Why Your App Idea (Probably) Sucks With Heidi Pun transcript

This is the transcript for the Why Your App Idea (Probably) Sucks With Heidi Pun podcast episode. To listen to the audio please visit the original post

Tom

Hey there welcome back to the Lighthouse Podcast, this is Tom again, and this week we have a very special guest, welcome to Heidi Pun.

Heidi

Hello.

Tom

How are you doing?

Heidi

Pretty well thank you.

Tom

Excellent, so Heidi came to my notice recently because she just released a new book, or an E-book which I read last week and have to say is pretty fantastic. So …

Heidi

Thank you tom.

Tom

Yeah cool, we’ve her in the studio to talk about that, the book is called …

Heidi

So the book is called “Your App Idea Probably Sucks”.

Tom

And that’s correct, it probably does suck. So, I mean, I’ll give a quick into to it because it struck a chord with me because, obviously a lot of what we do at Lighthouse is helping entrepreneurs come well … Well, validate ideas, bring products to market, that kind of thing. And the book is basically a summary of how you can go about doing that, I’d say like a really good practical guide to all those stages and aligns really well with, with the kind of stuff that we do here. Slightly different empires, which is interesting. I suppose the best place to start is a bit about you and how you came to writing this book.

Heidi

What I do is, I build websites, and I also release digital products every once in a while. So, about three years and a half ago, I released my first digital product which was a video course, new to me. It was about validating ideas, and the reason why I decided to take on that topic was because I think I understand the topic pretty well and because I have all the necessary skills basically to go through the process of validating an idea properly.

Tom

Yeah.

Heidi

So I decided to just pack it all up together, into one video course that will take you from A to B basically.

Tom

Yep.

Heidi

Within a few days, actually. So I went ahead and did that video course, I had no idea what I was doing really. So, but I went and did it, it was … I would like to say it was pretty successful.

Tom

It sounds like it went well definitely yeah.

Heidi

Yeah, it was a … I think by now it has around 900 students.

Tom

Cool, wow that’s good.

Heidi

Yeah for sure, I got a lot of feedback from it, it was rated quite well, but then I decided to just kind of YouTube pricing changes on users made … Too a few other things, I just decided to just take another attempt at providing that content, so I wrote this E-book.

Tom

What’s cool, I think a lot of the book outlines the way that you should approach product development, in making sure you’re validating ideas, testing stuff, getting feedback from users, and it sounds like I mean, well … You’re an entrepreneur yourself so you’ve done it that way and have gone through getting to this book by testing it with your actual users and or proving that this content’s important.

Heidi

Yeah.

Tom

To them, and then taking it to the next level, I mean it’s a really great practical approach to how you do that kind of stuff. And I like the little quote you said here, you’re embarrassed ’cause it took you sixth months to actually launch something.

Heidi

Yeah.

Tom

Which is, I mean it’s a thing we see all the time. People just want to go and build the best possible product and take six months, a year, two years, to get to market. And you know, the over arching story of what you say is that you need to be there quick and you need to be in front of users as soon as possible, is that right?

Heidi

That’s right yeah. The product that I validated, I mean, I built in six months was actually validated before that. So it wasn’t like I didn’t go and spend six months on it. Which is something that really, you shouldn’t do ever, you should really put in as little effort and time as possible. And just test the idea, at a very basic level.

Tom

Yeah definitely, so I love this … You don’t matter, your ideas don’t matter, what matters are the people you serve. And I think, I mean you can talk about this in a second but, but definitely something that we see loads, we see lots of people getting in touch with the next Facebook idea or whatever it’s going to be, you know they come up with some, some brilliant idea that’s going to make them billions, and it’s quite, it’s quite important I think, from, from, an entrepreneurs perspective to understand that that isn’t really going to make them the business. There’s a lot more to it than that.
I think your book outlines that well, so maybe you can talk a bit about the experience you’ve had with that and the advice you give to people.

Heidi

Yeah well actually this is something that I’ve learned in the recent years, basically. Since I did … Basically what I do a lot is build websites with content that people want, and they they come to the website, they read it, and they end up buying one of my products or something like that. And how I started this was, I just started writing for myself. I just wrote random articles that I thought people would like. And it was, I had to change that mind-set pretty quickly, because that was not a successful approach to this, right?

Tom

Yeah.

