Thomas Step

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Building Sweatspaces and the Mom Test

Well…I built something else. This one is a much larger project than my previous projects, but I can’t tell yet whether it was worth the extra effort. I have a goal to one day create a product that people use and enjoy. I have tried a couple of times throughout my short online career to do that with Elsewhere, Crow Auth, Papyrus, various APIs and marketplace widgets, and now Sweatspaces. I have yet to have anything gain traction. Probably due to my lack of marketing. Sweatspaces was a larger endeavor because it involved multiple microservices. Maybe someday I’ll make an architecture post similar to the ones I have done in the past.

With the larger time cost of building this out, I wanted to keep giving it more attention and decided that I would start reaching out to people who I thought would use the product. Sweatspaces is a marketplace of sorts that connects people who want to rent out their home gyms to people who want a more private workout experience. The only reason I built it was because I wanted to rent a home gym for the same reason. I would build one but I don’t have space in my house or garage.

I started finding people online and started getting in contact with them. This is not the first time I have done cold outreach, but I felt like this product was better. While there have been some interested souls I started coming across a concept that I had not applied, which is to do this type of work before building the product. I thought I had something this time because I personally wanted to use it. But I am not everyone else and I can’t force my wants on anyone.

I’m sure most people in the startup space have already encountered the idea of the Mom Test. The idea is to talk to your potential customers before you ever build something to validate that it is something worth building. Another key though is not to ask them if they think the idea is good, but rather to ask them about their problems. If they coincidentally bring up the problem you are trying to solve, you can go a little deeper and see what they do to solve it now, how much it costs them, and then finally if they would buy something to solve it. The book explains it far better than I can or want to.

The gist is that after building out Sweatspaces, I learned an important lesson. Marketing should come after validation. Building should come after validation. Everything, really, should come after validation. And talking to potential customers shouldn’t be about validating your idea, it should be about listening to them and the problems that they face. That way you already know that the problem you are solving is a worthy one. Now the next step for me is to figure out where to find the people I want to build solutions for and how to decode that information from what they are saying.

Just learning about a topic does not always result in me fully absorbing it. I hope that writing this down and being able to reflect on it will help me move forward and do the correct thing. I need applied lessons to fully absorb a topic and this was one of them.

Categories: entrepreneurship | meta | startup