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cwinhall

Creating a physical product

For those who do occasionally visit this blog. I am still here and still working along my journey but it has taken an unexpected turn.

I thought my entire focus would revolve around web based products and services but stumbled in to an idea, an invention, that I truly think can change the photography industry.

I can’t go in to the details of it yet but will reveal all here when possible.

cwinhall

Product Hunt’s product of the day!

Something amazing happened over the weekend! I launched Problem of the day on Product Hunt, and got voted the Product of the day!

After my miserable attempt last time at launching Haystack News on Product Hunt, I didn’t want a repeat. So I did some more research and planned the launch ahead of time. I first listed the product on Ship (the upcoming products pages) and got 30 subscribers from that page. I then used the schedule launch feature to plan a launch (5 days ahead) at 00.01AM on Sunday morning.

Fast forward to Sunday morning and I woke up much later than I should have, 30 minutes after the product has already been listed on the site. My competition already had 5x the votes I did. I jumped into action immediately and;

  • Posted the link to my Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn profiles asking for support for my project.
  • Asked for help from some influencers to retweet. (Thanks 5 ideas a day! 🙌).
  • Sent out a message to my 30 subscribers on Ship.

I monitored all channels and responded where ever I could to any questions or comments.

The magic started to happen, I was rising slowly.

After really wearing thin my F5 key, constantly refreshing the page to see if I had more upvotes, I decided to take more of a back seat approach. I felt I had put it out as much as I could at this point and if I wasn’t getting the upvotes, it was because no one liked the service.

After an hour or 2, something started to really happen, my phone was going a bit crazy. I was getting dozens of Twitter follower notifications, several emails were coming through from my WordPress site telling me to go approve some comments! I went back to my desk and checked PH, I was at the top!

I couldn’t quite believe it at first. It was truly unexpected! I immediately went to go check my analytics like the stat-whore that I am. I hadn’t seen traffic like this before so it was very exciting. I’m sure these figures are unimpressive for many, but for me, they were extraordinary! It peaked at 61 online at the same time!

The Stats

  • Sunday – 2,771 new users
  • Monday – 3,483 new users
  • Tuesday – 2,103 new users

Overall, I don’t think I could have asked for a better outcome. Not only was the traffic coming through, but they were participating in the community I’ve been trying to build.

  • 62 comments
  • 17 problems submitted by users
  • 230 Twitter followers
  • 158 Newsletter subscribers

I have also received some great feedback from users on how to improve the blog which I am now working towards doing!

 

cwinhall

The fight for democratizing subscription services

As a professional working in an internet related business and as an entrepreneur, I have been an avid user of dozens of SaaS products. I love them. I love discovering new ones and learning the ropes and seeing the benefits they can bring to me as an individual or the use cases for business that I can take advantage of. I want to try them all, I want to use them all, but of course, there is one thing stopping me from doing so… my bank account.

Some of the services I use range from $5 a month all the way up to $300 per month. My personal stack of SaaS products run in the amount of $540 per month! Some of these services are “must haves” but a lot are simply “want to haves”. As an entrepreneur looking to start a business, I know the advantages that these tools can bring me and how useful they are to have in my arsenal but the realist in me also knows that the burn rate they bring is simply unsustainable.

With the majority of these subscriptions I have, I have really begun to notice that I hardly ever use them to their full capacity, whether that is to the imposed limitations of a certain plan, (eg – 10 projects in total allowed and I only use 3 or 4, or certain requests allowed per month of which I only meet 50%). This leads me to often find myself in drawn-out conversations both through email and through calls, communicating my circumstances to some of these companies, asking if they are able to offer me a different pricing plan than is offered on their website. More than not, we are able to negotiate a plan that works for both of us but the process of doing so is arduous and time-consuming, even for someone who has done this multiple times.

I have often wished that there was a way for me to share these costs with other users in need of the same service, in the same boat as me, who;

  • Cannot afford the full subscription price themselves.
  • Never reach the limitations imposed by the plan.
  • Really, really want or need to use the service!

I wouldn’t have a clue on where to start to find someone who matches those 3 criteria and who is willing to share a subscription.

I am creating a platform to solve this problem and I am truly excited by the prospect and benefits that a platform like this could bring to the countless others who may be in the same boat. Not to mention the global reach it could have and impact on developing nations in particular!

Meet Oxus

The way I see this project, fundamentally, is that the platform is a service that acts as the middleman between the user and the SaaS company’s pricing plan. No longer do these plans have to be set in stone and lose customers simply because there appeared to be no other pricing solution to meet their need. Why not let the users determine their own plan?

