experience with filters and tags in desktop environments.
❌ Inconvenient sharing system if you want to lock/limit the access as a monthly subscription product.
❌ Not good-enough user experience in cell phone/tablet environments.
❌ Not good-enough for brand awareness purposes.
Airtable was not exactly giving us what we were looking for the solution:
A database app aggregating the best frameworks, articles, and tools, about both world management and innovation, with better filters, at hand (cellphone app), and cheaper should be enough to test the hypothesis.
After giving a chance to Airtable, we decided to try with the free version of GlideApps. A technology to allow non-coders (like me!) to develop mobile apps from a Google Sheet. I did not have the google sheet ready, but it was worth to migrate the database and try it.
After comparing Airtable with GlideApps for this MVP with our decision criteria, here is our balance:
A quick summary of step 4:
✅ Time: 8 hours + curation and classification time
✅ Cost: 0$
5. Testing the MVP
It’s time to test the MVP and collect feedback. I decided to test the MVP with the most inexpensively way:
- Launching and asking for feedback in Indie Hackers.
- Launching and asking for feedback in Product Hunt.
- Launching and sking for feedback in Twitter.
- Asking for feedback to people I know: business angels + entrepreneurs + SMB leaders.
- Asking for email information to download the app on the web. Once somebody converts, I answer a personal unautomated email sending the link to download the app + asking for honest feedback.
Why don’t LinkedIn?
In LinkedIn, I want to target the SMB audience. For now, I am researching the problems for StartUps/founders. Once I finish this feedback round with the founders, I will explore with SMBs and will be the time for LinkedIn.
What feedback am I looking for?
I filter the feedback, classify it, and convert to actions in two blocks:
👉 Problem feedback: as the research was deep enough, the goal is to take profit of the MVP to gather problem feedback. That means understanding if my problem (Jobs-To-Be-Done, pains, gains, expected outcomes…) hypothesis were right, and the target audience does have this problem(s).
👉 Solution feedback: Usually, this is what an MVP after proven true the problem hypothesis will do. I want to understand if the solution we are designing is solving the hypothetic Job-To-Be-Done.
A quick summary of step 5:
✅ Tools: Loom, SurveyMonkey, email, Zoom (video), Notion (feedback classification for product development).
✅ Pages/Services/Communities: Medium, Indie Hackers, Product Hunt, Twitter, LinkedIn, Substack (for SMB).
✅ People’s feedback goal: Not less than 20.
✅ Time: 10 hours (without classifying the feedback & brainstorm the new features to address the problems).
✅ Cost: 0$
PRO TIP 🚀 Use usertesting.com to test complicated products for specific audiences with documented interviews.
PRO TIP 🚀 Use Landen + HubSpot + headlime.io to quickly develop a good-enough website for your product with an unbeatable quality/price ratio.
Final clarifications on “best” practices
This is a quick exercise relying on my own experience mentoring early-stage startups, having founded my startup in Spain, and working on strategy and other management areas for SMB. My tip is to deepen in the problem research with in-person user interviews and tools like UserInterviews or SurveyMonkey to understand the problem better and confirm or discard the hypothesis.
Being said that, I think that if you have an idea to solve a problem that you have been experiencing, and testing a solution is quick and inexpensive in time and money; you can develop the MVP/prototype and learn more about the problem + solution while testing the MVP on the market to shorten the Time-To-Market like we did this time.
I believe that the NoCode movement it’s changing this lean startup paradigm, and more and more we can compress the phase of problem understanding and solution MVP because it’s cheap in cost and time and having something that works quick helps to our customers to better understand our solution, providing better feedback than with prototypes.
Author: Jose Manuel Bermejo