Perhaps. At the time what held me back was not wanting to be spammy, but as we talked about, I think I was being too shy. Next time I’m going to jump at those sorts of opportunities, so thanks for helping me realize that, amongst other things.
Here are the four that actually got some attention:
I was thinking about it some more last night. It feels like I DMed a lot of people, but the number isn’t quite in the hundreds, I don’t think. Maybe it’s just a numbers game and you really actually have to reach out to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people. But at least on forums, that could be tough, because you could get flagged/banned for spamming.
That makes sense about them not being too responsive to this particular DM. I predict that I won’t get many more responses over the next few weeks though.
I have actually spent a good amount of time DMing people asking for that sort of stuff, and also just posting saying that I’m looking for people to video chat with. It just hasn’t really worked for me. That’s why I feel like the email list idea is interesting, because I myself have had the problem of not being able to get in touch with users. I do place more weight in your intuition though, because I’m just one data point and you seem to have more experience with startups, so if you feel skeptical then I shift that way a lot and don’t expect it to be successful. Although I’m not so skeptical that it doesn’t seem worth talking to some founders though.
I definitely agree about talking to founders and prospective early adopters as an MVP. I think it’s a great example of what you talk about on your blog, about how and MVP doesn’t actually have to be a product.
I myself would definitely have paid for it. Somewhere in the ballpark of a couple hundred dollars. Possibly more if I actually was making money and growing. I spent a lot of time struggling to get in touch with users, at various points, for various reasons, and if the email list solved that problem for me, that’d be hugely valuable.
Again, in theory I should be able to easily get in touch with people by messing around in different poker communities, but that just doesn’t seem to actually work for me in practice. I have a great example. I posted about my app on Reddit at various points. Lots of people commented saying nice things. Some even commented to say that they would pay for it when it’s on the market, and to let them know. Yesterday I took some time and DMed everyone. I sent out 24 messages, but only got one reply. And that is for people who have already said they love my app.
There are a lot of times when you have to do actual math in poker. For example, if you bet $50 into a $100 pot, I’d have to risk $50 to win $150, and thus need to win 1⁄4 of the time to break even. If I have a flush draw, I have to estimate how often I’ll win with that flush draw, which there are shortcuts to help you do. But the example I just described is a simple one. What if there is more money left behind, so when I hit my flush I can expect to win the $150 in the pot, plus some more? And how do we incorporate the possibility of you having a higher flush draw and me losing a lot to you when we both hit the flush?
You can get by without doing any actual math, and instead just winging it, but actual math does help in these situations.
Anyway, the bigger point is that the same thing probably applies to expected value: you can get by without it. But to me, that doesn’t mean you should try to get by without it. It’s a very fundamental concept, and if you’re going to make a living with poker, why wouldn’t you take a little time to learn them?
Re the “early adopters email list” idea:
My thinking is that by signing up as an early adopter, it wouldn’t be industry specific, you’d just be saying that you’re interested in being contacted about new products and stuff.
Yeah, I myself am an example of someone who would sign up as a founder on this platform. With my poker app, and with future projects. With the poker app, I found that the poker subreddit, other poker forums, in person networking, and cold emails didn’t amount to enough leads.
I know that sounds implausible. Maybe it’s an uncommon experience. I think the success of this platform idea we’re talking about depends a good amount on the answer to that question, because if founders are currently doing fine with customer outreach, then it wouldn’t really be solving a problem for them. But my impression is that a) many founders struggle to get in touch with these sorts of early adopters, and b) even if they are successfully getting in touch with some, they’d still want more. Of course, this is a hypothesis that could be validated without actually building anything, eg. by talking to founders.
Your original Value Prop Story should probably already about the kind of person you have access to in your life, depending on what field you’re working on, so I’m skeptical that what founders really need is an email list of early adopters.
That’s understandable. I don’t feel particularly confident in the idea.
This is really a blessing in disguise, because words like “app” and “software” sound like potential users would have to download and install something and potentially fumble around with settings/permissions before they can get a first glimpse, and also having to delete/uninstall afterwards.
That’s true. Good point.
I think ghosting is so ubiquitous in every facet of life that at this point, we’d all be better off to just accept it as a neutral fact.