Account sharing

Account sharing has always had a stigma attached to it by businesses. Understandably so, as it has always been seen that this is a potential loss of revenue. This thought pattern is often detrimental, as the biggest part of getting a sale for a product, is testing it. Someone sharing an account is doing just that, they are testing it. Albeit for free, but nevertheless, they are using it and are therefore a more qualified lead than just a visitor. They clearly have the need of the service or they wouldn’t go through the effort of sharing an account with someone. There is simply a boundary that is stopping them from making the commitment themselves and more often than not, that is the price. Instead of punishing that potential user by blocking them from account sharing, offer them an alternative.

There are also a multitude of other benefits that can be gained by adopting an account sharing perspective.

  1. Improve your brand identity by showing that you are willing to lead the way in sharing economy. You are not some evil corporation who only sees $$$’s and the bottom line. You care about your users and more importantly, you care about your potential users! After all, your brand is the collective experience of everyone using it!
  2. Help developing nations get access to the tools they need and be a leader in an emerging economy.
  3. Improve visibility and brand awareness by becoming a leader in the Share Economy.
  4. Reach a much larger market by tapping in to a new demographic that you had ruled out before. Make your product accessible to everyone, no matter their budget!
  5. Gain further insights. Everyone knows that data is king and by increasing your potential market and user base, you increase the amount of data you can collect and learn from. Empower your analytics with data you would otherwise not have had!

The Trust Economy & the Access Economy

These days we get in to cars with total strangers, sleep in houses of people we have never met and even lend money to others across the globe. Entirely based on trust. Why shouldn’t we also extend that to sharing subscriptions?

These things bring collaboration to a new level and a further sense of community that is often lacking in today’s world. If you recognised the 3 examples I gave above then you should be aware that trust is quickly becoming the most valued, global currency and reputation (those 5 stars next to a username) is the one empowering it.

I truly hope that Oxus can be the platform that changes the way subscriptions are handled. Currently, in a closed beta, we are working hard to solve the problems associated with sharing accounts. If you are interested in the fight for democratizing subscription services, as a user, or as a business, I encourage you to get in touch with me.

SaaS owners

For those reading who either work at a SaaS company or know someone who might be the one to make a decision on whether to join this movement, please get in touch ASAP. We are looking for our launching partners before the public launch of the platform in August 2018.

cwinhall

Problems worth solving

It’s coming up to a month now since I started ProblemOfTheDay and although the project is only an experiment in ideation and problem solving it has already become more than that to me. It has set me on a path in to really trying to understand what makes a problem worth solving. Is it how often that problem occurs? Is it how many people face that problem? Is it how much pain might be caused by that problem? Or is it how easy the problem might be to solve?

I think it’s the combination of all four. Each playing their different part in finding what truly makes a problem worth solving. If you are able to find a solution that ticks all four of those boxes, then you are truly on to a winner. You have all the fundamentals required to start a successful business.

Of course, that is not what ProblemOfTheDay is about, although I do believe every problem is still worth exploring and solving, even just to practice your creativity in problem solving, finding problems to solve to start a business is a very different playing field.

The odds are stacked against you from the start, the chances of your business becoming successful are hovering around the 10% mark. The best way to improve those chances is to work on solving a problem that ticks all those boxes. Frequency, density, pain, friction.

Frequency

Is this a problem that is happening on a daily basis? Maybe even several times a day? Or something that might only affect someone once in a while? It should go without saying that the more someone is in need of something, the more they would be willing to pay for it.

Density

How many people are affected by the problem? A couple hundred, thousand or millions? The more people who suffer from the same problem the bigger your market size is. The bigger your market size is the higher chance you have for success.

Pain

This is not relating to physical pain of course but more of anguish. There are two types of problems here, a “headache” problem, where you can just pop a few paracetamol and after a few hours you no longer experience it and have forgotten what the problem even felt like, or you have the “migraine” problems. These are far more severe and people are willing to pay a lot more money to solve them as they simply can’t tolerate that pain any longer.

Friction

This relates more to the solution than the problem itself but probably is the most important one of all if you are to be successful. The solution you chose for the problem has to be as frictionless as possible in order to drive adoption. Look at the likes of Uber for example, they would not be where they are today if it wasn’t for the fact that you can order a car to come pick you up, at your exact location at the click of a single button! That is a great example of a frictionless solution.

