Can you start a business without a product?

3 min read

See how Kilometer.io used a market research survey to kick-start their business idea before they even had a product.

3 min read

Imagine. You’re sitting around with your buddies drinking. All of a sudden, someone stands up and says, “Hey! We should start a company!” The room goes silent.

You continue, “We can each chip in $40k, and get this thing going…”

Stunned, everyone looks around wondering what the heck got into you until someone finally asks the obvious question.

“What business should we get into?”

“I don’t know.”

Silence.

Then one by one, they throw their hat into the ring.

“I’m in.”

“Me too.”

“Let’s do this.”

“Sure, why not?”

“F*** it, let’s go.”

Okay, okay. It didn’t exactly go down that way for Kilometer.io, but the company was kick-started by 6 people who each pitched in enough money to raise $250k.

Here’s the kicker—they didn’t have an idea for a product at the time. But they knew exactly what problem they wanted to solve: analytics for SaaS companies.

Don’t build a product nobody wants, ask customers what problem they’re trying to solve.

—Paul Campillo

They weren’t totally in the dark when it came to his product because they wanted a better analytics and reporting tool—a case of scratching their own itch.

So what happened next? You can’t have a business without a product, right? Uh, right?

Here’s Alex Flom, cofounder of Kilometer.io:

We ran a survey just before we started developing our product. That let us do some market research to better understand the type of analytics tool our target audience needed.

Makes sense.

Next step? Market validation—to see if others had the same problem with analytics.

Our survey was a set of open questions where respondents could tell us all about their analytics needs. What features are most important, what metrics to measure, and how much startups would pay for the tool.

Pretty smart, check it out:

Marketing your survey

Now that Alex and his team had their survey, it was time to market it. But where do you find a starving crowd?

To promote the survey, we used different social media channels. Our biggest winner was Reddit, where we shared the form on relevant subreddits such as /r/startups. People were more than happy to help us in our quest to ‘build the perfect analytics tool.

They also shared the survey on Facebook and got plenty of great feedback from people in startup and entrepreneur groups. Here’s their post:

Alex also distributed the survey to analytics-related communities. How did it turn out?

Overall we had 160 completed surveys. Which was extremely beneficial for our goal—to research our market, understand its needs, and define the product.

Good tip. After receiving data, don’t leave people in the wind. Invite them in for more. Build your own community. Right Alex?

We stayed in touch with survey participants. Many of them joined our community and are still giving us plenty of valuable feedback throughout the development of our product.

Now in private beta, the Kilometer team is getting ready for launch.

Community collaboration

Let’s recap:

  1. Start a business (this goes against conventional wisdom, but hey, you gotta start somewhere).

  2. Survey

  3. Build a community from the initial feedback you received.

  4. Develop a beta along with your community until you get to product/market fit.

As Kilometer.io closes in on their first deliverable, it’s important to remember the power of ongoing research in product development and marketing. Creating a feedback loop with potential customers leads to higher quality products and builds affinity with your audience.

Some final words of wisdom from Alex on building your next product or starting a new business:

Your audience is out there and they want to share feedback with you. People want to help.

—Alex Flom

What about you? What idea are you sitting on?


How Kilometer.io did it

1) Images

To get the most out of their survey, Alex made two separate typeforms. They both had the same copy offering a growth hacking t-shirt in exchange for participating in the survey except one had an image of the t-shirt and the other only had an image of their logo.

The results were inconclusive, meaning there wasn’t a huge difference between the two results, but it’s good to know, right?

Alex also used images throughout their typeform to make questions more clear and to add a touch of personality.

2) Custom Thank You screen

Once someone finished their survey, Kilometer.io used a custom Thank You screen to promote their blog. You can do the same. Share a relevant article, video, or product. Add some value. This is your opportunity to develop a relationship with them.

For more tips on building relationships, check out our article on relationship marketing.

3) Hidden fields

Set up Hidden Fields to see where people are engaging with your survey the most. Alex found a hot community on Reddit. Just add the name of your traffic sources (Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, etc.) in your URL and deploy. By the way, you can also use Hidden Fields to personalize your typeforms too.

Looking for some validation? Make your own product survey with Typeform.

How you ask is everything.

Start creating