My perspective here is that even if it is ubiquitous, that doesn’t make it ok. I don’t think it’s ok to treat people like that, and thus, I think that ghosting should be frowned upon. (There could of course be an innocent explanation for the ghosting, in which case I have no problem with it.)
But how could one reasonably expect people in general to have such obscure technical knowledge?
I see “x-axis” and the ability to read a 2d graph as something that the great majority of the high school educated population should know, even if it’s been a while since they’ve been in school.
Expected value I wouldn’t expect most people to know, but I certainly would expect a professional poker player to know, especially when you are also charging people money to coach them.
I actually do plan on doing what you describe: leave it up, and also continue to work on it in my spare time. I enjoy working on it (when I’m not feeling pressured), and as a poker player, there are a few tools that I want to build for myself. There are also a few sort of last ditch things that I plan on trying, but none of them require me to be working on it full time.
In retrospect, this would have been a good thing for me to address in the post, because you’re right, it’s a logical question for the reader to ask.
As for the bug preventing people from paying me, I’m not sure exactly how many tried, but it seems like it was four or five. I have since fixed the bug (ended up just being a small typo), and after I did I emailed all ~100 people who were signed up for the free trial, and have gotten one paid user. Now that I think about it, I should reach back out to those four or five people who previously tried to pay me. I’ll go do that right now :)
Thanks! Yup, I definitely misunderstood YC’s message. I’m glad we talked this through.
I can imagine that someone could make poker software that makes poker more fun and addictive, pulling more people into learning to play well who otherwise wouldn’t have bothered.
Yeah, that’s a good point, but I’m not sure that it applies to every product. So then, it still seems to me that you should try to think about whether it is plausible to “grow the pie”.
What do you think? I lean slightly towards thinking that you disagree, because you initially said that founders shouldn’t worry too much about market size. If so, what is the thought process behind that? Because you think there’s a route to “grow the pie” for any product? Because at an early stage your goal is to be nimble and figure out what direction to run in?
Ya my whole blog bloatedmvp.com is about founders not understanding this.
Awesome, I’ll check it out!
Your own ego will already bias you toward not putting yourself out there enough.
Huh. I thought it would be the opposite. That people have egos that are too big and they think they’re more important than they actually are. Or are you saying that I personally don’t have a big ego, because I’m having this conversation?
Also, when you narrow down what your MVP is to the point where it’s almost by definition an incremental improvement in one specific person’s life, you should feel more confident to attempt to do a Collison Installation on that person. If it doesn’t work out, they should be able to understand why you were convinced this would be worth their time, even if you were wrong.
That registered really well with me, thank you! I agree! I do find myself thinking this a lot, that I’m doing them a favor by reaching out.
I dunno, try giving a specific value prop story (https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/iMQmfgieRKY62MC3z/the-power-to-judge-startup-ideas) illustrating why it’s much better than Product Hunt.
If I’m an early stage founder and I launch on Product Hunt, I may not get any attention. Whereas with my idea, the founder would be able to browse the email list of early adopters and reach out to the ones who meet the target demographic.
With Product Hunt, you have to actually launch something to be seen. What if you want to chat with users before you launch? What if you launched already and want to do user research? What if you releases a new feature, or changed pricing, and want to send a sales email?
With Kickstarter, you can put yourself out there before you launch, but you can’t actually reach out to users, from what I understand. I think there’s value in having a list of user email addresses that you can browse through. Basically, warm leads, because they signed up, and because you can see demographic info and other user profile stuff.
Note: I think it’d be pretty necessary to limit the amount of emails that founders can send out. Otherwise early adopters would get totally blasted and not want to sign up. So maybe the email addresses wouldn’t actually be visible, and you’d have to message them through the platform, and the platform would limit how many messages you can send.
I see. That makes sense.
I’m still not sure we addressed the question of whether there are times when MVPs inherently take a long time to build though. What do you think about that question? Sorry if you addressed it and I’m not understanding.