What problem are you working on solving? How do they add up when asking the 4 questions above? Let me know in the comments!

 

cwinhall

Launching on ProductHunt

For those of you that might not already know about Product Hunt, it is probably the best form of marketing a new startup can get if done right. The content (startups/products/services) that are submitted to the platform, are upvoted by the community. This of course, like everything else, can be manipulated, but it is often not the case and genuinely the best content reaches the top spots for each day.

Unfortunately, that was not the case for me 😄

I launched Haystack News on the site 4 days ago but I 100% rushed it and therefore did not get the results I wanted. The post is currently sitting at 24 upvotes and 0 comments (🙁).

At the time of writing, it brought in 133 visitors to the site, which of course is better than 0 but underwhelming compared to the great success stories out there of other Product Hunt launches.

What to do for the next launch

Once I have made further progress on the site, such as adding crowd sourced events. I will resubmit to Product Hunt and take my time with the launch and execute it more according to a real plan!

 

cwinhall

Project 2: Problem of the day

As someone who is obsessed with ideas 💡 and inventions you realise quickly that the best ideas nearly always stem from a real problem 😥. Especially ideas that are turned in to successful businesses 💰💰💰.

Looking at a single problem can help generate dozens of ideas or solutions to that problem. Therefore, I believe that in order to ideate successfully you should start by looking at problems.

The point of this project is to list one problem a day, sourced directly from a user on Twitter. No matter how big or small these problems may seem, they can inevitably lead to larger ideas in their respective solutions.

Although I will only be posting the problems themselves, I will occasionally also try to actively participate in solving some of the problems.

The project consists of 3 parts.
  1. The website 💻ProblemOfTheDay.co, will feature the exact same template as used on this website (saving costs already! 🙂 ). Each day a new tweet, by a real user, will be posted to the timeline. These tweets can be interacted with directly, allowing visitors to view the tweet on twitter, reply, retweet or like that tweet. Furthermore, the ability to comment on the post itself is possible by either using the default WordPress commenting system or by commenting via your facebook profile.
  2. Twitter account🐦@problem_otd, will be used as the marketing grounds for the website and as the direct communication channel to users. It’s main focus will be to notify users of their tweets being posted to the website. However, I will also tweet blog posts from the website, along with retweeting relevant material found on my twitter feed or on the web. Needless to say I will also actively participate in as many conversations as I can.
  3. Sourcing problems😭The last part of the project is how to reliably source problems in order to maintain a steady stream to post. This is paramount to the success of the project, as without this reliability, the wheels could fall off rapidly as motivation could easily decrease.I decided to approach this in a programmatic way. People tend to use specific sentence structure and wording when conveying a problem they are facing. I call these “trigger sentences”. An example of a trigger sentence could be;

    I wish someone would invent

This sentence demonstrates a need or want, the word “invent” implies there is no solution already available for this.

Project goals

My hope is that by posting one problem a day, I will be able to build a community of problem solvers and ideators and indirectly help launch businesses that solve these problems! It will also give me the opportunity to work on my own ideation skills.

A larger goal is to start the collection of a problems data set that I can use in a further project where I plan to try to automate the ideation process using deep learning. 🤔🤫

cwinhall

How to stay committed as a first time Entreprenuer

The saying goes that taking the first step is always the hardest. This has certainly held true for the last 5 years or so but today marks the change for me! I have officially started on 2 separate projects and I can already feel the commitment that I never had before to getting out there and doing my own thing! The hardest part is over! (Or so they say).

Commitment or persistence is by far the hardest step. The idea of leaving your full-time job that pays the bills and lets you lead a ‘normal’ life is daunting. There is always a reason not to do it and listed below are some of the most common statements I have come across that always held me back.

If you find yourself coming across these obstacles, don’t be put off! Continue on your journey, nothing will motivate you more than pursuing your dream!

Stay at your job and work on the projects in your spare time

This option never worked out for me. I’m more of an all-in type of person and unless I dive head first in to something fully, I tend to be a bit slack in the execution and my motivation dwindles over the course of a week or two, maybe a month. No succesful business was built in a couple of weeks!

It’s easy to just rest on your laurels when you have a fallback plan (your job). Leaving your comfort zone is tough but it’s also very motivating! The sense of time to get what you need done suddenly seems achievable and it is a remarkable feeling!

You need money to make money

Although I still believe this to be mostly true, the cost of starting something on your own has reduced dramatically over the years as well as the accessibility of all the tools and expertise you need in order to do it well.

