I'm curious to get the thoughts of some entrepreneurs here. When designing crowdsourced apps, what are some of the dynamics and ramp up requirements to achieve what I would call a "working" product. Think Angie's list for example. The website was only minimally useful until they had a number of "plumbers" and "electricians" sign up as service providers.
What other dynamics may be in play and how do you facilitate fast(er) ramp up?
Is it better to find a target audience and enroll them as a kick start to the app launch?
This is the question that poses the biggest challenges to this format; being the middle logistical B in a B2B2C. I asked the same question myself; should I develop both the vendor and customer side at the same time?
I love Daves answer on this one, If you have the time and money to slowly build it that way. It works, especially if you are ensuring your learning from your customer/vendors along the way.
Another way I learned is from a mentor of mine who has a habit of becoming CEO for tech startups and exiting with success. Are you familiar with AirBnB and how they developed their business? Basically in a nutshel, they developed the customer end while scraping off data for the vendors and placing them on their dashboard For customers to view and book directly through them. Of course this meant they had to call themselves at first to ensure the reservation took place. But soon, vendors started to realize the traffic coming through AirBnB and had value to them. Now imagine eventually charging the vendor side to stay on their site! Bam, a fast way to develop both ends.
Thats what I’m doing. The trick is to ensure you develop your value proposition with the customer end, and limit the geographic area in scrapping the vendor end, so you know you can handle the initial MVP. You can control that of course on the SEM side of things.
Hope this helps.
This is a really interesting question because it doesn't really have an easy answer since it is better to look at it as serving a two sided market place.
When your working with a two sided market place you have to build both sides at the same time or the other will leave. You need to find the target audience of the people in need of crowd funding and the funders.
This can be done by mapping out two different user journeys and making sure the user experience is of the highest quality for both sides. I always recommend having beta testers as you develop the design of a product that way you can get instant feedback from multiple sources and this gives you a list of people aside friends and family ready to use your service when you launch.
These are the following exercises that I do with my clients to help them with this issue.
- Lean canvas
- Creating User persona
- Mapping the user journey
- A/B testing clickable prototype with actual people who will be buying (and/or) using the product
- Conducting user interviews
I guarantee you that you'll find the dynamics with this approach.
Peter, you've sort of asked two different questions at the same time. The first is how to achieve a critical mass of users so your service is relevant. And the second is how to validate your idea so you know customers will use your service.
The latter is easier to address and starts you on the path to the former. To validate your idea you need to formulate your hypotheses about customer behavior and then test those hypotheses. Don't use a survey. And don't ask people what they would do, because those answers are never the truth. Ask people about their current behavior (what they do now and what they're unable to do now), because that's actual data. Relate the actual data to how it affects your plan.
When you have a good fit that solve problems (provides a personal benefit) and that is dramatically different (by dramatic I mean 50%+ difference, not 20% different), then you have an opportunity to persuade people to become customers by also giving them a reason to believe.
Usually the reason to believe is the easy part, but when your service is resource-based and you haven't developed a bank of resources yet, relevance is a challenge. Like any dating site starting out, if there's no one registered in the system, there's no one to date, and those that sign up early will be disappointed and leave. Anything you can do to stack the deck and pre-enroll your resources before you launch will make your launch much sexier. And you will need to budget for the incentives that keep people enrolled during the pre-launch and pilot months.
Lastly I will point to your use of the terms "app" and "crowdsourcing." Because in your example, Angie's List is neither of those things. Don't use established terms that don't actually describe what you're doing. Apps have their own barriers to usage because of the installation requirement. And I think you mean something closer to the "shared-economy" which refers to peer-to-peer power instead of labor of the masses that crowdsourcing is.
I agree with Scott that Dave has a good approach to validating your assumptions. I'm providing a little specific advice on how you ask the questions so you don't get misleading answers that don't actually represent what customer behavior will be.
Frankly it doesn't matter what your product or service is, you still need to validate your ideas. And keep re-validating them over and over throughout the life of your company, since things will be guaranteed to change over time.
Here's a good read over the subject.