Pioneer Community Discussion - What are you blocked on?
Shared by pioneer · 99d ago · 25 comments

This week, a bit of community troubleshooting.

The topic is blockages. What are you currently blocked on? Is it your personal bandwidth, working a full-time job and doing your project on the site? Is it that your growth and marketing efforts are suffering, because you just want to build? Are there specific technical hurdles you're facing?

Everyone has something about their project that just isn't going right at the moment. A week or a month from now, it'll be a thing of the past. But tonight - it keeps you up. What is that thing and how might the Pioneer community help?

AndyDent-Touchgram · 98d ago

Bandwidth is a good way to sum it up. It's now nearly a year since our last major release as I made a teflon-lined-rabbit-hole decision to build at least the core of features that are going to be needed for the next year. The main reason was a piece of feedback that shifted my idea of highly-incremental delivery. Someone asked "if I send a message to someone with an older version of the app, what happens?".

I still think making the product robust in this scenario was a good goal but would approach it differently if I knew how much work it was going to be - I could have split stuff into blocks of features & had the file format cope with not understanding stuff better (binary file formats are very hard to make evolvable - it's a trade-off between enough info to skip stuff you don't understand and saving space).

I've abused the patience of app store reviewers a bit by submitting a version where people could get themselves into a conceptual hole, then had to deal with rejection or pulled it myself. So now have recruited more local testers and focused on ensuring it's 100% bulletproof to get this version out the door.

Something we don't talk about often enough in startups is when grind, missed deadlines & broken promises take a major toll on our loved ones. It's easier to excuse ourselves, knowing how much technical work has been achieved, or the reasons behind yet another slipped month. To an outsider, it's a lot harder to have faith when nothing much seems to change.

Sandy-ONeill · 97d ago

Something we don't talk about often enough in startups is when grind, missed deadlines & broken promises take a major toll on our loved ones. It's easier to excuse ourselves, knowing how much technical work has been achieved, or the reasons behind yet another slipped month. To an outsider, it's a lot harder to have faith when nothing much seems to change.

This is super true. Well said.

Slouischarles · 98d ago

Learning how to code and then design while I build my product. I've always wanted to learn and it'll help in the future especially if I start making traction and fall into a more management role.

Klog · 98d ago

This is real. The "learning on the fly" aspect of building a business doesn't really ever stop, I don't think. Especially true in the early days. How do you feel like you handle all of the learning required / involved?

Slouischarles · 98d ago

I agree. I know it's going to be a long process and I'll have to be patient. I can possibly make some revenue while doing it by podcasting about my learnings once a week or something else. I can do Free Code Camp and then a product design boot camp while I build part-time. That's the plan at least.

Klog · 98d ago

Nice. The only suggestion I'd include is really focusing the effort and don't get spread thin. This is especially true if a lot of your tasks are new. Really want to see one thing through to the finish line at a time. Good luck!

A friend of mine did Flatiron bootcamp and enjoyed it.

Slouischarles · 98d ago

Thanks. Going it one at a time. Yeah, Flatiron is what I plan to do for Product Design

CalebNdunda · 95d ago

Have you considered using no-code tech to build your app? You can check out bubble.io and create almost any kind of software MVP faster, easier and cheaper with no code!

Slouischarles · 93d ago

I did look into it. Luckily, there's a WordPress theme that has all the features I need for a solid MVP.

kriskay · 95d ago

I'm in the same boat. When I started this project I only knew web dev. Now I’m trying to build a complex AR application (or at least an actually working prototype of one) through just brute-force googling.

I love learning while building, but my biggest blocker is that this is all really isolating.

Slouischarles · 93d ago

Ditto on the isolation part. I expect it to take a toll mentally so I have to make a conscious effort to do things, like exercise and journaling to keep my sanity during it all.

NFT-gal · 99d ago

Loaded question :)

One of the main issues I'm facing right now as a solo founder is maintaining multiple social channels well. Content takes a long time and I'm not sure the product supports things as is. I know it's unique to each company, but how do people think about balancing social as a channel for growth ++ building the product ++ talking to customers directly. They all feel very, very different. I always imagined growth + talking to customers are being in the same bucket, but not really anymore.

sole-fields · 99d ago

Where are you in your product's life? The earlier you are, the closer you should be to your customers at the expense of larger growth efforts.

Relevant to marketing channels and a favorite article of mine: https://medium.com/@yegg/the-19-channels-you-can-use-to-get-traction-93c762d19339.

He also has a book on the subject (which doesn't offer too much more than the blog itself, so no need to buy it).

NFT-gal · 99d ago

Thanks for that article!

We're still early. But the flywheel on social has started, and I don't want to give that aspect up. :/

sole-fields · 99d ago

What if you focused on making just enough from those initial customers to farm out the content side? Then you're not charged with doing it and it takes up much less of your time.

