This is a guest post by Josh DeNutte, CEO and Founder of Spark. Currently in week 9 of the Amatil Xcelerate program, Josh has been discovering that, focusing on the little things can pay bigger dividends in the long run, read about how Spark is scaling by starting small…
We did it! We launched our MVP. What’s even better is we actually had strangers sign up right away. Not Mom, not Aunt Teresa and not my friends who I’ve pestered for feedback for months on end. Complete strangers believed in our product enough to pay. What a vote of confidence.
So where now?
We’re going to the moon!
Well, not exactly. We see those shiny lures of “growth hacks” which promise huge reach, targeted audiences and reinforcing that high of “of course everyone’s gonna sign up for this, I’m amazing!”
But we ignore it. For now.
The first version of Spark is slowly winning over couples looking for awesome date nights. There’s no way we could replicate this 1,000x over with our current processes. But that’s ok!
Like many other startups, it’s a very manual process behind the scenes in the beginning. While everything looks neat and tidy to our couples using Spark, there’s a lot of hustling going on once they tell us their preferred experience.
Starting small to go big
I recently listened to a podcast where Reid Hoffman (co-founder of Linkedin) was interviewing Brian Chesky (co-founder of Airbnb).
Brian spoke about the importance of doing things that don’t scale, which paradoxically, helps scale your business. Forget about your next hundred or your next thousand users. What can you do for your first 20 users to dramatically improve their experience with you?
An example of one way we’re trying to make the Spark experience better and surprise and delight our customers is to type individual date itineraries for each couple, and send handwritten cards and a gift to say, “Thanks for using us, we hope you have an awesome time tonight.” Our most popular date so far has been a set menu at Mejico and couples love arriving to find their table decorated with a personalised welcome message.
Looking to the sky
The great thing about being an early stage startup is that I have the opportunity to talk with each and every one of the couples that use Spark.
I’ll never be able to speak so candidly with our users as I can right now.
What do they love about Spark? What do they hate? What’s missing? One piece of advice Brian gives in the interview with Reid is to not just ask “What could make it better?”
Users might give a piece of advice that could be easily implemented – but might not shift the dial in providing a great user experience. Instead, we ask our users, “What would make you go out and tell all your friends about Spark?” This gives them the opportunity to give you blue-sky answers. While some of the answers might not be immediately achievable, you’ll be able to begin piecing together a product roadmap for the future.
Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to pull off one of those blue-sky improvements faster than you thought possible.
To go global, focus on the firsts
If you’re able to create a service that keeps the first 20 users not just happy, but singing your praises to their peers, you’re beating most of the competition.
It’s so important to talk to those first customers and work on perfecting the service for just for them – not your next hundred. Give them the absolute best product and service you can provide until one piece becomes too much to handle. Then build a solution for that one thing without sacrificing an ounce of user experience.
It’s sounds cheesy, but thinking locally can help you grow globally.
I’ve either spoken on the phone, traded emails or shared coffee with each of Spark’s first customers. Listening to this group will not only help me provide an increasingly better experience for them, but will also help me identify my potential roadmap.
Josh is a first time founder with a background in marketing & consumer insights within the tourism industry. The idea for Spark came from a conversation with his wife about whose turn it was to plan date night (it was his). When his wife said, “I wish someone would plan date night for us”, the wheels in his head started turning and they haven’t stopped since.
Josh has been sharing his startup journey with us, read his previous blog on making the decision to join Xcelerate here.