Can You Build A Startup In A Day? I Tried And Here’s What Happened
NOTE: Article originally published on Forbes Under 30. See original article on Forbes here.
Recently, there has been a massive rise in digitally native vertical brands (DNVBs). The thought is that your company manages the entire vertical supply chain and distributes itself rather than outsourcing to a partner; the brand is born online and is wholly centered on the customer experience.
It seemed like building a DNVB over the holiday break could be an interesting “little bet” (the idea of little bets originated with Peter Sims’ book about the great products that have come from leaders who take lots of low risk bets to test if ideas are viable).
Based on the concepts of DNVBs and little bets, I decided to go out and try to build a business over the holidays to solve one of my own personal (granted, “first world”) problems: the fact that there’s no service out there that allowed me to mix and match any variety of Keurig Coffee K-cups I wanted.
The thought is that it could provide seed capital for the next more audacious startup idea (not unlike Brian Chesky and his cofounders selling “presidential” cereal for Airbnb’s seed money). After all, what’s the downside? Not much–a $12 domain name and 12 hours of work to build and then launch the product.
“Market Research” (1 Hour):
Now it’s important to remember that one of the main driving ideas in Sims’ book is if you can launch a product fast enough, your product’s performance in the market is the market research
Still, I wanted to quickly ensure that other people even have this “problem.” I messaged many of my friends who are active Keurig users, posted on the Keurig channel on Reddit, and found some Keurig Facebook groups with a few thousand members. The paraphrased question? Would you be willing to pay x dollars each month to have any variety of k-cups delivered to your door each month?
Overwhelmingly, I found out that the answer was yes….as long as there was a lot of variety.
I decided to take the little bet and make a monthly delivery service of your choice of any 30 k-cups right to your door.
Domain Purchase and Website Setup (30 Minutes):
After buying the domain VenetianCoffees.com, I installed WordPress on my Bluehost server and associated it with my domain (software engineers: remember there’s nothing wrong with using WordPress to test these little bets). For non-technical readers, I prefer using WordPress over Shopify since it gives you almost all the features for free, doesn’t have much of a learning curve, and gives you complete control too.
Design/Structuring Website (5 hours):
After structuring the website, I found a nice, modern theme that supported Woocommerce (and was most importantly free!) and installed it.
In terms of now designing the website itself, it’s important to remember at this point that if someone was going to pay me a premium and use this service to have these k-cups delivered monthly over going to Costco and buying a 100 k-cup wholesale package, the UI needed to be attractive. Although you don’t need to do in-depth mockups on Photoshop/Sketch, design is especially important for DNVBs. Remember though that done is better than perfect!
Brand Message and Pricing (1 hour):
This is arguably one of the more important parts of this whole process. It’s important to target a particular market even though “everyone” could be interested. My target market would be millennials whose alternative would be spending $2.50+ at Starbucks each day since they’re on run. This group would provide a great initial target market since they’d be willing to pay a premium to have the product delivered monthly and crave choice.
I centered my brand around the idea: “We believe that you should be able to simply enjoy premium coffees while saving money.”
Pricing follows from your brand message. A simple way to get started might be just to add, say, a 50% margin on whatever the total unit cost is. If you’re launching a more premium product though, like Venetian, you can price using an economic value add strategy and base the price on what comparable experience this product provides.
Launch (3 hours) :
The essence here is social media. I went back to all the groups I had initially found to do “market testing,” and told them that I’d built a product to address the need that they said they had and just asked for advice about the product.
Next, I created an Instagram/Twitter page, added a botched together logo I made in canva.com in five minutes, added a single post with a picture of a box of k-cups, individually messaged everyone who had posted #Keurig, and then asked them what they thought of the new service.
Facebook ads are also a reasonable opportunity, especially if you can target exactly who to send the ads to. It’s important to ensure though that the profit you would expect to get from a customer over his or her lifetime is greater than what you’re spending to acquire the person.
All in all, this drove a little less than a thousand people to the VenetianCoffees.com webpage.
And there we go! The orders started coming in. Slowly but surely. Of course, for the early orders I relied on Paul Graham’s idea of doing things that don’t scale. I was actually going to the grocery store, picking out all boxes of K-cups that customers had ordered, putting individual pods into boxes from the craft store, hand-writing thank you notes, and then sending them out.
Of course VenetianCoffees.com is still in its little bet phase and until I get $10k in sales, I’m not going to look out for a third party logistics provider so I can automate the supply chain (or for that matter, outsource social media marketing to India or try to build an AI to automate the site logistics either).
And there you go–a “business” launched in a day. Of course this is an e-commerce subscription business, but there’s no reason one couldn’t do this for something different–whether that’s an AI bot, a board game, or a blockchain financial app. The key is to remember to actually commercialize the product, not just to build something and then never let the world see it.
Try building your own little bet this weekend and then post a comment to this post about your experience!
Let us know in the comments what you think about this “little bets” process and the VenetianCoffees.com business. By the way, if you like this idea but you’re more of a tea person than a coffee person, check out another similar little bet called VenetianTeas.com.