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November 28, 2023 30 mins

Ep. 142 We’re taught to give things our best. But what if, with respect to business and ideas in the beginning, that’s the absolute worst thing you should do? My goal is that, by the end of this episode, not only are you convinced that you may not need to dive in with both feet, but also that you have an idea of what you should do next in exercise of validating your business ideas.

This episode is about building your MVP: Minimum Viable Product.

I hope you gain a lot of insights and inspiration from it!

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
What's up everybody? Will Lucas here a black tech, Green money.
So good to be with you guys as we kick
off this holiday season. And let's start this off a
little bit of afrotech news. A lot going on in
the world today. You can always get news like this
on afrotech dot com. But in case you haven't logged
on to the end at this morning or this today,
this avenue, whatever, I don't know when you're listening, whenever

you've listened, if you have not been over yet, I'm
going to just give you a little bit of snapshots
of what you can get on afrotech dot com. So
first up, early stage investor in Wall Street VET Stephanie
Thomas is now going to be the managing director over
at Zeo Capital Partners. She was previously a founding member
and investor at Impact American Fund IAF and helped that

company scale from seven million dollars to one hundred and
ten million in assets under management. At Zeocapital Partner, she
will lead US investment plans, which include a fifty million
dollar commitment to inclusive investing through its newly establish Barclays
Black Formation Investments Initiative BBFI, established just in October like

a little bit ago. The fund was designed to invest
in black led companies that are working to address wealth
and skills gaps through their services and technologies. So if
you're building in that category and that vertical, you need
to high at a big shout out to you, Stephanie.
Much success in other news of black women doing amazing things.

According to shot Black, Maria Tower is behind one of
the largest women's health funds. According to shot Black, so
Steel Sky Adventures. They portfolio companies include like Midi Health
which does menopausal care, Origin which is pelvic floor physical therapy,
twenty eight Health which is telemedicine for reproductive healthcare, in

May which is a marketplace for improving black maternal health today.
To date, Steel Sky Ventures manages about seventy three million
dollars in total assets, that's per shot Black. Place in
the firm is one of the largest women's health focused
venture capital firms, Toller told shot Black. Steel Sky partners

with passionate founders innovating in women's health. We invest in
series A companies with product founder fit demonstrated solutions to
critical women's health issues and readiness to collaborate with leading
healthcare institutions. I'm so glad about that product founder fit
statement because it's a great segue into today's episode. 'm

with Lucas Black Tech, Green Money. That was your afro
tech news. If you want more stuff like that, go
to afrotech dot com, pin it to your bookmarks bar. Now,

we're taught to give things our best, especially if you're
starting out in business. You know you've got to give
it all you got in order to find success, right,
you know, but what if with respect to business and
ideas in the beginning, that's the absolute worst thing you
should do. I want to talk about minimum viable products,

and this word is specifically for businesses and startups that
want to scale, meaning you want to grow your revenue
faster than your costs. It's not like, you know, you're
building a long care service or some lifestyle business like that,
where if you want to cut more yards or cut
more hair, or you know, do more nails, you've got

to hire more people or purchase a lot more equipment
in order to do that and grow. Because you're one person,
you've got limited resources, limited time, et cetera. It's not
designed to scale. But in a scalable startup, you're growing
your revenue faster than your costs. So in this regard,

we're talking about something that might be leveraging technology, whether
it's an application or a website, even a fashion brand
or any event like let's say you're putting on a conference.
Those things, the revenue can grow for a business like
that faster than the amount of effort, resources, etc. That
you're putting into it. So my goal by the end

of this episode not only is it that you're convinced
that you may not need to dive in with both feet.
I want to get you to embrace the logic and
why that might not be smart, but also my hope
is that you have an idea of what you should
do next with this information. So unlike the kind of

