How We Created Our Minimal Viable Product (MVP)

Here’s a post about our story so far. Our quest to reach a product that makes a positive difference in people’s lives.

What is Talent Rocket

So let’s start by giving you an overview as to what we are. I believe that recruitment is broken. Finding career happiness shouldn’t be about finding a job, it should about finding a company whose values align with our own and whose purpose genuinely excites us.

Talent Rocket is a platform that connects talented people to inspiring companies.

Users can log in create a private profile and follow the companies they’d like to work for whether now or in the future. Every time those companies are hiring a user gets notified so they don’t miss out on their dream career move. Users will soon also be able to communicate directly with companies who like them back and vice versa. 80% of jobs are secured through these informal conversations, coffees, drinks after work and not formal job post and apply processes. We’re recreating these online.

Until now there has been nowhere for someone to manage their career online and keep track of when their favourite companies are hiring. We’re simplifying the recruitment process, no recruiters, no spammy emails…. and we’re taking on the £multi-billion recruitment market in the process.

This is our story, of what we did and where we’ve got to. It’s not by any means the right way to do it. We’ve made loads of mistakes and we’ve learned a lot, but I wrote it to help you with your startup and hopefully avoid some of the mistakes I made.

Finding our tribe

Early on we took the decision to only feature purpose led companies. We defined this as companies that measure their success in making a difference to the world not just making profit for shareholders.

Not only did that align with our mission, but we had the added benefit that these companies naturally cared more about finding people that fit with their company culture.

The idea struck a chord and we quickly got companies signed up, today companies are now coming to us each week to say they want to on our site which is a great position to be in.

Companies such as Mindcandy, Innocent Drinks, Moo and Gamevy became our early adopters and have trail blazed the way for more cool companies to want to get involved.

Because of their commitment to hiring the best they’re prepared to invest in their employer brand. The have interesting employee perks, from free beer and food Stack Exchange or Football Radar, to nerf gun wars at Yplan to Treehouses at Mindcandy.
These companies recognise money is better spent on creating a great work environment than in paying agency fees to recruiters.

We’re making in house recruiters and founders at these companies lives easier. We’re a platform for them to get their culture heard, they’re saving time and money making direct hires.

As well we have a steady flow of users coming to us to set up their ‘career wishlists’ and build relationships with these companies.

Getting to this point has not been easy. But go after the easy wins, if it’s a b2b product you’re launching go after the weird companies that think like you do.

Your time’s not best spent trying to convince a bunch of companies that they need to invest in their employer brand. It’s better reaching out to the small tribe that do and getting them on side.

Purpose first, product second

Let’s roll back to where I was. My background is in recruitment and I’d listen all day to the problems people face when finding work and companies have when finding talent.

18 months ago I knew I wanted to solve some of these problems, I knew I wanted to start a tech business. I did the usual meet ups, workshops and networking events. I started the inevitable quest to find a technical co-founder who believed in our mission and would be happy working for free.

I wanted to build a company that measured itself on delighting customers and employees not just making a profit. We developed our purpose early on – ‘to help the world find happiness through work’. It was our clarity of this that has helped us make all our strategic decisions to date.

Fall in love with your problem, not with your product

12 months ago I chose an external agency who believed in our mission to work with and scoped out an idea that was completely different to Talent Rocket.

It was a classic example of searching for problem/solution fit and not reaching it!

The problems were the same as the ones we’re trying to solve now. People hated spammy emails on LinkedIn from recruiters, they were frustrated with the hiring process. But the original solution we proposed was to build a Trip Advisor for recruitment services. Not that it was a bad idea, there are a few sites out there doing that, its just it wasn’t the most efficient way of solving the problem of helping people find happiness at work. After investigating we decided there was not enough empathy with recruiters.

And I also didn’t thing long term it would get me out of bed in the morning.

Your purpose is your fuel. You have to find it first before you find your solution or build anything.

So we decided to take a major pivot before writing any lines of code and I’m really glad we did.

What we did next

We built a sign up list first, created some viral content, filmed an introduction video, threw up a landing page, and wrote a manifesto.
We sent out a weekly newsletter to our sign up list and it grew and grew.

We created this blog and I did some guest blogging on bigger sites to acquire traffic. This was more blind hustling rather than working out which marketing channels were effective to us.
We created a story around the business and clarified our customer archetypes.

Key takeaway – You probably don’t have the option of building that audience once the product is ready- that’s too late.

Customer Development

I pitched the idea to loads of our dream companies via email, via LinkedIn or via the phone. There were loads of non-responses, but some people were really nice. Asking for help and advice was pretty effective.

The key learning in those meetings – How you ask the questions massively matters. It’s really difficult not to jump in and pitch your idea, get approval and say yay it’s validated. Getting agreement is not customer development. Tell them, ‘ok, we’re going to build this or this, which one would you like us to build?’ Or ‘we’ve got these things built, what would you take away in order to build the new thing.’ That way you get to really understand what people value.
Our idea changed a lot and still does based on feedback.

Mistakes

1. Worrying about problems you don’t have yet – I became obsessed about how users might use the product. Most of which was completely pointless and just delayed things
2. Doing things because others are doing them – think outside the box and don’t get tempted to copy others
3. Worrying about the competition – don’t let it ruin your day. We take our inspiration from innovative companies in other industries not our own.
4. Premature optimisation – don’t be a perfectionist, good enough will do for now.
5. Don’t obsess over metrics – Look at analytics, but talk to each customer individually first, it’s way more productive.

Spend less time on fancy gadgets and more time on shipping and testing new features.

Key learning – Don’t try and predict what’s going to happen. Just focus on solving the problems you do have, more problems will always come up.

Reaching product/market fit

Quality matters. Design matters. There’s no point in building all those contacts on your mailing list getting them all excited and releasing something that looks like a pile of crap. There are a few cases where that’s probably OK e.g a highly functional back office solution or some enterprise software, but for us, we needed to bake UX into the product.

I can’t remember who said it but “the biggest risk isn’t lack of time or money, it’s building almost the right thing”. Seeing a successful competitor do what you do but with one extra detail that makes all the difference.

One question we always ask ourselves is will people miss this product if it were gone? If 40% of our users say extremely or very much, we’ve probably reached p/m fit.

Before this point ask for forgiveness, your product is going to suck for a while, ask people to stick with you. People seem to like that kind of dirt honesty.

Building a product is all about building trust. Even if it’s a free site people are paying with their data or their attention. You can’t betray that. Nothing is really free, there’s always an exchange, it’s up to the founder to go out and build that trust so that someone converts.

Final thoughts

MVP – minimal viable product, most people underestimate viable. And overestimate minimal. It has to be good enough for people to stick around. It’s much harder to win back a customer who’s had a bad experience.

Build it in a lean way (listen, build, measure, learn) but don’t be barely good enough. Prematurely declaring that a product is done means that your incremental improvement isn’t important to anyone.

Don’t forget that marketing plays by different rules to engineering. Many products depend on community, on adoption within a tribe, on buzz. They wont become viable until their peers adopt it.

Make sure your product or service stands out. Know who your customers are and who they are not, stay committed to your vision but stay flexible in your approach.

If you have any comments on this post please do let us know by posting in the box below.

Minimal Viable Product