+ About

Apurva Mehta

I'm a programmer and entrepreneur, currently bootstrapping RecordBox. I use this space to write about entrepreneurship and technology.

More about me.

On Fake Landing Pages and Being 'Lean'

In my post last week, I wrote that I intended to build a more complete landing page for my product with an eye toward collecting credit card numbers of a few prospects who have said they would pay for the product.

This technique of trying to collect credit card numbers before building a product is becoming more popular amongst startups following the 'Lean' methodology. It helps validate the hypothesis that a paying market exists for a given value proposition.

However, I am beginning to think that these types of techniques may be applicable to only a certain set of Internet startups. And I don't think that my startup is on that list.

The essence is that my startup is focused on a niche market, is being bootstrapped, and has no intention of taking venture capital. In fact, I don't think my market is large enough to attract venture capital in the first place.

So while being 'Lean' applies to all startups, the specific techniques one uses should be based on the type of startup you are doing. In this post I will elaborate my thoughts on how 'being Lean' looks in the case of my bootstrapping startup.

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The Hunt for a Scalable Channel

I have been trying to find a scalable channel for acquiring potential customers for my startup, RecordBox. The target customer segment for RecordBox is music students. RecordBox aims to provide these students with simple tools for recording, storing, and organizing music. Based on conversations with musicians, it seems like my value proposition has some appeal.

So far so good. The next logical step in developing the business model is to find a scalable channel for reaching these students of music (ie. my target customers). The first two channels I have experimented with are:

  1. Online advertising. My first choice because of its scalability and measurability.
  2. Real-world contacts.

In this post I will share the experiments I have run in testing each of these channels, the lessons learnt, and the next steps in my journey.

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Findings From my Experiments so Far

My folks are visiting me from Mumbai for a couple of weeks and so work on my startup has slowed a bit. However, I did get some results from last weeks experiments. Read on for a summary of what I found.

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My first Minimum Viable Product (an experiment in being Lean)

About two weeks ago I scrapped my original startup idea because it did not look like it could become a viable business. It also seemed too much for one person to do alone. The idea was to build a communication platform for a community of mathematicians.

Since then, I got the idea to build a service for music students which would take the pain out of the process of recording and finding music. After speaking to several fellow music students, it seemed like this idea had the legs to become a business, and so I began to pursue it further. In a couple of weeks, I launched my Minimum Viable Product (MVP), in the true Lean Startup spirit. Here is what I did.

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Explorations in User Experience Design

My explorations in the startup world have revealed that my User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) design skills pretty much suck. So if I am to successfully bootstrap an Internet startup, I figure that I either need to develop these skills myself or partner with a front end engineer / designer.

For a loner geek like me, learning skills seems infinitely easier than finding partners. So I have resolved to try to teach myself what I need, with the hope that I might stumble upon a partner along the way. Here are some of the things I have done to learn about UX/UI design.

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A Change in Focus (or who wants to be a millionaire?)

In the past week, I began questioning the purpose of the journey I have embarked upon. What did I really want from this period of freedom and exploration? Did I want to build a company that would change the world? Or did I simply want to establish an independent and fulfilling lifestyle? Did I want the life of the rich and the famous? Or would I prefer a modest, simple, uncluttered existence which would provide the right conditions to establish a serene, warm, and constantly grateful state of mind?

These questions have been near the surface of my mind for a while, but in the past week I came to an answer which completely altered my plans for my current journey. This blog post is a feeble attempt to capture those ruminations.

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Overcoming Creative Blocks and Entering Flow

This is my fourth week working on my new venture, and I feel my most important achievement was overcoming the resistance that arose when I tried to tackle my immediate goals.

What were my immediate goals? One goal was to define a one-line 'mantra' and a one-paragraph 'mission' for my product. This required defining what the product was about, its target audience, their problems, and how those problems were addressed by my product. Another goal was to design and mock up the first version of the User Interface (UI) so that there was something concrete to work with. These chapters from 37Signals' Getting Real book inspired me to choose these goals.

However, when push came to shove, I got a bit paralyzed. Starting with a blank canvas and making the first strokes was really difficult. There were so many possibilities and so many choices to make. It was really easy to bounce from one half-baked thought to another, and never follow through to produce something concrete. I was in this situation, and I found a way through it to actually hit all my goals for this week.

This blog post is about my experiences of breaking through the blocks and entering a creative flow.

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Some of the Lessons I have Learned Recently

Over the past few months I have been learning a lot about how to tackle the business, product, and development challenges in a web startup. My chief sources of wisdom have been:

  • Steve Blank, who has done great work at defining the business challenge of an early stage startup, and who has a great methodology for tackling that challenge as efficiently as possible.
  • Seth Godin, who talks about the characteristics of products that win in the modern economy.
  • The folks at 37Signals, who have remarkable ideas on how to be highly effective at developing high-quality software for the Web.

In this post I would like to summarize my lessons learnt from these people so far. This summary is as much for my own edification as anything else!

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