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EXECUTION Building a SaaS / Platform from scratch.

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Mike Stoian

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Dec 24, 2019
Hello everyone.

A while back I've had an idea about making and online database of knowledge in a specific niche. The problem in this niche is there is no good / trustworthy information anywhere on the internet and making such information widely available could attract a lot of users. There are 1-2 decent sources of information about this niche and they often become viral when they come out with new information.

So my idea was a database of nicely organised information. Wikipedia won't do since it's not trusted enough in this field.

I went to reddit to other people like myself and "pitched" them my idea.
- 40% said it could never work
- 30% gave pretty good feedback of how to make it work or make it work better
- 30% sounded pretty excited and wanted to learn more.

Overall I like these odds, especially since the subreddit I choose was pretty broad. It wasn't filled with early adopters but rather regular people who could be interested in my solution. I even got a couple people who said they wanted that solution build and offered to help me gather information for free. Also, the post got quite popular quite fast.

So with that in mind, I went on to make an MVP with some basic information gathered by myself.

1st MVP
I made one in Wordpress and quickly realised that gathering all the information myself would be very hard. Even if I had help from a few people, what would make us be experts in this field? Why would people trust us? Any mistake in information would likely be heavily scrutinised.

Anyway, I posted my MVP with my basic information and again, the percentages were similar.
40% - feedback on various technicalities of the site. Like SSL, Registration functionality, design and other things which I didn't bother working on too much.
40% - support the idea or gave improvement feedbacks.
20% - scrutinised some minor mistake in the information or typos

This time however, I didn't hear one single person claim that my solution was impossible. Did I change their mind, or did they just focus on the site's technicalities? No idea. However I got another person who said he was willing to help me gather information for free. Also, loads of people said they've had the same idea in the past but never got to working on it. I guess MJ was right when he said ideas are nothing without execution.

So what did I learn?
- a big chunk of people are interested in the idea ( at least say they are )
- the information gathered needs to be pretty good
- people are willing to contribute for free
- people are willing to point out inaccuracies in the information
- the site's technicalities need to be pretty decent with adequate security.

So with this golden information in hand I went to make the second stage MVP.

2nd MVP
Been coding for about a year now ( still have a pretty stressful full time job ) and the MVP is almost ready.
This time I've built it from scratch with PHP, Laravel and Vue JS. Wordpress wasn't gonna cut it anymore because of the needed features and complexity.

Also, while my previous business model was SaaS, now I think It makes more sense to move to a platform based model? The gathering of information would be a 100% ongoing process which would never end and at least for a while, it would be more like me making my own job instead of a fastlane business. So, what if I allowed the users to contribute to the platform's information for free? Instead of me working my a$$ off to maintain decent information day in and day out, they would maintain their own information.I would just maintain the platform itself. This way it's way more scalable and time independent.

So I made some changes. I gave all registered users the ability to add to the information on the platform for free and added some functionality similar to reddit, where users can vote on the accuracy of the information. This way luckily, only the good information will get to the surface, and the bad one will get buried.

At this point, all the functionality is done. I have a bunch more ideas I can add on later but for MVP it's pretty good. Next is making all the design, the responsiveness and the user tracking so I can track data like churn for example and track user's time and progress on the site.

The biggest Problem
The biggest Problem a platform type business has is getting the first few users. Since platforms's value comes from its users, nobody will want to join in the begining when the platform has no users. Chicken and egg kinda thing. However in my case, I can still add basic information in myself, thus adding value to the platform even if there's zero users registered. Hopefully that will be enough to attract people and get the ball rolling. Does anyone have experience with network effects?

Few books I've read in the last year that helped me in this pursuit: Unscripted, The Lean Startup, Zero to one, The Purple Cow.

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