April 17, 2024
5
  minutes

4 ways to validate demand without building product

Breakdown of how some top tech companies validated their hypothesis without writing a bunch of code.

This one stat blows our mind. 34% of startups fail due to never finding product-market fit. 🤯

Well, in hindsight, given how difficult it is to achieve PMF, is it so surprising?

If you could somehow test your hypothesis quickly, without spending months on development, that would be pretty neat.

Today, we look at companies that used out-of-the-box solutions to validate their market and product.

Validating demand without product

Validating demand with strong excitement 🤩

Dropbox validated its product with a simple explainer video. Back in 2007, founder Drew Houston was working on building a prototype, but he knew it wasn’t ready for a public launch yet. He still wanted to gauge whether the file sync problem would be felt by others as well.

So he recorded a video of his prototype, demonstrating its main features and use cases. He released his Dropbox explainer video MVP to Hacker News. At the bottom of the video was a form to join the waiting list for the private beta.

The Dropbox explainer video MVP showed how you could instantaneously make a change on one computer and see it reflected live online. They grew their beta waiting list from 5,000 to 75,000 overnight 🤯.

Validating demand with strong willingness to pay

Buffer - a product that helps you post to Twitter more consistently - validated demand for their idea with a simple 2-page MVP test as below.

They saw people clicking through and giving their emails, so they knew that people would probably want what they were building. But they also wanted to know whether people would shell money out of their pocket for this product.

So how did they check willingness to pay? This was as simple as adding another page in between with free and paid plan options, even though these plans were not operational yet (there was no product yet either 🥶).

When they saw people still submitting emails and that too after clicking on the paid plans 💰, that was enough conviction for them to start building the product.

Build a viral tool that mirrors the intent of your product 🧑‍💻

Calm is a $2B meditation app. Their origins can be traced back to a simple website, which urged you to sit back and do nothing 🧘 for 2 minutes. This went viral on Twitter in early 2011.

But it doesn’t stop at making a website and driving traffic 🚗 in hopes of conversion. Here’s why it worked for Calm:

  1. The website represents the crux of what would later become Calm. It encourages you to relax and be present - which is key to meditation and mindfulness
  2. Only if you manage to sit through the 2 minutes without touching your mouse, keyboard, etc can you drop your email, filtering out low-intent traffic. Alex captured ~100k high-intent emails for Calm before building a product 🙌
  3. A number of these emails on the website became early adopters for Calm. The closer the viral product is to your core product, the better your conversions.

Validating demand with a blog/newsletter 📕

The concept behind Product Hunt was simple: to build a community for product people to share, discover, and discuss new products.

But it would take quite a bit of effort 👷 to build the actual product. Ryan needed to validate that people actually wanted what he was building.

How could he bring his idea to market sooner to test his hypothesis?

Ryan logged into Linkydink (a tool to create a group and invite people to share links with other contributors and subscribers. Each day, the collection of posts is emailed to the group) and invited a few of his startup friends to contribute 🤝. He wrote a quick blog post and tweeted announcing this initial version of Product Hunt.

Within 20 minutes, he had an MVP 🤯. Here’s how it worked:

  1. Contributors submit a link to their product discovery using Makeshift’s linkydink tool.
  2. Once per day, the collection of products and links are emailed to subscribers with the attribution of who made the submission.
“I created this collaborative list called Product Hunt and invited maybe a couple dozen people I knew to join,” says Hoover. “They worked at startups, or were just people I knew. I didn’t market it heavily, but people seemed to like it right away. Soon, I had a couple hundred subscribers and people started coming up to me to talk about how much they enjoyed getting the email every day.” - Ryan Hoover, Founder, Product Hunt

In just two weeks, 170+ people 👩‍👦 subscribed to product discoveries from 30 hand-picked contributors, consisting of startup founders, VCs, and prominent bloggers.

This traction was encouraging, especially considering the minimalism of the “Linkydink MVP” and the lack of marketing.

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