Heidi

So what I eventually did was I started researching what people actually want, and this is a concept that I think, ignoring in the beginning of their process but they get a hang of it as they go along. Because it’s necessary to adopt this mind-set before.

Tom

Why do you think it is that people ignore that at the start? Do you have any ideas there?

Heidi

I mean, I’m not great at psychology, or something. But I’m just guessing that it just feels good to build things for yourself right? To kind of you know, to just let your ego dictate exactly what you’re going to build. And just build what you want.

Tom

Yeah there’s definitely that tunnel vision aspect of, you’ve had an idea and you don’t … You almost don’t want it to be wrong, you don’t want to be proven wrong.

Heidi

Yeah exactly.

Tom

So yeah that validation aspect is huge and certainly something we, anyone who comes to us, we’re often trying to break their idea as much as we can, and if it gets through those, that research phase or that validation stage, you kind of know you’ve got something that’s special or at least has a chance to succeed.

Heidi

Yeah. I’d like to add something more, I just recently spoke to one person from … I’m not going to say the name but … From a startup. I actually felt like they were very focused on one feature of their product. Which is a certain way that things are done, technically …

Tom

Yep.

Heidi

Which I think is kind of the wrong approach, I talk about this in the book as well, that a lot of especially techy people especially developers, kind of try to approach problems from the direction of what can be done? Instead of what’s the problem and then eventually deciding how it can be solved. So I would recommend for anyone interested in this, the book Start With Why.

Tom

Yeah of course, yeah.

Heidi

I think everyone loves this book but it’s very important to really internalise this concept that really, you should start with what is it that you’re trying to solve, why are you doing this … Not with how are you doing that?

Tom

Yeah yeah, no that’s a very important thing to remember, like people don’t buy features they buy stuff that solves actual problems they have.

Heidi

Absolutely.

Tom

So yeah features are great but that’s quite a while down the line when you get to actually planning how you’re going to solve a problem. And then yeah, an idea doesn’t mean success, there’s a lot you have to get to that stage. I like the section you talked about not having to be first to market, which is actually quite timely. We put up a blog post last week, two weeks ago that’s about second mover advantage, which everyone should obviously check out, very interesting. But I like that thought because there’s always that that worry from people that someone’s going to steal their idea.

Heidi

Yeah.

Tom

And in fact you say that’s a really good thing if someone does, which I found fascinating, maybe you could talk about that for a bit?

Heidi

Yeah, well there isn’t a bad … Absolutely it’s true that you’re idea is probably going to be stolen if it’s any good. That’s just … You know, there are plenty of clones of Flappy Bird, of I don’t know, every …

Tom

It goes back longer than that, you know, all of history has that kind of stuff in it.

Heidi

That is true. That’s correct. Yes so if your idea is any good, it will get stolen and you should just accept that, right, before, you go in even trying to build this. And you know, that also, another thing that’s true is that if you don’t share your idea, you will not be able to build a business out of it. Because at which point, you know you’re being very secretive about this idea and you don’t tell anyone what you’re going to to do, so at which point to do you decide to finally start to market this?

Tom

Yeah.

Heidi

Does it have to be all built out? It’s just not how business works, I think. Or it’s not the most optimal way of doing this.

Tom

No not at all and again the idea of validation can’t happen without speaking to people.

Heidi

Of course, yeah.

Tom

You know how are you going to learn if people actually want your idea if you can’t share it with them and the wider network.

Heidi

Exactly.

Tom

You need them involved to do that, something that we see quite a lot of people getting in touch, sending over non disclosure agreements saying, oh here’s my secret idea, don’t tell anyone. And we just reply an say you’ve got to tell everyone. Like this is really important so it’s like put, throw that away and let’s just start talking about this and get into the real world.
And perfectionism is something you talked about as well, which is we always try and say that, certainly an MVP, minimum viable product, is the minimum you can do to get something out of there. Um, and that doesn’t include perfection.

Heidi

No for sure, I mean it is kind of hard to strike the balance between, you know, getting like something out that is actually functional or at least shows the concept.

Tom

Yeah.

Heidi

And not overdoing it, but, yeah I guess everyone knows for themselves what exactly is the basis, what’s the most essential part of their product, and just you know try and build that or try and illustrate this, whatever it is that your product does.

Tom

Definitely.