This was often a sentence I would tell myself or tell my friends as an excuse of why I am not out there, doing my own thing.

I got past this obstacle by taking a 5 year loan from my bank. Although this might be an option for you, I would encourage you to try to find the money in other ways. Ask friends or famaily, you might be surprised how much you would be able to raise and if your friends and family know, trust and most importantly believe in you, they will be more than happy to help!

How much money is enough though? This is not really something I can tell you without knowing your circumstances and what you need the money for or what your living costs are etc etc.

I decided to continue living in Amsterdam to pursue this journey, even though the cost of living may be higher, I have developed strong personal and professional relationships here that outweigh and justify that cost of living.

“Get more experience under your belt before you attempt to go out on your own”

This one I personally hated hearing the most. Partly because I always felt there is a truth to that statement but my stubbornness refused to accept it. Although experience will help tremendously to fast track your entrepreneurial journey, there is always going to be things you won’t know and there is no better way to learn something than doing it yourself, for yourself.

You will gain experience by the truck load if you jump in to something head first with a willingness to learn while embracing the fact that you don’t know everything.

I believe in the 80/20 rule, that it takes 20% of the time to get 80% of the knowledge of a certain subject. That last 20% to be an ‘expert’ in something is what takes the other 80% of your time. More often than not, you will never need that last 20 percent of knowledge to get the job done right! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that being an expert is a bad thing, or to down-play those that do learn something fully, those kinds of people excel at their jobs and careers.

What I am saying though is that you don’t need to be an expert to get the job done well.

AND REMEMBER….

cwinhall

Hello world!

Last week I left my job to pursue a journey of financial freedom by shipping products for a year and developing myself further as an entrepreneur. This journey will be as transparent as possible in the hopes that others that follow can learn from the many mistakes I will no doubt make but also hopefully some of the good decisions too! 🙂

Who am I?

I am Colin Winhall, 32 years old, born in Zimbabwe and raised around the world, including Zimbabwe (of course), South Africa, UK, Australia and the Netherlands, where I currently live, although I am writing this with my feet in the sand in sunny Bali at a beautiful co-working space called Genius Café in Sanur, where I will be for the coming month! 🙂

I studied photography and pursued that career for 3 years professionally before deciding to move in to my other passion full-time; I.T. Over the last 4 years I have held many titles including; Interaction designer, UX designer, Marketeer, Product Owner and Product Manager. These roles and the experience they brought have been invaluable to lead me up to this point where I have the choice to try my own hand at starting a business! A dream come true as since I was really young I always thought of myself as an entrepreneur. Always coming up with ideas for products or services but never having the time, money, motivation or determination to make them happen.

Why am I doing it?

As mentioned previously, I have always wanted to chase my dream of being an entrepreneur. Over the last few years I have had several ideas for products or services and never pursued them, only to see other companies eventually tackle the same problem and becoming successful from it. Although I realise of course that ideas are dime a dozen and it’s the execution that truly matters, I now have the time and finances to tackle that execution fully.

What am i going to do?

I have set myself some ambitious goals for the coming year. Each of the projects listed below has its own page that can be found in the projects section.

  • Ship at least 3 products or services but aim for 5!
  • Revenue goal of €3000 a month (by May 1st 2019)
  • Get fit & healthy
  • Learn a programming language (Python)
  • Learn machine learning
  • Become a social influencer in ideation / entrepreneurship with at least a 50k following (Twitter)

How am I going to do it?

As I said earlier, I plan to be as transparent as possible, without of course jeopardising any business I start. In light of that I will start be explaining the finances behind this venture.

Before leaving my job I had taken out a 5 year loan from the bank to the value of €30,000. This money is to be used solely for the purpose of this journey. A very basic outline of how this money will be spent can be seen below;

€10,000 for development
€15,000 for living expenses (rent, food, etc)
€5,000 for unforeseen costs (backup)

As I learn to code myself I will be outsourcing development work. I have already begun building a working relationship with a development agency that I found through Upwork. The company is Group BWT based in Ukraine. After talking with members of the team I was convinced this was the right choice not only in terms of cost but also in terms of communication and work output. I thoroughly recommend them.

What else?

I have set up this website in a way that the blog will be the main focus, with separate pages for the current projects I am working on and another page for the resources I am using or have come across in my journey that I felt were worth noting.

What’s next?

I will be talking about the first project that I have already begun on. A cryptocurrency calendar tool for upcoming news and events, that will help traders maximise profits by planning ahead.