Product/market fit - buidling a data-driven product

Have you ever opened the fridge and had no idea what you can cook using the ingredients you already had at home? I certainly had such a problem. I have it every week, and I think I am not the only one.

There are even websites which seem to “solve” the problem. You select the products you want to use, and they give you a list of recipes. All of them have one thing in common. The list of results is short and boring, and the websites are ugly.

It looks like a perfect “business opportunity.” Well, not quite. I will show you in a minute why it is not as perfect as it seems.

Before I went on vacation, I did a few things. First of all, I coded a simple landing page with a search box that doesn’t even work. When you click “Search,” it takes you to a page with information that this website is a work in progress and asks you to sign up for a newsletter.

The second thing I have done was creating one Facebook ad that was shown to American parents of kids in age 3 - 12 (because I thought that such people need diverse meal ideas and have no time to look for them on their own).

Yes, I paid for an ad that links to a “fake” website to check how many people are willing to click the link and use it.

I had two goals:

  • I decided that if anybody signs up for the newsletter, it means that the idea is good enough for a vlog series about building IT products (because I am going to have at least a few users).
  • Also, I concluded that if at least ten people sign up, I may have something that can eventually become a real product, not only a vlog.

What were the results?

The ad was displayed 1162 times on Facebook, 76 people clicked the advertisement, 17 people clicked the “Search” button, and one person subscribed to the newsletter.

It could work if it were results of a paid product, but the people can use the website for free and the only idea to monetize it was displaying ads. Obviously, those results show that the website could never be profitable.

Fortunately, it does not matter. It is going to be only a topic of a YouTube series, not a product. Honestly, I do it to advertise myself and my skills ;)

Product/market fit

Building a fake website and paying for ads that link to it is not even a minimum viable product. It can’t tell me how people are going to use the product, but it is useful to filter out bad ideas. If I can’t get any users, it clearly shows that I should stop developing the product or pivot. If enough people click the ad and try to use the product, it may be worth building it for real. That one experiment prevented me from wasting a lot of time and money. Now, I know that the only thing I can do with that idea is an open-source project built during live streams on YouTube, but I will never have real users.

Unless… I pivot, but to test my next idea I have to build a little bit more ;) Let’s do it together. The first live stream is going to be on the 1st of July 2019.

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Bartosz Mikulski

Bartosz Mikulski

  • MLOps engineer by day
  • AI and data engineering consultant by night
  • Python and data engineering trainer
  • Conference speaker
  • Contributed a chapter to the book "97 Things Every Data Engineer Should Know"
  • Twitter: @mikulskibartosz
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