“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”
Pablo PicassoIan Johnson
In this vein, I plan on stealing the 3-2-1 format of my favorite newsletter by James Clear. For this newsletter I will be sharing a mix of the following update types 2-3 times a month:
3 things that worked
2 things that didn’t
1 question that I have for you
Before I launch into that format I will give you the briefest TLDR of who I am that I can manage.
About Ian Johnson
Grew up in the suburbs of Dublin, Ireland
Raised by a family of lifestyle entrepreneurs
I love movies, brewing specialty coffee, making playlists, drinking whiskey and philosophy
Left my job in January 2022 to go build something
Principal Product Manager at Flow.io (Acquired by Global-e)
VP of Product at Showtime Analytics & its joint venture with Alibaba Pictures
Product Marketing Lead (for Google) at Accenture Interactive
CX Programme Manager at eir
Ones that made money
The Funeral Planner - Funeral Planning
One.Six1 - Mobile coffee
Big Deal - Coupon website
White Collar Boxing - One off event to raise awareness for depression in teenagers
Projects that died before the money making stage
Facked - Trying to make the perfect white t-shirt
Good2Go - Vending machines selling sanitary products at festivals
The ones for fun
Unicorn Chasers - Slack group for PdMs at high growth startups
3 book clubs
The Philosoraptors - A remote philosophy meet up
An Craic - A curated list of things to see and do in Ireland
Now…. for the actual Newsletter I promised
3 Biggest Things I Have Done (Since Beginning This Startup Journey)
Conduct research interviews with 150+ SaaS professionals
100+ Product managers and designers
57 Customer success professionals
(Happy to share aggregated findings on request)
Launched 2 products
P1 - Decision making app for product teams
Signed up 40+ companies
Web app that allowed you to explicitly request your team members level of agreement of a new project proposal
Killed it because (a) solution wasn’t good enough to solve the pain relating to building alignment on major decisions, (b) it wasn’t a painful enough problem to have solved for teams or (c) a mix of both
P2 - Automated user interview analysis and synthesis
Ran pilots with 10 companies to automate user interviews using AI (NLP and Sentiment Analysis)
Analysing interviews is a valid problem but wasn’t as frequent as projected to justify the unit economics
Participated in Startup Communities
Won best pitch in NDRCs Founder Weekend
Competed against 50 founders for best pitch
Won 6 months office space at Dogpatch labs
Completed Founders Boost Pre-Accelerator New York
1 of 5 startups accepted from 2k+ applications
Pitched at virtual Demo Day
2 Biggest Learnings - So Far
Get out of the building!
My biggest breakthroughs to date have always come from a conversation with someone else. GOTB usually refers to customer research but I would expand it past Customer Research and include other people in the startup community.
In person > phone calls > video calls > email > nothing
Define (somewhat flexible) Go/Kill decision points
This is something I am still struggling with because knowing when an idea is a stinker to its core vs your current line of thinking being the stinker is hard. I recently introduced custom measures by project to determine this. Roughly it’s based on
Validating is the problem a real one i.e considered of high importance and users have low satisfaction with existing solutions
Is there a big enough market to serve based on a bottoms up TAM.
(# of potential customers) x (price) = TAM
Level of excitement of your target audience towards having the above problem solved
1 Question For You
What starting point do you believe is more important for building a startup
Inflection point/Change event first
Inflection = a external change that sparks a radically different future
Coming Soon (What I am actively working on)
Potential solutions that can help CSMs serve their clients better
Better product analytic tooling for Sales and CSMs
Running public omnibus style focus groups
Market for helping writers grow their audiences
POS solution for specific crypto currencies
Market for multi-tenant blockchain-based systems
Tech co-founder who is interested in exploring any of the above
Would someone else you know enjoy this post, feel free to share below.
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Hi Ian, thanks for sharing!
Personally I don't think anybody should go looking for a problem, it should be something that unearths itself organically through life experiences. What you can be though is more aware in your day to day activities, be that at work or at home.
Think about inputting hundreds of things into an excel sheet. Something that could be better solved using some type of automation software. Generally people will move through their day without being affected by these minor or even major irritations. It's really important to be purposefully aware, combined with an entrepreneurial mindset, to pick up on these nuances and think "Hey, this is a real problem that could be solved in a better way. I wonder if anybody else is already solving this 🤔".
So to answer your question (and in my opinion):
1. Discover a problem through lived experiences
2. Is anybody already solving this problem? If yes, can I do it 10x better?
3. Figure out the size of the market for this problem
4. Start talking to some potential customers to validate the problem 😄