Guide to validate a new Start up idea in just 3 months

Guide to validate a new start up idea within 3 months following a pivot.

Guide to validate a new Start up idea in just 3 months

NB: Tips provided in this article mostly apply to companies who pivoted and want to test their new idea.

Last September, after 8 months working on a note-taking app, we decided to pivot to build a fully fledged calendar app.

In a previous article, I wrote about why we decided to pivot - basically because of low signal of Product Market Fit.

3 months later, our number of Daily Active Users is already twice better as it was for the first product.

In this article, I’m going to deep dive on how we tried to validate our new idea in 3 months.

Define your north star metric and stick to it

Once we decided to pivot, we gave ourselves 3 months to validate our new idea.

Why 3 months?

  • It’s a long enough period to have relevant activation & retention metrics
  • Given our speed of iteration, 3 months would let us build a meaningful feature set
  • It’s an ambitious timeline that forces ourselves to focus on the right topics

We identified Active users as our top line metric. We find it to be the best way to measure user engagement.

And as we're building a calendar, we're expecting people to interact with the app multiple times a day.

Hence, we decided that Daily Active Users would be the main proxy of success for our pivot.

If you're struggling to find your North Star metric, I recommend having a look at June Analytics Pack (https://www.analyticspack.com/) - they guide you depending on the industry you're in.

Our goal was to get 100 people who love the product (retain, use the product everyday, tell their friends, etc.). Because people who really love a product will make it go viral.

Why did we pick 100 DAUs as a target?

  • Ambitious enough with a 20% growth rate week over week, over 3 months
  • 100 is a large enough number to help you really understand your target audience and thus find the next 10K that look like these first 100 ones
  • It’s a realistic target as it means onboarding manually c.25 people per week

Don't wait to put your new product into the hands of users

As timelines were short, we started to manually onboard users late October, 4 weeks after the pivot.

The product was still fragile, but we gave people the opportunity to co build with us the calendar of their dreams.

Engaging community on an upcoming feature

I would recommend to start with users easier to get first (willing to use a new product, willing to talk to you and provide feedback, etc.). In our case, we started with users from the first product who were excited by our new vision following the discovery phase.  We did not try to bring with us all the users from the first product. We really tried to find those who were even more excited by our updated vision.

It’s really important at this step to filter out the hard to sell customers and only focus on the folks with a clear pain point you can address.

I start all my onboarding sessions by asking users their pains with their current solutions - if they don’t have any pain, I’d usually pass on them.

Ruthlessly prioritize bugs and product feedback

We invite all people onboarded to join a slack workspace where they can report bugs and feedback. We have a continuous incoming flow of bugs and feedback in these channels.

We can be tempted to fix little bugs and make quality of life improvements to the product, but usually it’s not the best way to validate if your new idea will be a hit.

There are already quite a few calendar app solutions out there. So we knew rebuilding another similar calendar was probably not going to shoot us in the stars. As we did not have much time, we first wanted the basic blocks that would not prevent our users from doing basic stuff with their calendar. Once we had that, we would find features that solve unaddressed pain points (sharing availabilities, note-taking, etc.)

A feature people kept asking and we kept resisting building is the dark mode. It’s true that most productivity SaaS products now offer a dark mode. But our way of thinking about it was “If the most recurring feedback we currently have is the ability to see Hera in dark, maybe it means we actually managed to solve users’ pain points 🧐”.

Each time you have to make a product decision, you should ask yourself if it will move the needle for your North Star Metric.

(For what it’s worth, we don’t believe dark mode would move the needle😅)

3 months after, take a step back and jump 🪂

3 months after the first user was onboarded on Hera Calendar, we reached the 100 Daily Active Users target. We also reached the levels of activation and retention we had set up to move on to the next step (60%+ activation and 30%+ 12-week retention).

We also better understand which features make people come and stick to Hera, and the target audience who mostly benefit from a tool like this. We can now double down on these features and find more of these people.

It does not mean we reached Product Market Fit. But it’s an early proof for a much bigger vision we are excited to unroll.

We managed to make 100 people happy, we now move to making thousands of people love the product.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be transitioning from manual to self serve onboardings, opening up the product little by little to more users.

🚨 We are launching the latest version of Hera Calendar on Product Hunt in a few weeks, make sure to subscribe to the launch here: https://www.producthunt.com/upcoming/hera

If you want to use Hera now, just sign up here: https://hera.so?source=article&source_info=validateidea

Thanks for reading!

See you soon for the next big milestone 👋