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My most promising and fastlane friendly idea seems impossible to implement

Idea threads

journeyman

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Evening ladies and gents, lately I'm being haunted by a new idea and wouldn't mind to get some feedback from people who have successfully developed websites from scratch. I did look into several other threads and have seen the opinions regarding coding yourself vs outsourcing, but my dilemmas go beyond that.

Even though the task seems insurmountable right now and I am far from decied to go after this, I have to admit that I bought 2 domains names that are directly linked to this idea. I just couldn't resist, I'd hate for someone else to scoop them eventually.

The idea for a new website.


For months I have been generating ideas that are never really good, everything that I thought of seemed to be already done and taken care of. But when I tried to find an online calculator/ranker for something that I needed and I didn't find anything, I was so surprised. I found an obvious need that is just screaming for an application. I'll try to give you as much detail without revealing the actual idea.

Think like an insurance calculator, where you need to give all kinds of information and then the software will connect to other databases, retrieve the information and the algorithm will rank the relevant deals for you. Only more complex, because the insurance calculator looks at only one parameter, while mine will look at at least 3.

The service will be free, and the monetization will come through traffic, which will lead to affiliate revenue from linking the deals to the relevant companies.

The implementation

My coding knowledge is limited to counting how many As or Cs are in a sentence, so I'd need someone else to code this for me:
A form that will take anywhere between 10-20 data points, use some of the data to connect with other websites' API to calculate costs for at least 3 of these points and then do some math subtracting/adding all the data points and giving you a yes/no answer with an affiliate link to buy.

I would have to hire either a freelancer or an agency. Calculating the cost troubles me, as I wouldn't be surprised if we are talking about 10,000 $ cost of implementation. I have no idea how to get a quote for a website but maybe:

  1. Make a rough design of a working website myself and break it down to simple tasks
  2. Search for relevant software/libraries that can tackle one task at a time.
  3. Make a list and contact a developer/agency to get a quote for assembling such software and writing any code that doesn't exist already.
I am not sure whether a single developer could handle the whole thing himself, so if you guys have any input on when a project is suitable for an agency instead would be valuable.

I should note that the website should have global reach, even if initially it would be developed for the US. It should take into account different law regulations and costs in each country much of which would have to be updated manually.

Validation

The need that the website will address is so obvious that I am astonished that there is NO competition out there yet. Potentially due to the incredibly high barrier of entry? This brings me to the validation step, that is, I am confident that the need is so real that there is no need for validation. At the same time I have learned that my opinion means s**t and I need to ask the market and get real data. I could potentiall validate it by throwing a super simple implementation of the site online just to see how many visitors will come or how I will rank for the relevant keywords. My concern with this however is that it would give away the idea and someone else could start working on it right away, someone with either the skills or with the means to outsource the skills.

I am familiar with the concept that ideas mean s**t and it's the execution that counts, but I am not entirely convinced. What stops an experienced e-businessman who looks at the initial execution of my idea and realizes its potential for profit and growth, from just throwing a bunch of money to the best designers and programmers resulting in a working website before me? A guy with more money, more experience, connections and the track record of having done something similar could surely beat me to the end result.

The limitations:
I work 50 hours per week

Options:
  • Quitting and working on something that is not generating income yet is not possible, so I would have to work on this as a side project.
  • Would working on a big website project on the side mean several years to implement or reach profitability?
  • Pitch my idea to someone who want to partner, even though I am not fond of business partnerships.
...And I have very little money to invest in a big project.

Options:
  • After finding out the required cost, save as much money as I can from my day job to invest in the project
  • Raise outside capital - is this even possible with no track record or relevant skills but just an idea?
  • Don't launch a full working website, but just the bare minimum version that could get traffic and then be pitched to an outsider to invest in it for growth (angel investors or even a kickstarter campaign)

Appreciate anyone who made it to the end of this book-like post.

Specific questions I am struggling with:

  1. How to get an estimate cost in order to decide if this is something doable or not?
  2. Am I just trying to reject this by creating obstacles where they don't exist so that I can avoid the uncomfortable situation and the hard work?
  3. Has anyone implemented a big website project working on the side and in a realistic timeframe?
  4. Can capital be raised with just an idea?
  5. Would it be ambition-crashing to abandon an idea that you think is fantastic but you also deem unattainable? I remember Napoleon Hill talking about how, if you don't act on the best idea that you subconsciously know could be your break, you are essentially suppressing any future ideas from coming forward.