Heidi

Yeah.

Tom

So I think a real key part of the book, I mean, so the book cover’s like a load of stuff about how you’d get to an idea and you know, the steps you can do to validate stuff. And get going, which I think is really good and there’s also the kind of practical approach later on about how you can actually do stuff, which I think both work really, really well. And a great thing about it is that you don’t really need any tech skills to do all this kind of stuff, you’ve got links to services you can use to do that kind of thing. And most people would be able to do pretty much all of what’s in the book and get something out to market. Which I think is a really important message to not hire a developer too early, most people just come to us and just want, you know, let’s build something straight away.
What’s your experience with that sort of thing and what’s your message behind not hiring a tech team or sort of someone to build an app?

Heidi

Yeah I think that, well there are very few available developers right now. Especially good ones, so, and as far as … I’m not a developer myself, but I do have a lot of developer friends who all tell me the same thing which is they get pitched by people with ideas a lot. And these people with ideas tend to have a very similar way of presenting these ideas, practically everyone … I mean no actually has actual proof that this is going to work, they probably don’t have the skills to market it even.

Tom

Yeah.

Heidi

And they don’t have the money, so they just kind of expect developers to jump on this idea and just work for free until they figure out if it’s going to work or not. Which is unrealistic, I think that anyone can agree that they just are not going to work for free, not even if they’re not developers.

Tom

No of course not.

Heidi

You know, it just doesn’t make sense, so, what I find is more useful when pitching tech teams or develops is to have an actual proof to have … To actually have the customers if possible.

Tom

Of course yeah.

Heidi

And yeah that’s definitely a selling point like … And then you can make a good deal with … You know you can even offer actual equity or whatever you due is. But not until it’s been proven.

Tom

Completely agree you know, we get the same thing happening here, so people come along with an idea, do you want to have equity split for this kind of thing and it’s like, what are we splitting? Like it’s just … How’s that going to work, and we could take 100% of your idea because like … What’s it worth? Nothing right now. But yeah having that proof I think is great and you launch MVPs, you talk about doing that, we often do stuff like prototyping before to kind of get interest from the market from real customers. Really similar stuff we’d be talking about.
I think one thing that was really interesting about your book was the idea and this kind of relates to the Lean Start Up and books like that. Is you want to start charging people as early as possible and actually making money from stuff.

Heidi

That’s right yeah, a lot of people just kind of setup like a landing page and try to gauge interest by having a wait list or something. I don’t think that’s enough really to really gauge the interest of the market because a lot of people just will sign up and maybe not be interested to pay.

Tom

Of course.

Heidi

They might be just interested in a free service or something, that can be a problem, so you are really … You want to kind of think about how you will monetize this idea, and then according to this monetization, also test the monetization model within this validation process I think.

Tom

Yeah.

Heidi

Yeah.

Tom

And you did the same thing with the E-book right?

Heidi

Yeah.

Tom

You had people pay for it before you’d even written a word.

Heidi

Exactly, yeah. For sure.

Tom

So cool, all actually done from real world practise. That’s great. Do you want to talk maybe a little bit about the approach you recommend for finding users? And doing market research and that kind of thing, I thought that was a great section.

Heidi

Oh thank you, yes, I’m very fascinated by marketing in general and I think that there’s always something to learn in this area but as far as I know, the first step of marketing starts within the market research. So before you even start building any sort of or designing any sort of prototype or anything.

Tom

Yeah.

Heidi

You will have to first decide what your target audience is, where they hangout, online or offline, and then just find out what exactly are their problems and how you can kind of approach them. So in the first step you will have to do this research and then this research can be used later on as you attempt to market your idea, and you will just know where exactly to find your perspective customers basically.

Tom

Yeah.

Heidi

So that’s the first step of marketing I’m guessing, I did write a bit about copywriting as well, this is all very important. But it’s a huge, very vast topic that I really just couldn’t cram into …

Tom

We could write an entire book about both of those.

Heidi

Yeah exactly.

Tom

But I think, I mean the copywriting stuff is really cool because certainly when it comes to someone who’s got an idea and thought of features, those haven’t thought a lot about how they describe their products.

Heidi

Right.

Tom

Or how their going to market it, and it’s like oh we’ll do some marketing.

Heidi

Yeah.

Tom

Cool. What’s the plan, you know, and then it’s a really important part of how you do this stuff.