businesses that I mentioned earlier, the landscape or the barber,
the nail tech small businesses, if you think about it,
we're not necessarily trying to be profitable upfront those kind
of businesses. You're trying to be profitable with every deal
with a scalable operation at the MVP stage. All we're

trying to do at this point is prove that people
want what we're building and that they'll pay for it.
And so with that, I need to start this conversation
with talking about passion and romance, and not the kind
of passion in romance you know that you googly eye
and somebody, but the kind of passion in romance that

you might be googly eye and your ideas. I'm going
to just say it in the most stark terms. I
know how just because you care about the thing that
you're working on does not mean the market does. And
that's not easy for a lot of people to hear
because we believe that because we think we have the

best idea for solving whatever problem that the world believes,
the market believes it's a worthy idea to be on
the shelf. Because some ideas that you have, people may
appreciate the idea, but they're not willing to pay for it.
It may not be a problem at the level of

them bringing you know that they want to go in
their pocket and reach out their wallet or pull a
phone out for Apple pay. They may have the problem,
but they don't have the pain at such a level
that they are willing to solve the problem with your solution.
And think about it this way, it's not always pain

that people are trying to solve for it's also desire.
Maybe they think what you're doing is cute, but are
they willing to embrace you or cute for themselves such
that they'll pay for it at a rate or at
a dollar amount that makes it make sense for you
to produce the thing. So just because people have displayed

some level of interest in what you've displayed interest in
developing does not mean there's a place for it on
the shelf. This is what this process of going through
the minimum viable product phase will help you figure out.
So what is a minimum viable product? It's just the

finest for those of us who don't know what it means,
a minimum viable product. And I'm gonna give you my
pairaphrase and then I'll give you the actual definition per Google.
So the definition, if you ask me, is what is
the least I can do? The least viable thing I

can do? And I'm going to come back to that word,
the least viable thing I can do to prove that
it is worth it to go to the next step
and invest more in it. My idea in my business,
what's the least thing I can do? Because all I'm
trying to do again, all I'm trying to do at
this stage is prove that the market wants it and

they will pay for it something the market wants. There
are some things the market wants that it will not
pay for at a level that makes it make sense
for a producer to produce it. So I went to
Google and just the first website that came up was
my VA three sixty. I don't even know who does
this website, but it's just the first one that came up.

So their definition of the minimum viable product is the
first form of a product that you can release to users.
It provides core functionality without any additional features. Entrepreneurs use
MVPs and viable products to assess how customers feel about
an idea. If the idea does have potential, they use

customer feedback to develop the next version of the product.
There's a couple things in there I want to point
out because it's important to do, because I started this
conversation off talking about why you should not give your
best in the early stages of a scalable startup scalable business,
and that was a little bit intentionally abrasive, because I

believe you should always give your best. But what I
mean by not giving your best is don't do the most,
do the least. You have to do viability in order
to prove. But that viability standard means you gave your
all at that minimum level. What all can you do

at this minimum level to make it viable? So if
I am interested in starting, you know, let's say I
want to start a new website and I want to
do news what is a minimum viable product? Because I
don't have any eyeballs come into my domain today, I

don't have any eyeballs downloaded my app and subscribing to
my newsletter. I don't have any eyeballs or demands from
advertisers to come and check me out. What is a
minimum viable product in that scenario. In that scenario, a
minimum viable product could be my Instagram page. How many

people can I engage in the types of content I
am going to produce things to produce content around, produce
ideas around, produce words around such that I see okay, yesterday,
it was one hundred people. Following today's it's one hundred
and ten people following Tomorrow, there's one hundred and fifty

people following a week from now, there's two hundred people
following and my engagement on every post continues to go up.
That is some sort of proof that people are interested
in my take. So what is the next step from
that Instagram or that Twitter account, or that Facebook profile
or that LinkedIn situation. I could go start a newsletter