I'd love to get your opinion! Cheers
 
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Jerwood

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    • How to get an estimate cost in order to decide if this is something doable or not?
    • Am I just trying to reject this by creating obstacles where they don't exist so that I can avoid the uncomfortable situation and the hard work?
    • Has anyone implemented a big website project working on the side and in a realistic timeframe?
    • Can capital be raised with just an idea?
    • Would it be ambition-crashing to abandon an idea that you think is fantastic but you also deem unattainable? I remember Napoleon Hill talking about how, if you don't act on the best idea that you subconsciously know could be your break, you are essentially suppressing any future ideas from coming forward.

1. - Ring web agencies/designers and ask for quotes... Its ok to shop around so people won't get annoyed in you asking for a quote
2. - Maybe, but you need to be realistic before jumping into projects. I feel like you understand that already though by posting here.
3. - N/A for me
4. - No. With a solid business plan you can find investors but honestly, I don't think this applies here...
5. - I personally did this, I saw the e cig movement before it happened, wanted to invest but was talked out of it by friends. I feel like I lost millions because I didn't trust my gut. That being said, I picked myself up and moved onto the next thing.
 

TheSilverSpoon

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I think you are massively overestimating the cost and time to get this built. Obviously, I don't know the details, but connecting a form to a 3rd party API and performing some basic math is 101 level stuff. More than happy to take a closer look and give you a better idea if you want.

Traffic, like with most things, will be your biggest challenge here.
 

journeyman

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1. - Ring web agencies/designers and ask for quotes... Its ok to shop around so people won't get annoyed in you asking for a quote
2. - Maybe, but you need to be realistic before jumping into projects. I feel like you understand that already though by posting here.
3. - N/A for me
4. - No. With a solid business plan you can find investors but honestly, I don't think this applies here...
5. - I personally did this, I saw the e cig movement before it happened, wanted to invest but was talked out of it by friends. I feel like I lost millions because I didn't trust my gut. That being said, I picked myself up and moved onto the next thing.

Thanks Jerwood. This is exactly what I am going to do. To begin with I will draft a first design of all the necessary functions and then I will try to get several quotes. I am still not sure how to ask for a quote without revealing the actual website but I will figure it out.

I think you are massively overestimating the cost and time to get this built. Obviously, I don't know the details, but connecting a form to a 3rd party API and performing some basic math is 101 level stuff. More than happy to take a closer look and give you a better idea if you want.

Traffic, like with most things, will be your biggest challenge here.

Thanks so much SilverSpoon. Starting from the end, I might be delusional, but I really think that this is something so useful that its traffic would explode pretty quickly after some initial exposure. As a start I would try cheap keyword ads, spamming the hell out of every relevant blogger etc.

I really hope that you are right and I am massively overestimating the cost. I really don't know what to expect but it's just that it won't be only one API, but several that need to be taken into account. Anyway to keep a long story short, I will do a basic outline of the website's functions and then I'll take you up on your generous offer to have a closer look.
 
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raddevon

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I'm going to start at validation since I feel like that's your greatest need right now.
I could potentiall validate it by throwing a super simple implementation of the site online just to see how many visitors will come or how I will rank for the relevant keywords.
I would go really low-tech for your validation. Set up a WordPress site with a form users can fill which emails you the relevant details. Do whatever work your back-end would do, except by hand and email it back to the user. Once you've done that, start a conversation with them. Find out if the info you sent it helpful. If you want, go ahead and set up your affiliate arrangements and start earning your commissions. Once it works for your customers with you doing it by hand, you'll know whether it’s worth investing in a developer to build it for real. This is called a Wizard of Oz prototype.

Do not spend any money until you've done loads of validation. If you're 100% sure you're right that there is a need, your validation will be just that: validation that you're right! It's very likely you're wrong about something, even if it's just a tiny thing. That's something that could sink you (and your money) and could be avoid by talking to lots of potential customers before you build.

