Brandon Builds #1
The start of my journey building a startup in public.
🙋♂️ WHY I Am Building in Public
As with anything in life, there is never one reason. Rather we have multiple and some days one is stronger than the other. But here are a few:
I believe the more I can transparently show my work, then maybe it will give others the education, the creative spark, or just the belief they could do it, too. I'm not special. You could do this, too.
On the flip side, my ego does feel like it's special. And it's fun to share what I am doing.
It's an objective way for me to journal about the process. Write down the facts about what happened and then iterate on the process.
Jesse Duran, a friend and brother, started paying $2/month for this on Pateron originally. I had to deliver something to him.
No matter the reason, what I hope for you is that it positively changes your life in a meaningful way.
🚀 WHAT I Built This Week
I have been running a beta (really an alpha because the "product" is still being built as I test) for the university. The goal is to validate a few assumptions before building a full scale program.
This week a student in the beta had to drop out due to overwhelming health issues. So I conducted a exit interview with her to get some feedback about the 4 weeks she was able to participate in the program.
Some important feedback I got was:
She loved the personal skill tree because it helped her give structure to her learning and identify her weak skills. This is important because skill trees are a unique selling proposition to my university.
Really enjoyed engaging in personal learning on her own time, then being able to apply them to projects and group activities.
Wished there was more people in the program. I was only able to secure 3 people at the beginning of the beta. Now I only have one student.
Was overwhelmed in the beginning by the amount of information and things she could learn. She asked for more "bite sized" chunks. According to Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel's exploration in the science of learning, when material is chunked, it creates associations that allow people to easily store information in their memory. It is optimal to create 3-4 chunks with 3-4 items per chunk. From my own experience coaching the Power to Podcast program, students were able to handle the feat of launching their own podcast if steps were broken down into one step each day and 5-20 min audios.
Although these things were great to hear, there were two questions that really mattered.
In Y Combinator's Startup School's lesson "How To Talk To Users" they urge founders to ask current users, "How would you feel if you could no longer use my product?"
What was my student's answer?... "I really wish I could continue! I am so sad I am not able to. It has been very helpful."
Yes! Exactly what you want to hear. The service was valuable enough that she felt a pain when no longer using it.
The next question... The million dollar question... "Would you pay for this?"
Her answer?... "Yes, I would pay anywhere from $49-100/mo like Coursera"
This is substantial because I did not tell her that the university business model will be subscription rather than tuition fees. Yet she intuitively felt that she would be most comfortable paying continuously for this.
I still have one student I am working with who is committed to finishing up the 12 week beta. I will be working closely with him to help him learn the skills he needs to achieve his mission.
Additionally this month I will be building a landing page with a pay wall to validate if people would pull out their wallets and ACTUALLY pay. It's one thing for people to say they will pay. It's another for them to do it.
With these assumptions validated, I will be ready to build a team, secure funding, and build a full scale program...
Other things I am working on:
Formal business plan (in progress) for the university to pitch investors
Podcast partnership prospect list to start doing cross promotions with other podcasts
🔨 HOW I Built This
Running user interviews is pretty easy. With the internet its pretty easy to find people on social media who are in your user group that you can interview.
My go to place to find people is LinkedIn because I can search people by the type of education they have participated in or are currently participating in. Clearly fits well with my market.
I usually directly DM them. When I was initially researching the market, I said I was a PhD student conducting research. A lie? Yes. But it did make it easier to get responses.
To get more willingness to a do an interview, have them do a survey and then follow with them to do a Zoom interview.
Some questions from Y Combinator's Startup School's lesson "How To Talk To Users" that are great to ask during a user interview are:
What is the hardest part about (problem)?
Tell me about the last time you encountered this problem…
Why is this hard?
What, if anything, have you done to try and solve this problem?
What don't you love about the solutions you have already tried?
And as you seen in this week's example, user interviews should not just be done at the beginning, but during the entire journey of your startup. YC recommends doing user interviews at these key stages:
When you have an idea and want to know if people actually have a problem needing your solution.
When you have built a prototype, beta, or MVP, and you need to know if it solves user's problems.
When you have launched your product and you need to know if people will pay for it.
As the famous line goes...
🧠 WHAT I Learned This Week
How to win friends and influence people with Dale Carnegie - I reread an old classic this week. I realized I do not praise others enough and criticize to often. But I don't do it in a demeaning way. Instead I criticize because I believe that they are not living up to the highest potential they could be. I believe they want to get better. So I measure them to the same standard as myself. And I can be pretty critical of myself. But rather than criticize, it would be better if I encouraged. Its a fine line.
