“Alright, what’s the failed idea this time?”
Hey <imagine I put your name here>,
I’m happy you came back for another dose of business fail. Today’s lesson is:
Do more research before committing energy to build something and don’t get too excited.
A couple of weeks ago I pored over the essays Tyler Tringas wrote over at www.tylertringas.com about how to start a Micro-SaaS. One thing that struck me as an interesting approach was to piggy-back on growth platforms. Examples for growth platforms are GitHub, Slack, WordPress and Shopify. Your goal is to use their large user base to get your product seen by as many people as possible. Those platforms usually have Plugin repositories or marketplaces where people can find you easily. Some even have a Featured section that could boost your sales dramatically, essentially at no extra cost to you.
“Hmm, I could totally whip up a Slack integration”
Yep, that’s what I thought too. I followed the advice and crawled through Twitter and Reddit to find mentions of “I wish Slack …”. People repeatedly wrote they wished Slack would allow them to set autoresponders like they would in their email service. That’s out-of-office notifications every time someone wrote you a private message. If you can see where this is going, bare with me. There’s more than one learning 🙄
So, there were a hand full of people wishing for such a feature and I could totally imagine building it. Perfect. Finally a product that is fun to develop, in an ideal market and small enough to start out with. Immediately I spent researching how the Slack API worked and what technologies I’d use.
“But you were going to validate your idea, were you?”
Of course! Again I bought a domain and built a landing page. This time I did it from scratch with Laravel because for some reason I didn’t want to set up yet another account with ConvertKit. Perhaps I had the inkling already that I would do this dance many more times in the future. It didn’t take me long to set up. In the meantime I joined the Slack bot builder community and started talking about the idea I had. I posted some technical questions as I was already in build-mode and this is when it happened.
A Slack engineer and a developer of a popular Slack integration wrote me that Slack had just released a feature that allowed you to set away messages. As many of you will be avid users of Slack, I’m sure you know and use the feature yourself.
But that’s only half of it. I then started looking for ways to put a different spin on it to build on top of away messages only to find the same product I wanted to build initially. The developer wrote a Medium post about the problems he faced and ultimately how the Slack integration ecosystem is not very lucrative which lead him to abandon the idea. Ouch.
“Seems somebody didn’t do his homework.”
Yep and that somebody was me. Blinded by the product idea right in front of me, I had forgone the due diligence to see if there’s a market. I just had assumed that a platform as successful and widely-adopted as Slack would generate a ton of money for its third-party developers, but it seems that’s not the case. It would’ve been hard to get to 5, 10, 20k MRR.
In the end I didn’t even launch the landing page as there were too many odds stacked against me.
I learned my lesson. Too many assumptions get you into trouble. Whenever you can, validate your assumptions, be it the concrete solution you came up with, the market size or who your customer is.
I’d love to hear from you. If you have feedback about the contents of my posts, my writing style or anything really. Shoot me a mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. I’m sending a bi-weekly newsletter with interesting resources I found on my journey. Sign up below.