My concern with this however is that it would give away the idea and someone else could start working on it right away, someone with either the skills or with the means to outsource the skills.
What stops an experienced e-businessman who looks at the initial execution of my idea and realizes its potential for profit and growth, from just throwing a bunch of money to the best designers and programmers resulting in a working website before me? A guy with more money, more experience, connections and the track record of having done something similar could surely beat me to the end result.
Two things to consider here:
  1. People who can build stuff like this have their own ideas. They're probably not randomly hunting around the web for someone else's idea to copy.
  2. The people who stumble upon your site are very likely going to be the people who need your service, not people looking to copy someone else's idea. They're likely not capable of building it themselves. Unless you're advertising without any sort of targeting, you're not going to be drawing traffic from entrepreneurs looking for their next venture.
    Put yourself in the (possibly mythical) idea thief's shoes: if you want to copy some idea, any idea, where will you start? What would you Google to get started to find the perfect idea to steal?
This doesn't mean your idea absolutely will not get stolen, but it's highly unlikely. Also, if it does, that probably doesn't matter. If you build the software first and it's garbage, someone can still come behind you and steal all your customers. If someone steals your idea and releases it first but you do it better, you'll still come out on top. Executing the idea well is the hard part, not coming up with the idea.
I have no idea how to get a quote for a website but maybe:

  1. Make a rough design of a working website myself and break it down to simple tasks
  2. Search for relevant software/libraries that can tackle one task at a time.
  3. Make a list and contact a developer/agency to get a quote for assembling such software and writing any code that doesn't exist already.
My recommendation (as a web developer):
  1. Wireframe every view in your app. You can do this on paper or with software. Doesn't matter. Just make sure you have images of everything you want to build.
  2. Write out some user stories that walk through every possible use case for your app. Cross-reference those with your wireframes. These will be actual stories about people who want to use your web site and how they go about it. "Joe wants to do <task>. First, he logs in to the site. Then, he clicks the <button label> button. He enters all the information in the <form name> form and clicks submit. The site returns <result from site>." Be more detailed than this, but you get the idea.
  3. Give these to the developers and shops you pursue for quotes. You're going to get quotes that range from $100 to $100,000 even though you give them exactly the same specifications. Be wary of the extremes.
 

SimplyMatt

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API calls are no problem. Use this resource to help form all of your calls: Postman Then research how to use a easy language (I recommend C# / asp.net and Visual Studio for the IDE) to write your website / calls. Sure learning it will take some work, but there are tons of free videos and instructions on how to learn this stuff. Best of luck sir, I will be watching!
 

journeyman

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I'm going to start at validation since I feel like that's your greatest need right now.

I would go really low-tech for your validation. Set up a WordPress site with a form users can fill which emails you the relevant details. Do whatever work your back-end would do, except by hand and email it back to the user. Once you've done that, start a conversation with them. Find out if the info you sent it helpful. If you want, go ahead and set up your affiliate arrangements and start earning your commissions. Once it works for your customers with you doing it by hand, you'll know whether it’s worth investing in a developer to build it for real. This is called a Wizard of Oz prototype.

Do not spend any money until you've done loads of validation. If you're 100% sure you're right that there is a need, your validation will be just that: validation that you're right! It's very likely you're wrong about something, even if it's just a tiny thing. That's something that could sink you (and your money) and could be avoid by talking to lots of potential customers before you build.



Two things to consider here:
  1. People who can build stuff like this have their own ideas. They're probably not randomly hunting around the web for someone else's idea to copy.
  2. The people who stumble upon your site are very likely going to be the people who need your service, not people looking to copy someone else's idea. They're likely not capable of building it themselves. Unless you're advertising without any sort of targeting, you're not going to be drawing traffic from entrepreneurs looking for their next venture.
    Put yourself in the (possibly mythical) idea thief's shoes: if you want to copy some idea, any idea, where will you start? What would you Google to get started to find the perfect idea to steal?
This doesn't mean your idea absolutely will not get stolen, but it's highly unlikely. Also, if it does, that probably doesn't matter. If you build the software first and it's garbage, someone can still come behind you and steal all your customers. If someone steals your idea and releases it first but you do it better, you'll still come out on top. Executing the idea well is the hard part, not coming up with the idea.

