Testing a company in 1 month for $498 💸
Plus some takeaways from 11 studies with internet strangers
Today I’d like to share how I’m testing my first business idea in case folks get the entrepreneurship itch and want to bootstrap their learning process similarly. I’m taking the next two weeks off because I should: I am completely in control of my schedule, and I don’t owe progress to anyone but myself. That said, it was a hard decision for me to make, given that I’ve spent my entire adult life feeling stressed about time off. I’m ironically the freest I’ve been, yet it took some strong advice from a friend to pressure me to take advantage of it. That’s some good capitalist programming for ya. 🤑
So I’m passing it along: If you have the opportunity, take the time off.
I’ll meet back up with y’all in the new year, and thank you so much for all your support. And if you’re looking for some charities to check out for any EOY giving, my top picks for this year are your local food bank, Give Directly (giving money directly to those in poverty), FairVote (advocating for rank-choice voting in the US) and the Coalition of Rainforest Nations (great ROI for dollar to emissions reduction).
T+11 Weeks Status Update
40 of 50 user interviews completed - A bit shy of my goal, but I decided that quality was better than quantity. After about 25 foundational interviews, I wasn’t getting a lot of new data. I pivoted to recruiting users to test my painted door, pushing my timeline a bit.
Quick Updates & Lessons Learned
11 user research interviews with internet strangers - I’ll dig into this later.
Crypto legal: You get what you pay for - Thanks to folks who sent suggestions for a lawyer. After chatting with several folks, it’s not surprising that you get what you pay for in the crypto legal space. I expect to pay $1500/hr for a veteran crypto lawyer, and I have heard quite a few mixed reviews.
It’s okay to be wrong (many times) - For the last several weeks, I’ve gained conviction about the best custody solution for gifting Bitcoin. If I want to sand off all the rough edges for the gift receiver, custodial ownership of Bitcoin seems like a tried-and-true method. But two things happened as I contemplated this product route: 1) I realized that I don’t want to be on the hook for holding large amounts of user funds, and 2) I found out the price to work with a company to custody (spoiler: it’s quite high). So even though I think the best user answer is in one direction, I’m going to explore the other direction because I think it’ll better match what *I* want to build. I expect I’ll go back and forth on my custody strategy at least another 2-3 times. 🤷♀️
Where I could use your help
Would anyone happen to have any recommendations for a career coach? I want to stay tied to my core as the rubber starts to hit the road.
Thanks to the folks who gave me lawyer suggestions! I’ve had a few informational calls with firms and am narrowing in. Additional leads are still welcome.
Check Your Financial Privilege audiobook - An incredible read from Alex Gladstein from the Human Rights Foundation about how Bitcoin could revolutionize the global monetary system and help with economic empowerment.
Some Twitter threads about 1-person companies and building companies with low capital investment.
I got myself a Midjourney subscription and have been enjoying the creative space.
Testing a company in 1 month for $498 💸
I always get a little thrill from saving money or MacGyvering a solution to a problem. When I founded Grasshopper in Area 120 (Google’s internal incubator), I was proud that we had one of the lowest burn rates of any of the startups. So when I started working for myself a couple of months ago, I took it as a personal challenge to learn as much as possible with minimal capital investment.
As of today, I’ve spent just under $500 to test the Moon idea with 11 user studies and over 100 readers. I’ve gotten invaluable feedback and feel even closer to figuring out if Moon is a possible business direction.
Once I had an idea I wanted to test, I created a painted door for gifting Bitcoin
$79 - A Webflow template with e-commerce and CMS support.
$59 - A Figma template for financial tech products to create “screenshots.”
$30 - For stock imagery or a Midjouney subscription.
Valuable assets, but I didn’t swipe a credit card:
Feedback from my fantastic substack community. Y’all rock!
Free-tier site analytics
Then I tested with 11 strangers I recruited on the internet:
$30 to recruit users from Craigslist. Technically $10/post. I sourced from 3 different places in the San Francisco Bay Area, resulting in 300+ possible users. I also got some interesting aggregate data from the screener survey.
$330 for 11 interviews with $30 Amazon gift card incentives. Of the 20 people I asked to sign up, 14 signed up for a slot, and I only had 2 no-shows, so I probably overpaid for this one. I think folks were much more willing to sign up because it was remote.
Before I get into any takeaways, I need to acknowledge the biases in my test: I am the one creating the product, conducting the interviews, and analyzing the results. Ideally, these tests would be completed by an objective 3rd party… but that costs time and money. So I will use my best judgment and be as self-critical as possible.
There’s probably a “there there” - 5 of my 8 crypto-owning participants rated Moon a 4 or 5 on the likelihood of using it at least once in the coming year. Common denominations were $25 and $100. Only one user rated less than 3, and their rationale was unrelated to the site, just crypto winter. Several readers also pinged me excitedly or filled out the painted door form to express their interest. Binance also rolled out a gifting feature this December (but signing up for their exchange was still required).
Looking good might get you too far - I wish I had tested the concept at lower fidelity. There’s a fine line between making something look real enough to engage with and tricking people with a fancy veneer. When using Microsoft’s Desirability Toolkit, I’m skeptical that the results look too good. But, hey, they look good 🙂
Custody details are for the curious - I always assumed that many crypto owners would have deep feelings about how assets are custodied. I was wrong. Of the eight crypto owners I interviewed, only 2 asked deeper questions about the underlying model. This tracks with my foundational user studies, but I didn’t internalize it. Ultimately, I should build the best custody solution for my users, but I think it’ll have a lot of user acceptance flexibility once I figure out what it is. I also tried a flow where the gift receiver had to choose from two types of crypto wallets. Given the small size of the gift, these users didn’t care, and additional decisions led to confusion.
Being too cute uses too many brain cells - I should back away from the “moon ticket” label as part of the concept. As one user pointed out, there’s already so much to learn about Bitcoin; don’t introduce an unnecessary additional concept.
Users are a great source of new ideas - The folks I interviewed had lots of great questions and some great ideas. One person wanted to make beneficiaries easy; another wanted a feature for cashing out early so people could benefit from large price movements.
With all this additional data, I’m looking forward to taking another crack at product design in the new year. I’ll be digging into the business model a bit more, exploring some nascent ideas about custody, and running more user tests. I’m going to dig in with some lawyers. I’ll also be doing some soul-searching into the kind of company I want to build and with whom.
But for now, I’m closing my laptop for the year. 2022 has brought extremely high highs and some lows that led to big changes and growth. It’s a time to reflect, relax and celebrate with my family. I wish you all the very best close to 2022, and I hope your goals for 2023 inspire you. If you feel like it, let me know your goals; I’d love to be able to help if I can.
Happy holidays and have a great new year,
Technically I also utilized a $276 CMS Hosting plan on Webflow that I had purchased for a previous project. However, I barely used it, and it's possible to complete a painted door without the features I used from the CMS Hosting plan, so I'm removing it from the total cited the cost of this exercise.