I agree that poker survives on optimistic idiots. My thoughts are that we can divide players up into three buckets: pros, somewhat serious players, and fish (“optimistic idiots”). Fish haven’t really spent any time ever trying to learn how to play the game. Or if they have, it’s only a book or two. Somewhat serious players have read a bunch of books and study/review hands maybe once a week or so. And pros are pros. I figured that the number of fish are in the millions, somewhat serious maybe 100k or so, and pros, maybe a few thousand. I say this because you seem to be dividing the population into pros and fish, whereas I add in the somewhat serious players.
I think the big mistake I made was that I assumed that these somewhat serious players all somewhat consistently use poker software. I know that the “optimistic idiots” clearly don’t, but I figured that the somewhat serious players do.
Assuming that studying is the main part of poker success is also a mistake. Most profit comes from identifying and exploiting opponent mistakes, not in optimizing your own play beyond a certain competence. It’s very hard, even for very good players, to formally model the kinds of mistakes they profit from, so very hard to imagine that software calculations help them improve their exploitative play.
I would disagree with that. I think software can really help you improve your exploitative play. This video is an example. Another example is looking at different flop textures and seeing which ones you’d generate enough folds on to profitably cbet.
There’s plenty of pretty decent free software
There are some free equity calculators, but they are limited. And from what I understand, there are no free range analysis tools like my Hit Calculator or Flopzilla, and range analysis tools are important for a lot of things, like getting a sense of how much fold equity you have.
The Poker subreddit only has 100k subscribers, and it’s a much bigger commitment for people to buy poker software than read a subreddit. So it seems plausible that the total market is only 1k users, but you never know.
Well, my thinking was that only a fraction of the somewhat serious players are on the subreddit, so if only 10k of the 100k on the subreddit are somewhat serious, maybe we can multiply by 5-10 (or hopefully more) to account for the fact that not all of the somewhat serious players are on the subreddit.
Now my thinking is to assume that only like 100 of the 100k are somewhat serious, not 10k.
Founders shouldn’t worry too much about market size, just focus on getting early users and growing the user base at some rate like 10%/month. For example, Uber has grown beyond the total market size of taxis.
That makes sense, but only if you have a plausible path to growing the size of the market.
The way to give people value is to grab specific people and manually stuff your value into them.
This belief has been growing stronger and stronger in my mind over time. And it seems like a really important thing for founders to understand.
It makes me feel really uneasy though, because I don’t want to be spammy. What are your thoughts on that?
BTW, one of my unfleshed ideas is to have a platform that connects self-proclaimed early adopters with early stage founders. Maybe the early adopters would get access to products discounts or something for being on the platform, and early stage founders would have to pay to be on the platform. I plan on fleshing this out and writing about it some time in the future. It easily could turn out to be a bad idea; just thought I’d mention it.
These sorts of books sell for around $50. $100k/yr profit at 10k copies/yr would imply they only make $10/book. I would have thought profit margins would be better. But that’s a really good point about publisher/marketing costs.
Anyway, your overall point that the top poker book isn’t making millions for the author is well taken. It seems like a pretty strong signal that I shouldn’t really be expecting to make millions either. I wish I had thought about this earlier, thanks.
Paul Graham made the point that these days when you want to judge a startup idea, you’re actually judging the idea pair (what you’re doing that people want, how you acquire customers).
Huh, I didn’t realize that. Thanks for pointing it out. I read most of his essays, and a lot of YCs stuff more generally, but I don’t recall much talk about customer acquisition. Anything come to mind that you can link me to?
I spent a good amount time trying to do this sort of stuff. I found that people weren’t too responsive. But perhaps with even more persistence they would be. And it sounds like a good thing to do in general.
That makes sense. I didn’t mean to come across as scolding; it happens to me as well.
Using SpaceX as an example, there are a lot of sub-MVPs that they need to build before they actually have an MVP that they can bring to market and see if they get traction. And so it would take them a long time before they actually even have an MVP. It seems to me that this conflicts with conventional wisdom, because conventional wisdom says that if you haven’t brought your MVP to market and tested it in, say, six months, that you aren’t being lean enough. But with SpaceX it seems that it may not really be possible to do. What do you think?
That makes sense in general, but in this case I don’t think the software is strong enough to do that. It’ll make you better at poker, but not fast enough to blow everyone else away and make them think, “Wow, that software sure is doing a good job, I need to get it myself.”