Friday 4 February 2011

Never be scared to fail - take action, fail fast, learn quickly and keep going

At the end of December 2010 we began a demand test for Bulbomatic, a muse business idea. The idea of a muse business is that it isn't dependent on you being involved. For example if you setup a design agency, become a lawyer or any type of freelancer, then you're basically exchanging your time for money. With a muse business the goal is to setup a system that you can eventually remove yourself from, so you can earn money without having to trade your time directly for money. A muse business is ultimately more scaleable, as it's growth isn't dependent on the amount of time you put into it (in the long run). Ultimately it's a way to have both time and money.

Bulbomatic was a test case to go through the process of early stage business creation. We followed the steps that I talked about in a previous post case study - 7 simple steps to test any idea or muse business. We ran the test page for 4 weeks, here are the results and learnings.

  1. Traffic to the site was proportional to promotion - Basically we got traffic when we promoted the site. Twitter and Facebook drove site visits. We decided not to use Google Adwords in this test because...
  2. Traffic wasn't viral - As far as we could see there was little viral sharing of the site. This suggested the idea might not have been as great as we originally hoped. The share button on the page performed very badly.
  3. We hit our 10% conversion target - Our target was to get 10% of people who visited the page to sign-up. So the highly focused landing page design worked in terms of conversion.

Although we hit our conversion target we decided not to take this idea forward into the next stage. We failed fast! Because we didn't get much viral traffic we asked more people for feedback on the idea. We concluded that the problem with light bulbs is that they are generally low interest. People only care about them when they move or when bulbs break, and these days they don't break very often. Most people we spoke to wouldn't want to spend time identifying all their bulbs just to insure against the possibility of a bulb breaking. Low interest categories are generally hard to penetrate without large advertising budgets as people don't talk about them and they're not 'top of mind'. Insurance for example. Whilst we were researching the idea we also came across some logistical problems. Bulbs are very fragile and once you begin to factor in shipping and return costs the business model starts to become more risky. That's why many big retailers avoid online sales and shipping.

  1. It was a fantastic exercise - By going through the steps we learned an incredible amount of new skills and met some very useful contacts. For example the design, video, html, css and data capture integration was all done by us. I now know how to build sites, honest! I've even gone on to build my first hardcore Ruby on Rails web app! All this can be taken forward into the next project
  2. Do something you're passionate about - although we genuinely belief there is a need to simplify the world of lighting, we're certainly not experts in the space, or passionate enough about it. When you're going to be investing a large portion of your life into a project, it's much easier if you're driven to be the best in that field.
  3. Don't be scared to 'park' an idea - we might decide to carry on with Bulbomatic sometime in the future. We like the brand, we love the name, there is room for innovation in the sector, and it's a huge sector. But we don't believe it's the best project for us right at this moment. Here's some great advice from Jack Dorsey (the creator of Twitter) who invented Twitter back in 2001. At that time there was no interest in it. He parked it till 2006 and second time round, as you know, it became a huge success. A long video but packed full of great advice for start-up entrepreneurs.

Thank you!! - for eveyone who signed up to Bulbomatic, thanks for your support. We're really sorry that we'll not be pushing forward on it, but it's not the right time. Of course you will be the first to know about the release of the next project, which I hope will be much more exciting for you.

We failed fast, we've taken the learnings, and are now well into the next project (stay tuned).

The most important thing I've personally learned is that action is better than talk. Everyone has a great idea in them, but most people never do anything beyond talking about it. As soon as you take action, even if it's just writing the idea down, things start to happen. Momentum grows, serendipity kicks in, opportunities open up and the adventure begins.

If you have an idea, then take the first step. Write it down, tell people about it, see how far you can get with it. And if you don't get far, don't worry, keep going, do something else. Because each time you take action on an idea, you learn and grow.

Never be scared to fail.

Take care and take action

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