How to build hi-fidelity prototypes in Figma with Google's UX Certification - I have been going through the UX cert on Coursera. I am pretty proficient at design but this is matching my skills with a high paying tech career path. This allows me to seek a high paying job to support me while I launch the startup, or fail and have to get my grounding before trying to launch again. Here is the prototype I was doing for this week's assignment for the course.
Getting control of my toes with MAPS Prime Pro - I have been weightlifting for almost 10 years now. I am to the point that in order to improve I have to focus on the small muscles and movements that are recruited during compound lifts. So to improve my squat I am improving the mind to muscle connection with my toes and ankles. It feels like I am Uma Thurman sitting in the pussy wagon trying to wiggle her big toe.
Podcasts I Listened To This Week:
I REALLY love podcasts. I listen to roughly 20-40 podcast episodes a week. This is the cream of the crop from this week:
Eric Weinstein on Bitcoin | The What Bitcoin Did Podcast - I really feel like the hosts were missing Eric's point in this episode. He wanted to move beyond the speculation of what bitcoin is or isn't, and instead focus on what long term problems could these bitcoiners solve beyond just getting rich.
Facebook: The Trillion Dollar Listing | Business Breakdowns - This is a great explanation of Facebooks model. In fact I highly recommend this podcast if you are interested in understanding just how any of the big companies from Costco to Alibaba work. But this episode really highlighted that Facebook has so much of the market share, the likelihood of them disappearing in the next 10, 20, 30 years is pretty small... unless something demonstrably better comes that outdoes social media platforms.
Web3 with Jarrod Dicker | The Deep End - The internet is shifting from Web2.0, where platforms come first and users come second to support the platform through content, to Web3.0, where individual creators come first and the platform supports how they make content. In a nutshell, Web 1.0 = Information. Web 2.0 = Centralized Social Platforms. Web 3.0 = Individual Decentralized Platforms.
He Was Wrongly Imprisoned for 20 years, This is How He's Finding Justice | Isaac Wright Jr. - Impact Theory - Main lesson from this episode? Don't whine about the system being unfair. Instead learn the rules of the system and beat them at their own game. Yes, the system is unjust, corrupt, and broken. Does stating those things change it? No. You have to DO something about it. Tear it apart from the inside out.
Most consumption will be 3 minute episodes | Podnews - Are we really living in a world where people can't give more than 3 minutes to listen to a podcast? It seems either we 3 minute listeners or 3 hour listeners of Joe Rogan.
🤝 WHO I Met That You Should Meet
Jaison Morgan, Founder of Carrot - I interviewed Jason for the Evolve Podcast about his platform that creates million dollar competitions to solve big problems. For example, they recently helped NASA launch the TechLeap Prize which supports mission-critical goals for space travel. It was a fascinating conversations about incentives, human nature, and competition vs cooperation in the face of global problems.
Ross Irwin, Chief Development Officer of BridgeUSA - Ross is a charismatic individual who is helping to make a better future for our democracy by engaging young adults around the nation in proactive problem solving.
Alex Darlington, Chairman of the Stair Party - As you can tell from this list, I respect those who don't go on and on about problems, but take action towards trying to fix them. As a young individual he has taken it upon himself to create a new political party when he does not agree with the current systems. I don't know how much traction he will get, nor do I necessarily promote his views, but I respect and stand for his right to put them forth.
🤠 WHEN I'll Be Moving To Austin
Lauren and I are in the middle of selling our house in Spokane. We are planning to move to Austin in September.
Opportunity. Adventure. Beginning my Hero's Journey.
Austin is a place neither Lauren or have been to and we no one down there. It will be an opportunity for both of us to build identities, values, and a relationship true to us because we have to. There is no comfortability to fall back on.
Austin is also RAPIDLY growing in the startup and tech scene. It's like the new California. And what better environment to build a startup team. To be around individuals who are passionately trying to build things that change the world. My kind of people.
🥾 WHERE I'll Be Next Week
Currently I work part time for The Democracy Group, a network of 16 podcasts, as their Network Manager. Next week I'll be running the behind the scenes of our webinar event focused on discussing solutions for our democracy.
Next weekend I will be taking a camping trip with my mom and Lauren. She has been coping with her PTSD much better since getting therapy. Although she has changed, she is beginning to feel like the mom I remember growing up. It's an important outing for me because we are moving away and I will worry about her. But she is a strong woman, a warrior, and I know she will be ok. Here is a photo from our camping trip 4-5 years ago right before she started having mental episodes with PTSD.
✊ WILL You Take This Call To Action?
As you can tell, I am very admit that if we want to make any sort of change, it's not going to happen by just sitting on ideas. Execution matters. So at the end of each of these I will have a call to action for you. A call for you to stand up with me and try to make this world a better place.
For this week's, I would simply ask for your feedback. What was helpful here for you? What was not? If I can get you better insights, the more effective you will be. So please, help me, help you.