This presentation I gave at Ignite NM a couple of years ago shows my early thinking about the problems I am tackling with Urbsly. The feedback I got at the time was invaluable, even though I had to put my plans on hold for a while. I’ve since focused on the much more specific problem of helping gardeners discover the varieties that will grow best in their garden, but a lot of the use cases mentioned are ones I still hope to be able to tackle eventually.
If you’re trying to enter into an existing market, not talking to customers is suicidal. If you’re trying to create something new, asking questions might get you blank stares. But at least you’ll see how people solve the problems you’re trying to address. They tell you what technologies you are trying to displace.
What is Urbsly?
In my previous post I gave a streamlined version of what I learned by talking to a few dozen gardeners: mainly, that the way I was thinking of the challenges facing gardeners was all wrong.
So, what problem eventually popped to the top of my list?
Figuring out what to plant is too hard.
In the end though, none of those seem quite right, and I am sure my current solution will continue to evolve as I iterate based on feedback from users, but right now I can say that I intend to build Urbsly into the easiest way to discover and share the vegetable, fruit, and herb varieties that will do well in your garden.
If that sounds like a good idea to you, here is something you can do right now to help: I am competing in the Lean Challenge 2012, along with 23 other contestants. Whoever gets the most votes (and makes the most progress on their idea) before April 25th, wins a bunch of useful resources, including mentorship and consulting services.
So, vote for me by tweeting the hashtag #leanvote2012-19: Tweet #leanvote2012-19
And stay tuned for more progress reports.
Well, time to get this ball rolling.
Several months ago, I started working on a new startup called Urbsly. I had a big idea - that I could make it a lot easier and more fun to grow your own food, if only the available information was organized better and easier to find.
I had also been following the Lean Startup movement, and was eager to put those ideas into practice. So I did.
Over the past few months, I conducted a lot of user interviews, to figure out whether I had a problem worth solving.
It turned out I didn’t… and yet I did. I learned the following lessons:
- The most experienced gardeners cared least about the problems I was trying to solve. They had already solved them. When I asked how, a typical answer was ‘trial and error’.
- Experienced gardeners still had problems, but there were very few commonalities - their remaining problems tended to be both hard and unique to them.
- Less experienced gardeners cared moderately about most of the problems I was proposing to tackle, but with few exceptions, not very strongly about any of them.
- One problem I was interested in turned out to actually be two related problems.
- When I split the problem in two and interviewed more people, one of them got a much stronger response, and it consistently got a strong response even if some other problem was more important to the interviewee.
- That issue about the most experienced gardeners not caring about any of the problems I wanted to tackle? It turns out that there is an interesting exception to that: If an experienced gardener moves to an area with a different climate, they suddenly care about many of the same issues that new gardeners do.
So, I now have a validated problem to concentrate on, and am testing paper prototypes of solutions to make sure I have good problem/solution fit.