Heidi

For sure.

Tom

And so I think as a kind of guide to, there’s a section about writing an elevator pitch, which I really like. ‘Cause that’s something that’s really important, you’ve got to describe what your product is quickly, and easily and make it kind of catchy. Which is something that, I mean it’s a very hard thing to do.

Heidi

Yeah.

Tom

So maybe you could talk about like a simple method the people could use for doing that.

Heidi

Yeah I actually have got to say that I’ve talked to a lot of people with an idea and they, yeah, they all sort … I think a huge problem that a lot of people have is just going into all the directions at once, their product doesn’t just order pizzas they also kind of, I don’t know … Can order taxis and watch TV through the app, I don’t know.

Tom

Yeah.

Heidi

So they’re just not focused enough, right? What you have to do is, I don’t have the formula in front of me but there is a …

Tom

When you come and read the book …

Heidi

No, how do they … So the formula that I came up with to help people kind of come up with a good elevator pitch is name, so the name of the app, is an app that lets who, so who is your target audience, do what, so just very short one word description of what your app by how, how is the basically, the technological way of how, how your app will work in the end.

Tom

Yeah yeah.

Heidi

So this elevator pitch formula I think would help people to kind of just focus on the one thing that their app idea does.

Tom

Having that kind of like niche focus on a product is really important because you know, some people, you ask them who their target audience is and they basically say everyone over thirteen or something like that. And I just think well, where do you find them? Well everywhere. But that’s no good, so, we always recommend, certainly when we’re prototyping something or validating the start of an idea that you focus on someone really specific, and then grow from their, ’cause that’s how you work out whether the product hits right for the audience.
If you’re testing on someone who’s a five year old girl and then a 50 year old man, I mean they’ll give you completely different feedback from when you test your idea so it’s impossible to know whether it’s good or not.

Heidi

For sure.

Tom

Okay cool so you launched a product called Fembro.

Heidi

Yeah.

Tom

And quite a lot of the book is taking about how you got to the stage of launching and what happened after, but maybe you can give us like a background to how that came to market?

Heidi

For sure, yeah. So Fembro is basically a web app that let’s you filter out WordPress themes by visual filters basically.
So this was a problem that I have had a lot because what I do is also build websites, and i also always have this specific idea of how a website, I would like for it to look like, but searching WordPress themes by visual characteristics just isn’t available anywhere.

Tom

Yeah it’s not great.

Heidi

So you just have this very useful, tagger is like magazine, personal, news, I don’t know what even either of those mean. If I’m being honest.

Tom

Yeah it seems daft with me as well.

Heidi

So, I decided to maybe build that out, but since I authored a video course on validating ideas I was not able to just jump into it and just build out this idea, and at that time I also had the 9-5 job, so I really didn’t have a lot of time. So I took a week off from my job and I decided to kind of put together an MVP, which was a very basic application built on top of WordPress actually. That had about, I think it was 20 or 30 themes, very basic filters and just kind of to gauge the idea. The reason that I didn’t take the approach of just creating a design and launching a landing page, was that my launch strategy was to post the product on product hunt, which was … It would not work if I were just to set up …

Tom

No ’cause people want to use the stuff on their own, and have an idea.

Heidi

Exactly and I don’t think you can actually submit a functional product app.

Tom

Yeah.

Heidi

So the launch went pretty well, I think I do have a case study on designforfounders.com about this. With exact numbers, but it did make some revenue this MVP and it was quite successful on Product Fund. So that was an indication that there is some sort of interest for a product like this, but I was not able to guild that out at that point because I still had a job, so, I later, as I quit my job …
I decided to focus on this idea and I spent, as we discussed, six months on it because I suck at coding. So I went and built this, we added quite a few WordPress themes, I set up all these processes, I had like a VA so a virtual assistant add in the themes, and with the filters and everything. And we launched I think it was a year and a half ago, and it went pretty well, I mean, the website actually generated passive income for a little while … For actually until I shut it down a few months ago, temporarily hopefully.

Tom

You’ll be back.

Heidi

It was still generating passive income, I didn’t do any marketing apart from the launch on again, another launch on Product Hunt.

Tom

Yeah.

Heidi

And some content marketing that I did. But yeah like right now, it’s shut down due to server costs, because the code was not very well written, and I was being charged every month for GPO overage and it was just … So this might actually come back, this product.

