My MVP without the audience

today I wanted to share my journey from building a Minimum Viable Product called
“Urban Legends – Immersive Outdoor Storytelling Experience” and all the lessons that I learned from it.

What is Urban Legends?

Urban Legends started as my thesis project and later I tried to test it out in real life. The app supposed to give you an experience of the audiobook with the difference that you can control the choices of the main character. On top of that, you would need to go to from place A to B to unlock the chapters. So imagine reading “Girl in the train” where all the chapters are getting unlocked on different train stations. And from a story perspective, you can decide on either going to buy groceries for the dinner or follow that suspicious-looking guy you just noticed.

Lesson #1 – Don’t try to do everything yourself

As an ambitious entrepreneur wannabe, I wanted to do everything by myself. Indeed I did the whole research and programming part by myself but there are some skills I simply suck at and needed help. I had an app ready but I was missing the stories, UI was terrible, and had to record everything to audiobook format!

I started posting messages that I’m looking for people to help me. I approached various Facebook groups and ask around my friend’s circle.
I found everybody needed!

Aleksandra – Writer, that I found on a student group.
Bartek – Designer, recommended by my friend
Adam – Voice Actor, My friend. He actually works in IT but his voice did a job 🙂

I cannot imagine building it without their help, everything would take so much more time and quality wouldn’t be as good as it was. They also provide you with motivation since you don’t want to let down your team who also put there a lot of effort.

Lesson #2 – Validate your idea ASAP

I heard it thousand times “Build the startup that solves the problem” in my case the thing I was trying to make audiobook stories more engaging. I assumed it was a problem and quickly without any proper research jumped to what I knew the best coding. I think we all have those blind spots for our ideas, We believe in them, and that what drives us.
Validation of the idea seems like a boring and unnecessary task when you know it is the best idea in the world, am I right?

The better research we do at the beginning the more time we can save in case your idea is not as great as we thought.

As I started developing and testing my app for the 50th time outside, in the field I was not as excited as at the beginning, I was coming up to the sad realization that was only confirmed by my 1st test user.

The overall experience was not engaging nor exciting it was just an audiobook where you had to walk to the places you didn’t really want to go.

Also, it was hard to follow the story when we had it in small batches spread on the map within 10 min walking distance!

Lesson #3 – Your MVP is not the MVP

Definition of the Minimum viable product

This is the first thing you can give to the very first set of users you wanna target, in order to see if you can deliver any value at all to them. 

Michael Seibel

Another lesson I learn the hard way was that too many features can be overkill. I was doing this project primarily for my thesis so it was not a waste of time since I passed it, but even afterward I tried to push so many unnecessary features instead of focus on keeping it simple.
As a programmer, I tend to look at projects from the technical side if they are challenging and because of that, I lose the focus of what problem I’m trying to solve.

Even if I wasted a bit of time I could do way worst!
Luckily I heard Michael Seibel advice on how to build it:

In most cases, most people should be building a very lean MVP. So by that, we mean you should be able to build it fast, in weeks, not months. This can either involve software, or honestly, we see startups just start with a landing page and a spreadsheet. But most startups can start very, very fast.

Michael Seibel

Lesson #4 – Liking the app idea does not equal being a user

In the past, whenever I pitched my idea to other people, most of them liked it! I collected all people who thought it was a cool idea and saved the list later when MVP was finished. I found more interest inside the writers’ circle since they were curious about a new way of delivering a story.

It was tricky!

The story had to have multiple timelines where each timeline needed additional work from the writer. After all that work, I had to translate the text to English, and then Adam was making a voice over.
Even if the story had a couple of pages, the amount of work exceeded my expectation…

With all that story ingredients ready, I uploaded everything to the server, and 1st story was created!

I reached back to the people from the list I created before and managed to convince only 1, my flatmate.
After getting her feedback, i removed the geolocation part so people can test it all over the world without physically being in a specific location.
I thought, “Great, now I just need to post this link on some FB groups that has +30k people, and I will find plenty of users!”

I was really wrong!

The Facebook group admins are blocking the content that is considered self-promotion. I also got kicked out of a few groups because of it…

What I would do differently this time?

First of all, I would focus on growing some of the audience interested in what I have to offer and would be more willing to help me.

Secondly, I would start with a problem that is already validated by users, and there is a demand for it. Currently, I’m researching hackathon app topics to looking for the right problem that will suit me. After that, I will contact the company directly, asking for more details about the problem, and eventually try to use their knowledge to build MVP

At last, I would build a very lean MVP and give myself a 3-4 week deadline to finish it. In case I would fail, I would fail fast



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Programming Struggles

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