Idea validation · Lean startup

What is an ideal proof of concept that a non-technical person can quickly build to validate an app business idea?

Jordan Peixoto traveler. founder. strategy.

January 26th, 2018

Hi everyone! I am non-technical (by non-technical I mean no coding skills) who has an idea for an app business. It’s like Tinder mixed with Meet-up for people who are looking to do activities with people (strangers). I am currently in the idea validation phase.
I have run a few facebook campaigns using a landing page and have shared mockups with family and friends for their feedback. Feedback has been positive. I’ts hard to get a sense as to whether people would actually use the app (since I am not selling a product, I can’t get them to pre-purchase).
Before moving forward with the project and recruiting a technical founder, I would like to validate the idea further to increase the likelihood that I am solving a real problem that people want solved. I would like to build a working proof of concept to see if early adopters would be attracted to the project and to receive feedback on critical features.
My thought process is that if I can validate the idea and show early traction, then I will be in a better position to recruit a high quality technical founder. For a non-technical person, I thought the following proof of concepts might work:

  • A low fidelity app built on a no-code app builder like Bubble, Goodbarber, Shoutem, Appery.io, etc.
  • An MVP app in which the development is outsourced (freelancer, overseas dev shop)
  • A simple web app using a pre-built Wordpress theme

Some basic issues include:
At first glance, with a no-code app builder, i’m not sure I can build a “good enough” app to receive meaningful user feedback on the idea or core features.
To develop an MVP app is expensive (online i’ve seen ranges of $5,000 to $15,000) and I can’t successfully project manage the app development given my lack of technical expertise.
A simple web app that I construct may not provide an accurate user experience that I envision to be critical to my app’s success.
What method should I pursue next as a proof of concept to further test the idea?

Dimitry Rotstein Founder at Miranor

January 26th, 2018

There is a fourth option, which is probably exactly what you need - an offline, manually-powered product/service, aka "Concierge MVP". It means that instead of building an app that does something, you do this something yourself. Like most founders I know you will probably consider this approach preposterous, but if you think about it for a while, you will see that you feel this way mostly because it means you will have to do a lot of hard, dirty and time-consuming work that you were hoping a computer would do for you. But that's how it is - when they say that building a startup is hard, that's one of the reasons it's hard - you have to do a lot of work not suitable for humans.

The rewards are huge, however. Not only can you get a product without any technical know-how, you will get a feedback from users that no app will ever give you, because you will interact with the users directly.


Since I don't know what your product is all about, I can't tell you how to implement it in "low-tech" (send me a private message if you want to brainstorm on this), but here are a few examples from my personal experience - maybe it will kick-off your imagination:


1. Idea: An app that helps smokers quit by occupying their attention, keeping them busy by suggesting and guiding through vigorous unrelated activity (exercising, playing simple games, talking, joking, etc.) until the craving subsides (usually happens after 10-15 minutes, or so i heard).

MVP: Give your phone number to a few potential users and convince them to call you every time they feel like smoking.


2. Idea: An app that sends you a message when a new episode of your favorite show is out, so you wouldn't have to remember not to miss it.

MVP: A Google form that collects contact details and a list of favorite shows from a user. You keep the list of all the requested shows and every day (or several times a day) you go to IMDB or something, check if a new episode is out and send emails/IMs to relevant users. For starters, of course, support only a short list of the most popular shows.


3. Idea: Crowd-sourced spam-call blocker app. Every time a user gets a spam call, he/she presses "report spam" button. If a certain number is reported more than X times, it is automatically blocked any time any app user receives a call from this number.

MVP: Make your users install a simple call blocker and give them your contact details. When they receive a spam call they forward the number to you and add it to their block list. You write down these reported numbers in an Excel chart and when a number reaches the threshold, you send every user a message, telling them to add this number to block list.


Should be enough for starters.

Kristen A. Luciani CEO of Sand Hill Romance, LLC, Creator of Vorbii App (vorbii.com), Entrepreneur, Bestselling Author

January 26th, 2018

Hi Jordan. It's great that you have gotten positive feedback on the initial concept! I'm in a very similar position right now. I've actually gone down the path of hiring a freelance developer, and my experiences have not been good. I have wireframes and logic built out, but I have zero coding experience. I'm currently looking for a co-founder, as I want someone to be invested in the future of the company as opposed to someone who is doing the development in their spare time and isn't really invested in it's success. That being said, I don't have any fabulous answers, but I can tell you of a tool called Indigo that is a code builder. It allows you to drag and drop and include actions that are translated into code on the back end. Once you build your prototype, you can then simulate the functions of the app. Here's the link in case you're interested. Best of luck to you!

Saurabh Sinha Saurabh Sinha @ budding entrepreneur

Last updated on January 27th, 2018

Haan Multiple methods of going about it:

  • Hire an intern or freelancer to get you a cheap mvp. It does not have to look great and five thousand dollars is outrageous.
  • Spot early adopters for trials. These are the people who don't mind using a second grade product as long as it is cool. So study your customer segment and identify the expected early adopters and try shipping to them. If you get a decent response or even people willing to pay, you have tested your value hypothesis
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