for free. There's plenty of websites where you can go
and you can create a newsletter. Keep it under most
of them like make you keep it under a certain
number of subscribers at the free level. Like let's say
I don't know list to be true, but let's say
like constant Contact or what's another one, Mailchimp. Let's say
constant Contact. A Mailchimp will allow you to create a

newsletter for free if you have less than one hundred subscribers.
I think Mailchimp actually does. It's constant Contact. I don't
believe does. But Mailchimp, I believe, has their pricing structure
to allow you to use their service for free if
you have under a certain number of subscribers. So, if

you want to be the next big publisher, the next
big blog, the next big you know, hot take giver,
the way to do that is to create content and
build a following. You don't go and build a ten
thousand dollars website on day one. You don't go and
buy twenty thousand dollars cameras on day one. You don't

go and invest in studio time at your neighborhood podcast
studio and spend you know, thousands of dollars an hour
just to figure out if people want to consume your stuff. Now,
if you got it and you want to do that, hey,
by all means, but in a minimum viable product scenario.

To save you the time, the effort, the resources just
to figure out if people care about your take is
to start with what is the minimum What is the
least viable thing you should you doing just to prove
that the one hundred dollars you're gonna spend as an

investment into more equipment, better resources, it's people, etc. That
it's actually going to a good cause. That's what the
minimum viable product is designed to do. So, if you
are I talked about fashion early, if you're creating a
fashion brand, you don't necessarily have to go and spend

a bunch of money on inventory. There are plenty of websites.
Spring is now one of them, used to be called
Tea Spring, Shopify, does this now where you can create
you can even sell the T shirt designs and the
shirt designs even other branded things that you design and

you don't pay anything effectively until somebody buys it and
then they print it, they create it with your designs
on demand. Amazon, I believe, is getting into this business.
I know Shopify, does I know t Spring which is
now red, which is now Spring Red Bubble is one

And this is something you can do just to prove
that people want your stuff. Every year, at least once
a year, sometimes twice, but at least once a year,
I get somebody who is because I have a marketing
technology agency. Also we do video production and all that
stuff creatio and so every year I'll get at least

one person who says, hey, I created this book. I
want to market and sell it, develop a website for
it so I can sell it. And I'm like, I'm
thinking to myself, like, who's waiting for this book? Who's
who asked you for this book? And so they spent
all their blood, sweat and tears writing this book that

nobody's waiting for. And it baffles me that people do
this now. If you want to write just because you
got to get it out. That's fine, but there are
better ways. If you're writing in order to be a
published author, in order to sell your knowledge, insights, words,
there are smarter ways to go about doing it. For instance,

if I'm writing a book, here's what I would do.
I would write one chapter of said book. I would
write one chapter of the book, and I would write
no more. Unless you know, again, you just got to
get it out, that's fine, But I would write one chapter.
I would create a one page website. You can do

this on the variety of sites. Google allows you to
do this for free. If you want to spend a
little bit of money, that's fine too. But create a
one page website that allows people to insert their email
address for a free chapter of the book. Now, nobody
knows you haven't started writing the whole book. Only you know.

But you can say, hey, book name is how to
Build an MVP. It's coming out in twenty twenty five.
But if he goes to this website right now, you
get a free chapter. And in order to get that chapter,
when they get to the website, they got to give
you that email address. So they give you the email address,
they automatically get this free chapter. In their inbox. It's

just a PDF. It's easy. So now, not until I
have created this one page website that allows me to
collect email addresses, and in return for those email addresses,
an automatic email get sent to that new subscriber, because

you're adding them to a newsletter, which is the point
of this. Not until I have done that at enough
and got enough subscribers, would I believe that there's enough
people who want my book on creating an MVP. So
if I'm looking at this website and I'm seeing three people,

I'm making up numbers, but three people in three months
have signed up to get the free chapter, there's probably
gonna be one person waiting for the book. That's with
thirty three percent. That's high because not everybody who subscribes
actually wants the content. So you got to determine the

MVP to determine if I should spend the hours it's
gonna take, the weeks is gonna take, the months, is
gonna take, the dollars is gonna take to then go
get somebody to create the artwork and do all the
illustrations or whatever whatever whatever like, if I'm going to
spend that spend that time, energy resources, etc. On this book.

