Rejection was eye-opening for my startup
It’s rare to come across a first-time founder who knows everything — act fast, fail fast, jump to the next item, while being silly, impatient, researching audiences and products. We are trying multiple ways to launch.
I fell into the category of someone who acted very carefully and wanted to put out the best, world-in-class product out there.
It’s not that I didn’t talk to the customer or didn’t talk to the right customer. I wasn’t talking to enough customers and asking the right questions until it was too late.
My co-founder and I came up with the idea to build a product like geeks and experts Our problem statement was very clear to us — if you want to reach out to someone and get quick advice on a topic, it’s too hard to access an expert — watch a video or write a long blog. I spend a lot of time reading and reading! A quick face-to-face conversation is much easier and quicker and gives me the personalized response I need.
After digging a little deeper, I found that there are multiple use cases applicable to this problem. Consultants, subject matter experts, and content creators can participate as experts and give advice to users.
Of course, we quickly realized that we needed a specific target audience to focus on. After a lot of customer discovery and interviews, we came to the conclusion that independent entrepreneurs struggle to get direct advice about their startups. doesn’t work either. So we started narrowing down this audience to provide a directory of experts you can talk to one-on-one.
With the bootstrap approach, we needed to find an efficient and cost-effective way to reach out to our audience and get them to sign up when we were ready for MVP in September 2022. We asked friends and family to join us. (One of the most important things a founder can have for him is a strong support system. I am grateful to Hype and his team for being dependable every day!)
Our user base was growing at a reasonable pace through organic word-of-mouth marketing efforts and users referring other users to join our marketplace. very! Maybe you’re ready to take this up a notch?!
I reached out to my network of accelerators, mentors, investors, and others to take the next step and have their support to help me move forward quickly. We also got responses from several advisors who invited us to present our ideas and products for potential investments and access to the ecosystem. I was thrilled with how things were going and felt ready to take the plunge.
It wasn’t until after the second meeting that the team contacted me with a rejection. I wasn’t angry or upset. I was just disappointed. I was rejected when I was fundraising for a non-profit organization!
My disappointment is that I wish I had done it sooner. I read the book “The Mom Test” a little too late in the day. I was just sitting in front of my computer in a ‘rush’ trying to find some crappy way to reach his target audience. I spoke to all the people to guide me in mastering this important pitch, but in the process I lost track and focus on products and users. I was really pissed when I found out that it had happened.
First of all, I was so focused on user MoM growth that I didn’t even look at retention. When I saw some retention numbers, I didn’t even understand cohort-based retention. I didn’t know what users wanted most. Second, after understanding retention, we completely overlooked the big picture of how a user can improve her LTV. Third, I was “conversing” with my customers, but instead of going out of the building to find them, I waited for them to respond to my messages on Slack, Reddit, Twitter, etc. rice field.
In the six weeks between being almost funded and being rejected, I learned a lot about the importance of not getting too close to an elephant. I wasn’t married to a user because I didn’t know enough.
I’m back on it, and here are some of the things I did:
- I left the building, attended IRL events, met prospects, interviewed them, and understood their weaknesses.
- I created multiple landing pages to A/B test what resonated with my audience and submitted a follow-up form asking for feedback.
- I went into scrap mode, joining Facebook groups, Telegram, and Discord channels, sending DMs on social media, and writing privately to hundreds of potential customers about what I was building.
- I drafted a newsletter inspired by some of the best content creators I follow and sent it to a segmented audience to see what resonated with them and were happy to answer their calls. I checked what was going on.
- I tested different hypotheses about who would be my customer by testing B2C and potential B2B clients.
This sounds confusing, but we’re starting to put the complete puzzle together now. Instead of leading the product, we lead the user. But first, I focus on finding enough users who can share my product and how I can provide value in the future.
What advice would you give to first-time founders (bootstraps) trying to find product market fit? Tell us in the comments!