Tom

So you need to refactor and then it’s going to return.

Heidi

Yeah yeah exactly, it needs some actually, someone who actually can code.

Tom

I’m sure you’re better than you’re admitting to. Maybe talk a bit about the content marketing side of things, ’cause that’s something that we advise people to do quite a lot.

Heidi

Content marketing?

Tom

Yeah.

Heidi

Yeah this is something that I have a lot of experience with because this is what I do a lot, and … I would say that content marketing is a great way to kind of build an audience who you can then launch products to. But for validation purposes I think it’s not very effective because it takes a long time to build that audience. So if you just have an idea right now that you want to test I would advise against focusing on content marketing because it will take you a long time to build that kind of readership, visitors, and then …

Tom

It’s a nice long term strategy isn’t it?

Heidi

Exactly yeah.

Tom

But not something you can do to just beat up a Google or whatever, ’cause your keyword, and have people find you that way.

Heidi

Right.

Tom

But yeah definitely a good way to position yourself as an expert in your sector and become very well known, if it works.

Heidi

Yeah.

Tom

So I suppose there’s some … I urge people to go and read the book and want there will be a link in the show notes, and all that kind of stuff to follow this kind of plan to get to market, I think it works really well. What would you say are the kind of problems people might face if they didn’t follow this sort of practise?

Heidi

Yeah well there is definitely the problem of wasting a lot of energy, time and money on a product that no one might want. And that’s very common for people with ideas, because there are so many ideas that might like good or are just maybe very genius, but it’s not the right time for them on the market or simply they can’t be funded via the usual consumer to business route. Really, that’s the main thing, and especially what is problematic I think for people is that they might spend so much time working on a product without the input from actual customers, that you know, so if they were just to pivot a little bit in the early stages of building out that product they might be super successful but since they didn’t and they were afraid of …

Tom

Change.

Heidi

Change, or of …

Tom

It was wrong or …

Heidi

Of their idea being stolen as we discussed earlier, that would, you know they might lend in a completely different idea that just nobody wants. And it’s a real pity since you’re putting in all this effort, why not just do it right?

Tom

I know, you don’t have to tell me. There’s that whole build, measure, learn thing, which is electronic breakdown product development, and setting up a new business or a digital business to small chance that you put something out there, find how it does, learn from that, and then build something new. And just keep going round in a cycle to make sure that everything you do is targeted right and that your audience actually wants it. So it’s a great way to think about doing this kind of stuff and it works along every single cycle of putting out a new, you know, a new business basically, it doesn’t even have to be online. But … It suits itself very well to it.
So I think there was a just one quote which I didn’t read out earlier which I thought was quite nice, and it’s something that I think resonates well with what we tell people, it’s just going back to the thinking that an idea isn’t necessarily the most important thing. The quote that you have is “A good idea doesn’t ultimately create a successful business. It’s actually the people behind the ideas that make it work and how committed they are to executing their vision. It’s the long hours of hard work, and the quality of it. The idea is only the spark that starts it.”
I think it’s a really nice thing to say because it’s the team that’s really important as well isn’t it, like the founders of a project, if they care about it, and if they know a lot about it, it’s something that we find that we people we already work with who are really successful, are the ones who have a massive passion for the sector or the idea that they care about. ‘Cause you’re going to commit a lot of time to building this if it becomes as big as the big success stories, of Silicon Valley or even London, Silicon Roundabout. Whatever.

Heidi

Yeah for sure.

Tom

So I think it’s really nice to have you in to talk about the book and what you get up to. Thanks for coming in.

Heidi

Thank you for having me.

Tom

I suppose the best place to finish up is just where people can find you online, follow you on Twitter and all that kind of stuff …

Heidi

Yeah my website is designforfounders.com and I can be found on Twitter at @design4founders, where you’ll also find the links to the book and to my other book …

Tom

Yeah everyone should check that out, there’s some good content up there, so well worth a look. Yeah cool thanks for tuning in everyone, we’ll be back soon, go and check us out, wearelighthouse.com/blog for more articles and podcasts, you can find us on twitter and Facebook and all that kind of stuff if you want. Leave us a rating on iTunes, all that kind of good stuff, we would love for you to send us questions as well … get in touch guys, until then, see you later.