A bit of a different sort of post this time. I’ve been looking for a new side project for a couple of weeks after finally deciding to shelve the one I’ve been working on for the last six months or so.
I had intended to build a small scraping bot as a subscription service for recruiters but soon realised that this was a pretty typical (and bad) pattern for me. I enjoy the building phase so I tend to build apps without verifying the market. I then dread engaging an unknown market and move onto something else.
I decided I would at least try to do things properly this time. Instead of building an idea of my own I decided to find a business and ask them if they had any issues that were big enough that would pay a monthly subscription to fix.
My first point of contact was an old colleague that had hired me to do some freelance work a number of times. They were keen, but unfortunately they would be pretty tied up with another project for at least the next few months.
At this point I almost went back to the recruiting idea until thinking of an approach that was a little different and definitely outside my comfort zone…Reddit?
I searched a few entrepreneur subreddits but they didn’t seem to be quite right. I then came across https://www.reddit.com/r/smallbusiness which looked a bit more promising. I had hoped to find an Australian version so that I could work with someone a bit closer to home but there didn’t seem to be a decent equivalent. I did a bit more browsing and eventually decided that /r/smallbusiness was probably a pretty good starting point.
The Reddit Post
Posting to social media is definitely not something that I normally do. I occasionally comment, but for the most part I’m pretty passive. This is the post I ended up putting on the site:
I spent a bit of time thinking about how to approach this and decided that there were a few key things I needed for a businesses problem to be suitable.
Should be a subscription service
I have spent a lot of time building market places and platform services. Unfortunately these tend to take a long time to develop and accepting payments on behalf of another business can get complicated and potentially risky. Communicating these requirements via Reddit would be challenging at best.
A simple subscription service using stripe will significantly cut my development time. Building a product that charges a monthly subscription also gives me an easy way to evaluate how much a solution is worth to a customer. If they’re not willing to pay a subscription I immediately know that I need to look for another problem. I decided that $10/month was probably a good figure to start on. If they were willing to pay that I would consider the project, if not I’d move onto the next.
The scope should be small and easily defined
The proposed problem needs to have clear and easily defined requirements. It’s quite likely that I will only have a few short comments to get ALL of my information. I need to be able to understand it quickly and to be able to develop an MVP without any additional input from the user.
Preferably a B2B problem, not B2C
This one is more of a personal preference and definitely not firm but I find it’s easier to work with a business than a customer and there’s generally a bit less competition.
I had half expected for my post to get removed and skim reading the very first comment definitely gave me a bit of a scare:
But luckily my post stayed up and it was only a short while later that the first business problem was posted:
I was pretty happy with this one. I have previously built a few booking systems for driving schools so I knew this was something I’d be able to do. Unfortunately, a few comments later confirmed my sneaking suspicion that this would be a fairly saturated market:
I was definitely still open to the idea, but decided to wait and see if there were any more ideas that cropped up.
It took a little while, but eventually there was another suggestion that piqued my interested:
It took a couple of comments to sort out exactly what was being requested for this one:
There were a few important bits to this one that put it at the top of my list. Firstly, the problem is well defined and there’s definitely room for an MVP with potential to extend the scope if things go well.
The problem is also something that I can see appealing to other businesses that are just chasing a bare bones asset management system. A fully fledged system is complex and requires a high price tag in order to justify the development cost. This was much smaller and definitely something that a single developer could pull off.
The third, and probably most important factor is that the seller would be elated to be able to find a solution for $25/month. The number here is important because I had only put forward a $10/month price – they were definitely keen to find a solution.
I worked on a few quick mocks and shared these with the potential customer. She seemed pretty happy and had a few suggestions around including imports/exports and a number of additional fields.
At this point I was pretty happy with things and decided to do a bit of competitor analysis. Unfortunately, this is when I came across AssetTiger:
They had literally everything that the customer was looking for and well within their budget of $25 per month. I double checked with them to confirm my suspicions and unfortunately it looked like AssetTiger was exactly what they were after:
They were were pretty appreciative and even offered to send a donation which was a really generous offer. Unfortunately, I’d now exhausted all of the project suggestions on the post.
I really liked the quick feedback on the suggestions in /r/smallbusiness and have decided that I will try this on a few more subreddits to see if the approach will work.
One thing that I would like to do a little differently is to try targeting an underserved industry specific subreddit e.g. agriculture or weddings. I think that this might help to mitigate the issue of suggestions that already exists – other redditors are likely to chip in with solutions that they use. Because everyone in the subreddit is in the same industry I think there’s also good chance that it will allow me to identify if multiple people are affected by the problem.
Anyway, if you’ve made it this far – thanks for reading! I’ll post an update on how the next reddit posts go!