Your Problem, Clearly and Narrowly

This is Week 02 of 10 of Astra’s Y Combinator Startup School Journal.

This week the content and focus for Startup School shift to product and growth. The weekly Tuesday lecture included a talk by YC CEO Michael Seibel on Building Product and a second on How to Find Product Market Fit by David Rusenko of Weebly. Both presenters shared some insightful experiences and reinforced the importance of perseverance. Both talks were chock full of tactical advice which was super valuable for us at our current stage. The most difficult challenge came from this pair of prompts by Michael:

Can you state the problem you are solving clearly? Can you define the problem narrowly?

Here’s how we captured the problem construct for Michael’s example with Twitch and our take for Astra. Bold indicates the narrowing of the first statement, which for both Twitch and Astra adds more detail to the customer who can be addressed now.

Twitch

Clearly: It’s hard for people to broadcast live video.

Narrowly: It’s hard for people with a laptop, internet connection, and a webcam to broadcast live video (and Twitch makes it easier).

Astra

Clearly: It’s hard for people to save money.

Narrowly: It’s hard for people who rely on mobile banking and who have multiple bank accounts to save money (and Astra makes it easier).


Program:

In addition to attending the above lectures, after working out some organizational kinks for our Group of ~20 companies this week we were able to meet twice via video conference for our weekly Office Hours. It was pretty cool to hear such a broad set of one-liners from such a diverse crowd of founders. We have representatives from Seattle, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Brazil in our group and our advisor is from France – all connected through SUS via technology! Most of the conversation surrounded our goals for the program and what our weekly progress metric was going to be.

Tip: Start simple (see last week’s entry on MAV’s vs MAU*s) and when in doubt refer to:

The best thing to measure the growth rate of is revenue. The next best, for startups that aren't charging initially, is active users. That's a reasonable proxy for revenue growth because whenever the startup does start trying to make money, their revenues will probably be a constant multiple of active users.

Outside of Office Hours we:

  • Suggested and created a Slack workspace for our Group to facilitate more channels of communication beyond forum posts.
  • Looked into ways to break down the SUS founder audience into more relevant channels of communication:
    • Joined some discussions on the forum.
    • Joined other Slack workspaces on topics like fintech, AI, or being located in the Bay Area.
    • Met more founders at the in-person lectures.

Product:

Our user stats and our user interviews told us both quantitatively (11% conversion) and qualitatively (🤦‍♂️) that we needed to improve our onboarding flow. Primarily this surrounded our assumption that a guided path from sign up to profile verification was best. That was plainly wrong. We had the UX specs so this week our product focus was all about cranking out the changes to our new app version and testing the heck out of it. Our goal was to get it done and ready for release this week:

    • Simplified onboarding with clearer UI and a “Skip” option on key screens
      • Tip: When in doubt, let your users get to the main functionality of your app. They may not know exactly what they want to do with the app yet – in our case that was assuming they knew what they wanted to save for.
    • Moved the profile verification element to the profile section and added a notification dot to the nav bar to remind users to check their profile status.
      • This was a great suggestion from a user interview held late in the week but we got it in!
    • Updated our Google Analytics integration to use our internal user id to correlate user sessions.
      • Tip: Out of the box GA uses a session id that can make your user data misleading. Using your own user id unifies these sessions and lets you dig into user behavior like screen flow.
    • Completed v0 of our analytics dashboard to visualize more detailed data about our user stats.

Dashboard v0 has User State Area Graph as well as weekly deltas and progress on our growth goals.

Growth:

Our growth efforts this week were really all about brute force communication. I would spend days coordinating our various channels to founders, users, and potential users, leaving nights for our development push. That’s probably not sustainable every week but the time put in this week resulted in us almost hitting our weekly growth target for MAU*s as well as a decent queue of users who are almost verified or ready to try the app when we release our next version next week.

  • Connected with other SUS founders for feedback exchange 🙏. Check out these cool products:
  • Conducted more user interviews for our current version.
    • These subjective channels are more often than not more valuable than quantitative ones early on.
    • This focus was recommended by our Advisor, Nicolas, and I think one user interview is easily worth more than 10 new users – definitely qualifies as doing things that don’t scale.
  • Spent hours emailing potential and current users to follow up on their onboarding process, request feedback, and get more signups.
    • Tip: Can’t recommend Superhuman enough for making email more efficient!

Per our refined dashboard, this week’s user stats:

  • 169 Total Users (+8)
  • 155 Signed Up Users (+9)
  • 39 Onboarded Users (+8)
  • 21 Verified Users (+4 or 24%)

Our target was 6 Verified Users to keep pace at a 36% weekly growth rate. Close but we will need to make it up in the coming week. Time to get our new app version released! 🚀

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