I better know somebody's waiting for the book. So what
you do is once you know, hey, there's a thousand
people waiting because a thousand people signed up for this thing.
I know too many people who have books, boxes of
book boxes of books in their garage that they wrote
a book and they thought they were going to be

on the New York Times bestseller list, so they went
and bought all of these books of the thing that
they wrote that nobody asked them for. They didn't do
any preparation of the market. They didn't do any market
development to generate excitement interest in the book that they
were writing. But what I gave you is a very

simple way to do it. And you can do this
with almost anything. You can do this with an actual application.
You can build your debt and you can start getting
market research on hey, this is how the app works.
And you can build mockups. There's actually websites that you
can go to, such as flutter or flow is one,

retool is another. And what you do is you go
to these websites and you build a mock up of
your app, a mockup of your website, and then you
start showing this thing to people, you start demonstrating it
to them. The buttons are very often on a lot
of these apps. The buttons will work. So if I'm

on one page and I click a button, it'll take
me to what I would see actually as the second
page in a real app on my phone, but it's
just a mockup. And so the buttons are like clickable
very often in a lot of these new prototyping softwares.
And so then I'm taking that and I'm showing people
who are in the target demographic, the people who are

the people who I'm targeting or will target. Once I
have found that the marketplace actually wants this thing and
they want it for me. Oh, we'll come back to
that in a second. That the marketplace actually wants this thing,
then I know, okay, I might have something here. Because
I actually showed this to people who could use it.

They would pay for it. They might even even signed
up for my email list. They might have actually given
me a dollar to be the first user once it's built.
All sorts of ways you can determine if people are
serious about using the product when it's ready. So I
mentioned a second ago, I meant to mention this at

all in the episode, but I'm glad I said that
it was do they want the thing? And are you
the best person to build it? Because there is such
a thing as product market fit, which means that my
product is designed in such a way that the market
who it's designed for it's built for they match. So

the people who would use this thing are willing to
use it because it's made for them. Is my product
design to situate that it's made for the market that
is trying to satiate? Then there's a question of founder
product fit. Just because you have an idea for something,
what makes you uniquely situated to do this thing? What

is it about you that says, you know what? I
believe you're the guy to solve this problem because eventually
you're going to have to sell users. Eventually you're gonna
have to sell investors. And what they're going to be
looking at is not just the idea, not just the product,

not just the team you developed. They're also going to
be looking at you and saying, what is it about
this person? What is it about Jill? What is it
about Henry that makes me believe he's going to go
out into the marketplace evangelize this thing and win? Are
you the best person to solve the problem that you're

trying to tackle just because you're passionate about it and
just because you had an idea or just because you
had the idea, does that mean it's best for you?
That's work you gotta do. Do you have the skills
those personal qualities that the market believes aligned with the

solution to the problem. So these are things that at
your early days of starting a company, starting one that
specifically scales or that should scale. These are the questions
you have to answer and so your work, hopefully number one.
Hopefully what we've accomplished today is getting you to think

about are you doing too much too early? What are
things you can do that might not be the ultimate thing?
And look Amazon. When Amazon started, Jeff Bezos knew, Hey,
one day, I would really love to be able to

sell TVs on the internet. One day. I would really
love to be able to sell a car on the
internet one day. I would really love to be able
to sell anything on the internet. But what can I
do today to prove that the market will buy things online?

I'm going to sell books online. That's it. When Amazon started,
all they sold was books online. And then as that
started to make sense, say, okay, what things go with
books that people say that they're here buying books are

what kind of things can we sell that book lovers
since they're coming here already to buy books. Oh, they
might want a bookmark, they might want a pencil, they
might want a journal. And so they started to expand
and then sell more and more and more things. But
the minimum viable product was a website that just sold books.