AndyDent-Touchgram · 97d ago

My case is a bit more biased - I can not talk to customers directly, because I don't know who they are. So, I'm consciously participating in design discussion groups & active on twitter. But I echo your pain - I decided until I have a major new version to promote, that being active on IG and doing videos wasn't worth it.

The key question is - which social channel delivers the most feedback?

manojranaweera · 98d ago

Why not explore volunteers from https://skilledup.life? The best channel for us so far has been Linkedin. We are double downing the effort through volunteers. Perhaps you could explore similarly.

Social channels can definitely be handed to others, but you need to make sure you give specific targets. As we start using our own product, i.e. volunteers, we are learning fast what works and what does not. We plan to put together a tool kit to educate our customers.

manoj.ranaweera@techcelerate.ventures if you fancy a chat.

commudle.com · 97d ago

Just 2 things:
1. Getting all the potential customer who agree, to put their communities on a priority for them so that they begin using our platform
2. Full time experienced folks to work with, to distribute responsibilities

In the past 3 months, since we've start to approach the market fully, we've seen a huge positive difference in the way people now see our product.

manojranaweera · 98d ago

With respect to https://skilledup.life - I have one dedicated salaried staff. Now added 3 volunteers https://www.skilledup.life/about. I'm spread across a number of ventures as this is just one piece in a larger plan (not complaining - just giving a bit of background)

My initial target (still the same) is to get to 1000 volunteer signups within the first year. We need 362 more by end of July. We are going to add another volunteer to help us. Only started to add volunteers a few days ago. Maybe we should have done this a lot earlier instead of waiting for the last month.

1000 is a proof point for me, rather than anything else. It's the key indicator to inform me it's worth spending further effort. Secondly, it also proves that there is value in the concept. Both points are already proven, but keen to hit that target, which demonstrates we can hit targets.

We just have to work through this small challenge. That's all. But as always open to suggestions, even the silly ones. Thank you.

Klog · 98d ago

So the blocker you're up against is just hitting 1000 volunteers? That seems like the endpoint of a problem, not the root cause.

Is the blockage that you don't have enough time to dedicate to finding the volunteers? Or is it that your marketing methods have only taken you so far and you need new forms?

manojranaweera · 98d ago

You are right. What has worked very well for us so far is one-to-one engagement by my team member on Linkedin. But he has taken on more responsibilities, including managing volunteers. Plus we did not hit the month-on-month growth rate expected at end of May.

In truth, we should have discovered better methods to attract more volunteers. I realised of this and started to reach out to potential partners. The first two partners did not bring many volunteers. In fact, we think they only brought a total of 2 volunteers.

The third partner has brought over 30, which is great but still not sufficient to hit the numbers we need in June. We are trying to sign up the 4th partner, who is in fact another company on Pioneer. If we succeed, that might open up more.

Unless we go viral (the product is currently not built for virality), I struggle to see how we could hit my self-imposed target.

One way, I am trying to solve this by on-boarding more Volunteers to help us reach more. Who knows, they might be able to perform a small miracle.

We had no success so far with universities. However, a local university is finally giving us some attention. They have an unpaid internship programme - SkilledUp Life is not for interns, but if they agree to our terms, then that could on-board more.

I'm also hopeful of Clubhouse as a channel.

To summarise, I think our issue is a volunteer acquisition channel issue. This is made harder by a number of issues which we are trying to solve.

Klog · 98d ago

Interesting, interesting. Wouldn't recommend Clubhouse. It's on the outs. Though maybe it's possible!

And this is volunteers in any industry? What are the requirements of "managing volunteers"? How many volunteer <> job links have you been able to facilitate?

manojranaweera · 98d ago

Maybe. But I have the suspicion, it would become even bigger among the new entrants. All others are introducing chat as another service. This is all Clubhouse does. I have seen this happening, e.g. YouTube. There were many other competitors at the beginning, and I cannot name anyone who survived and became that big.

Anyone can volunteer. But only early-stage tech startups can tap into them. So a service business cannot. This includes agencies. So will never be a megger business. That would be fine by me.

I want to serve the industry I know well - this is part of the overall vision, i.e. reduce wastage in building tech startups. 20 year delivery plan.

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Managing volunteers - there's a lot of work we need to do. We are doing the basics until we get to 1000, then we will focus more.

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Successful transactions: Not easy to monitor right now. There have been 334 applications.

Klog · 98d ago

You should definitely be monitoring successful transactions as that is the core of your value!

manojranaweera · 97d ago

Thank you. Of course, I know this. But I am not too bothered at this stage. As most of the companies are Techcelerate companies https://techcelerate.ventures/members

I am single-minded on my first core metric. Remember, for me, https://skilledup.life is just one of the pieces in a larger 20-year plan. This dictates my approach - others might of course may see this differently.