My recommendation (as a web developer):
  1. Wireframe every view in your app. You can do this on paper or with software. Doesn't matter. Just make sure you have images of everything you want to build.
  2. Write out some user stories that walk through every possible use case for your app. Cross-reference those with your wireframes. These will be actual stories about people who want to use your web site and how they go about it. "Joe wants to do <task>. First, he logs in to the site. Then, he clicks the <button label> button. He enters all the information in the <form name> form and clicks submit. The site returns <result from site>." Be more detailed than this, but you get the idea.
  3. Give these to the developers and shops you pursue for quotes. You're going to get quotes that range from $100 to $100,000 even though you give them exactly the same specifications. Be wary of the extremes.

You blew my mind man. Thank you. I had never thought of this, even if it's so simple. I was stuck at a working page validation. This is exactly what I'll focus on, after writing down all the parameters that I will need and the layout of the site, I will throw a wordpress form online and whoever fills it will get a result back through my manual searching.

I appreciate the "idea stealing" comments as well, the probability part makes a lot of sense. I guess it's equally possible that someone will just reach the same idea independently and will develop it in parallel, therefore I should not delay things making it difficult for people to help me by being secretive.
 

journeyman

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It took longer than I expected, but the hardest part of the validation stage is done.

I researched all the relevant websites I need to visit to procure and compile the data (6 in total) and made an excel file for automated calculations.

Set up a landing-page looking website on wordpress, which I was expecting to be ugly but I actually quite like. There I have put a form with all the details that I need from potential leads.

All I need now is traffic.

I will drive 100 clicks for relevant keywords and gauge interest and also interact with any leads. Hope to report some exciting results soon.
 

Kingsta

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I've worked with something similar (think moneysupermarket).

A lot of websites, especially in say Insurance will have an API for third party sites to interact with. Whether the company chooses to do business with you, well that is up to you to prove you can provide value.

Setting up something like this shouldn't cost you anywhere near £10,000 but finding the right developer to execute your vision will be crucial. Anyone can create a website that does XYZ but can they execute everything you have envisioned? How well can you articulate what you see to your developer? These are often the biggest hurdles in my opinion.
 
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Ninjakid

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I've worked with something similar (think moneysupermarket).

A lot of websites, especially in say Insurance will have an API for third party sites to interact with. Whether the company chooses to do business with you, well that is up to you to prove you can provide value.

Setting up something like this shouldn't cost you anywhere near £10,000 but finding the right developer to execute your vision will be crucial. Anyone can create a website that does XYZ but can they execute everything you have envisioned? How well can you articulate what you see to your developer? These are often the biggest hurdles in my opinion.
Preach, brother. And often I find business owners and startup founders want to cheap out when it comes to a website. They'll look for the cheapest possible option, and go with that (and there are a lot of "web developers" who will make a website for dirt cheap).

Yet if a website is the core of your business, would it not make sense to get the very best for your vision? Many do not understand this logic, and hence, most businesses fail.
 

I Am I Said

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I would go really low-tech for your validation. Set up a WordPress site with a form users can fill which emails you the relevant details. Do whatever work your back-end would do, except by hand and email it back to the user. Once you've done that, start a conversation with them. Find out if the info you sent it helpful. If you want, go ahead and set up your affiliate arrangements and start earning your commissions. Once it works for your customers with you doing it by hand, you'll know whether it’s worth investing in a developer to build it for real. This is called a Wizard of Oz prototype.

Without hijacking the OP - thanks, this is very helpful! I have been trying to come up with a way to MVP an idea and being the guy behind the curtain is the obvious thing I overlooked.
 

journeyman

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I've had some preliminary data from traffic. Pleased to say that the bounce rate is decent and there's people sticking around and reading the whole website.

I had one fully submitted form, which when I emailed back the results and tried to ask for feedback didn't reply.

Through inspectlet, I saw that 3 people started to fill the form and then abandoned at various stages (takes less than a minute to fill). One of them filled it completely but just didn't submit, which I would attribute to a random nuiscance and therefore count it as a signup.

So there's at least 2% conversion and being a first draft of the website with non-optimized forms, I am gonna assume it's not bad.

I have decided that as long as I don't have to invest any money, I am not going to abandon this idea. I've been guilty of stopping things short before so now I will grow it as much as I possibly can without coding and automating the process.

Next step: e-mail the websites whose data I am using and ask them if they would benefit getting traffic/search results from me and if we could work out some sort of partnership.
 
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