So you need to start thinking about what is it
you can do today with the limited resources. Sometimes having
limited resources is actually a blessing in disguise, because you
shouldn't necessarily always go spend a whole bunch of money
on something that's unproven. What you should do is put
a little bit towards it, whether that be time, resources,

dollars or whatever, and just see if the thing starts
to go. And then once you figure out what goes,
that's when you pour fuel on the fire. But you
don't pour all your fuel into this thing that and
there's no fire. What you want is to figure out
what actually is showing some signs, and that's where you

go to the minimum. The minimum viable product helps you
that this process of developing a minimum viable product, the
thing that you can do at with the smallest thing
you can do that takes the least amount of resources,
that's actually viable, the least viable thing, not the least alone,

but the least viable thing. What is that thing that
you can do in your category? And so think about that,
and then once you determine that, do that and only
that until you found success. And once you found success,
you know then that people actually might want this thing.

Then you go and put the resources, spend the extra time,
you know, take off a day, a week of work
or whatever, spend a little bit more money on the thing,
you know, buy a better piece of equipment. But not
until you figured out that the market actually even wants
this thing from you in the first place. What's interesting
about the minimum viable product and all everything I just

said it's interesting about it. But what's interesting in this
moment is the viability actually is a moving target. So
as you build viability at one level, the point of
a business is to grow, and so what is the
viability requirements at the next level. So you're always looking

to test features, test things, test test new avenues for
business growth, not with again, not with both feet jumping
out the window, jumping into the water, but your test
thing at every stage to see where is the next easiest,

most efficient path path for growth. So once you have
that thing, you're making money, you're building a user base,
you're getting sales, you're getting new people to sign up,
you're getting signatures on the line, you're getting interest. There's
another level and there will always be another level. And

so what you want to do as a founder is
start to train yourself to be in this always testing
sort of mentality, always testing phase, because that's where the
growth is. This is what you sign up for when
you go build a business. You want to constantly. It's
like playing Jenga in a way. It's like you're always

you know, testing which block is the easiest one to
move based on the amount of effort I can give
it safely. And just like Jinga, I think Jenga is
the perfect example. The perfect parallel to a minimum viable
product is one you got to be fast. And so
you want to release a product, some version of your product,

the viable version, to the market as quickly as possible,
and you want to do it without committing a whole
lot to the effort. You know, you don't want to
put all your chips in on the minimum viable product.
You want to test it at a level to where
you're not putting the company, the whole thing, your personal

self at risk. That's the point of the minimum viable product,
so that you don't put yourself at risk. You're testing
at a level quickly, getting the market quickly, and at
a level that just gives you inside Again, you're not
trying to prove that you can make money yet, You're

just trying to prove that there is a market for it. Yet.
That's all you're trying to do. And then you want
to learn what resonates with the market that you're going after.
And so in this minimum viable product phase, you're going

to learn things about the business that you would have
not you would not have had an opportunity to do
if you delivered this fully fledged product at the onset.
There's this quote, I think it was by Reed Hoffman,
and he said, if you're not embarrassed by the first
version of your thing that you release into the world,

you've released it too late. So many of us want
the whole thing to be perfect, with a ribbon on
it everything is perfect before we release anything. And what
you do is you rob yourself of the opportunity to
learn what the market actually wants from you when you
do that. On another episode down the line, we'll talk

about l doing that publicly. We'll talk about showing the
behind the scenes and why it's important to allow people
to grow with you behind and get exposure to the
behind the scenes of it, the mistakes and the failures.
Maybe you should show that. We'll talk about that another
episode though. Hey, listen, if you got something out of

this episode, y, it would do me a big favor
to just share it with somebody. Share this with somebody
who you think will get something out of it. That's
all I ask. I'm with Lucas's Black Tech, Green Money.
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