Experiment Time [2 grams]
How have you interacted with your end user and customer?
Direct contact or indirect observation?
What did you unearth?
What sort of sensitivity analyses did you think through?
I've presented my idea to a Cambridge City Councilman, a special assistant to the Mayor of Somerville MA, a Director of Constituent Services in Somerville, a former Chief of Staff to Mayor Menino of Boston, and a Candidate for City Council in Newton in the past six months.
All of these interactions have occurred in person, and have been conversations about the potential of an idea like this. I did not utilize my website and web application as displays or demonstrations of the idea.
I unearthed many things!
Mayor Menino's former Chief of Staff wasn't really a big fan of the idea, but he was coming from a city that already had that capability through their own mobile app, that was the inspiration for my application. He was also concerned that there were also other commercial players in the market, and could not see that my application - which is designed to serve everyone in the US - is different from companies that simply develop mobile applications for individual municipalities. I took his feedback with a grain of salt, because the day I met with him he and his whole family was recovering from colds, and Mayor Menino had just passed as well. I met with him on his first day back. Regardless, I will reengage in the future, post-MVP.
Many have been very enthusiastic about the potential behind OrangeCone - in fact, all other individuals listed above have been enthusiastic about bringing this capability to bear within local governments.
These conversations and others led me to both think through both the technical tools that I construct my mobile application on, and the capabilities that would be included within the mobile application. Shifting the technical tools utilized has shifted my cost structure a bit.
Originally, I thought my mobile application would feed data to a business intelligence tool called Microstrategy, and this decision would make the Microstrategy tool the major cost driver of your company. In addition to this, along with the benefits of the business intelligence capability as a positive, it would link OrangeCone on a semi-permanent basis, which might include some element of future switching costs, to one other company in a customer-type relationship, instead of a partner relationship.
After conducting client interviews, I conclude my MVP does not have to have particularly sophisticated business intelligence tools, and that instead I should simply construct relatively simple performance metric and management tools outside of the Microstrategy platform.
Further, I actually unearthed that there is a large market need this kind of management tools in local governments, which has caused many of those I spoke with to indicate an interest in partnering with me through creation of the OrangeCone MVP and Beta.
Simulation Sundae [3 grams]
- To prepare for the Startup Game Simulation, consider that you will be thrown into a situation where you will have relatively little knowledge about the market, competition, and other players until the Startup Game begins. What do you think the key issues are that you will face if you are a Founder? What if you are an Investor? What if you are a Key Employee? What will you seek to optimize given limited time and asymmetric information?
Founder key issues are Product, People, and Funding oriented generally.
Product knowledge is rooted in the market, and knowledge of the market is rooted most primally in the number of conversations with customers. So, as a Founder, to get my Product closer to Product-Market fit, I'm going to try to have a lot of conversations with my potential customers regarding the needs that my customer and product might be able to fulfill.
At the same time as I become more aware of what an improved product is, I will need to seek out people that have the skill sets and the passion to build and sell a product within a company like mine. So I will seek out conversations with many potential employees.
Funding will become an issue at the same time that you need to build a technical product, and at the time that you want to hire staff. Therefore I will seek out Venture Capitalists and other funding mechanisms to potentially invest in my company.
As an Investor, I'm concerned with the same three things - Product, and People. Because I bring money to the game, I want to know if the product has achieved Product-Market Fit, and if it has not, what might be required to do this. I'm concerned with the people involved in the company, and with they currently have all of the general skills required to build the product as a founding team, and if they do not, if they have access to networks of people with those skillsets.
As a Key Employee, I'm concerned with Product only. Therefore, I want to have an ability to communicate well with others at the company, have a good knowledge of the market generally, and have the ability to establish rapport and actively engage with current and potential customers.
Timelining and Milestoning Souffle [3 grams]
Describe the key milestones for your venture and how you plan to meet each one
MVP completion: Completion of my MVP is currently only a funding issue, requiring a less than $10K investment - OR, it's a time issue, as I'm constructing the mobile application by coding it myself, which requires a longer time-frame, because I'm teaching myself how to code in order to construct this initial MVP product. If I code the application myself, no particularly large investment will be required. And because I've had conversations with between five and ten customers at local governments, I have direction for the creation of the MVP for this initial client - local executive governments.
As I iterate my MVP to construct a Beta, I will need to conduct user interviews with between 25 and 50 customers. These will all be at local executive governments, legislative government offices, utilities, police and fire departments, and universities - my initial customer base.
Beta completion: Sufficient perspective for completion of the Beta will be between 25 and 50 customers within each of the buckets above - local executive governments, legislative government offices, utilities, police and fire departments, and universities. Again, if constructing it myself, the cost of this will be greatly reduced. If I'm not constructing it myself, I will need either funding or partners with the ability to construct the Beta.
Costing Carrot Cake (CCC) [2 grams]
Is your venture heavy with respect to fixed costs or variable costs?
Walk me through the cost line items (COGS vs SG&A vs others)
Right now, I'm transitioning my technical model from one that is dependent on business intelligence provider Microstrategy as the analytic tool that will analyze the collected issue data to one in which I create a much simpler MVP. This decision is substantially driving down my Fixed Costs for Administrator fees, as well as driving down Variable Costs by saving me a $66 fee per user (!), for those utilizing the business intelligence tools for my subscribing users.
Because i'm transitioning away from Microstrategy to an in-sourced solution for CRM, Performance Management / Metrics, and leaving out Business Intelligence / Data Analytics from my MVP, this is vastly decreasing Fixed Costs
My cost line items now are: COGS will be payments to a new software provider, AlphaAnywhere, for an overall service of hosting the mobile and web application that is based upon overall user volume limits, however it's based upon user volume of users utilizing the application at the same time (i.e. number of applications hitting the server at one time) and not the overall number of users with access to the application.
This cost structure is different for different tiers, and is cheaper than Microstrategy, but a consultation with that firm is necessary for a solid number. Other than that, the website hosting fee is only $16 per month.
I take no salary, and have no office, have no other staff, currently.