If you want to build a startup you can’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Lots of people go through life and don’t want to hear negative things about themselves or what they are working on. But in order to become better, to improve, and to succeed you need to be willing and open to feedback. The good, the bad and the ugly.
I have already written about building a transparent startup and touched on a few campaigns I have run, but today I really wanted to open things up and share some stuff that most people want to hide. The feedback from their network and initial sign ups.
When I decided to work on Task Pigeon I knew I wanted to take a structured approach to validating the idea. I spent some time getting a few mock ups done (cost ~$100) and put together a simple landing page/website (no additional cost as I already have a hosting plan/account). This gave me everything I needed to test the initial hypothesis for my idea. Which was essentially that there is not a one size fits all approach to task management and therefore the existing solutions on the market would not suit everyone. Added to that I wanted to exclusively focus on everyday/shorter term tasks, not those that are multi-step or month long marches to completion.
If you want to build a startup you can’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Lots of people go through life and don’t want to hear negative things about themselves or what they are working on.
To test this hypothesis I need people to speak to. Luckily for the past nine to twelve months I have been immersing myself in the local startup ecosystem through my newsletter Startup Soda and other projects (Startup Engine). This allowed me to develop a network of around 40 or 50 people (amongst a subscriber base of more than 500) who I have helped in some way and was confident would respond to my request for feedback. My hunch was right and more than 80% of the people I asked for feedback responded.
I used this immediate feedback to then refine my landing page before expanding my approach to people I didn’t have a direct contact with. This included subscribers to Startup Soda and people who I had connected to over Linkedin due to our shared interest in startups. As would be expected the response range was much lower here. In fact in came in at 14.5%.
Before we dive in and look at the feedback I also want to highlight that in my email I specifically asked for their candid option. In fact I said:
I recognise it’s sometimes hard to provide feedback, but please feel free to be 100% candid and honest, even if that means providing negative feedback. Getting the raw truth now will leave me in a better position to consider the idea and it’s potential with an open mind.
Startup Feedback – The Bad
Let’s start with the bad:
- Firstly, the name Task Pigeon – I understand the symbolism. But pigeons generally have a bad name – Dirty street birds.
I thought I would start with this feedback, as its a great way to break the ice. I wanted to take a risk with the name. That’s how I arrived at Task Pigeon. In fact this was the thing I feared most. That people would hate the name. Luckily as further feedback would show this didn’t turn out to be an issue. And if anything at least Task Pigeon will be memorable.
Onto the real feedback however the main theme of negative feedback was around how competitive the space was and that Trello (perhaps even more so now that they have been acquired by Atlassian) and Asana were clear market leaders. Once I started getting this feedback I refined my message to let people know I was aware that it was a competitive space. I didn’t mind that people mentioned competitors but I wanted to try and get people to dive a little deeper when providing their raw thoughts on Task Pigeon. The feedback at this time pretty much went as follows:
- What is the problem you are trying to solve? How does this differ from the one trello and others are currently solving?
- The idea appears to be very similar to Asana. I don’t quite understand the differentiation, with the exception of the way it is laid out.
- The text get’s to the point, but doesn’t really excite me as the pitch doesn’t bring anything new to the table that other productivity app’s already have. I’d expect to see one or two very clear standout features that make this app very clearly different to others.
- I did not get how it’s different from wunderlist (or asana or trello). Not for developers, i understand. But we use wunderlist / asana / google spreadsheets for doing marketing tasks as well and it works well – simple and effective.
- Its a very nice landing page – clean and clearly identifies what TaskPigeon does. My honest feedback: – How is this product different from its main competitor Trello?
- The messaging is clear The site works well, its just really in your face colour wise and the purple and blues are quite clashy. It seems your app is all about making things simple and restoring order to busy schedules – your colour pallet doesn’t feel calming
- How is this different from any other app out there? To be honest I can’t figure out what makes it better. What are the defining features other apps lack?
A lot of this was valuable advice. It forced me to refine my messaging and focus more on the fact that Task Pigeon is a task management tool everyday tasks (not development teams) and also had a strong integration with email (which would appeal to a lot of other respondents).
I know a lot of people reading this are still probably thinking why go after such a competitive space. I plan to write a blog post about this in the near future, but for the mean time a blog post by Alex Turnbull From Groove HQ goes some way to illustrate my thinking. Alex chose to launch Groove despite the fact the market was dominated by Zendesk and Desk.com. He did the maths and saw the market was large enough to support multiple players and also believed that there was not a one size fits all approach to customer support software. I feel the same way about the task management space and some other feedback will support this shortly.
In addition to this I also found it quite interesting that people were quick to jump to the competition angle when providing feedback. What I would typically do after receiving feedback is look at that person’s Linkedin profile and see where they worked or what company they founded. And while it wasn’t always the case more often than not these people had also founded a company in a competitive base and/or had a product or service that looked similar to other players.
But to build them all (features) now, would not fit with the mindset of getting to MVP and shipping fast.
What I think this shows is that there is often not a completely original idea. And while Task Pigeon appears to be (and is similar) to many other task management apps out there our longer term vision has more and more points of differentiation. But to build them all now, would not fit with the mindset of getting to MVP and shipping fast. I think many founders are in this place. On face value there are similarities, but their longer term road map has many more points that will hopefully build some defensiblity around their idea and what they offer.
Startup Feedback – The Nuggets
Jumping back to the feedback I knew that not everyone would immediately love the idea. I was okay with that. Look at any successful company and there are a ton of Angel Investors or VC’s who choose to pass in the early days because they didn’t believe in the product or idea. What I was looking for however is what I call “nuggets”. Little chunks of feedback that indicated we may be on the right path. The more I refined my messaging the more these nuggets began to roll in.
- Taskpigeon looks good. I use a mix of Wunderlist, Podio, Trello, and paper – and not fully happy.
- I think the website is really nice, it explains what the product is. I think the biggest problem you will have is going up against something like Asana, especially since most people who have the need already have a solution. That being said, I’ve tried to use Asana and Wonderlist and a few others, but none of them stick for me.
- There is no single perfect app. In our team, we use Slack, Asana, Trello to do various things. And recently just discover Process.st and just start to test use it
- Your application interested me because I tried to use Trello and never really got it. So would like to see what you can bring to this sector.
- the space is huge and it will never be winner takes all (we exist in a similar market where winner will never take all because everyone has their preference to how rostering should work)
What this feedback really started to highlight was that at least part of my assumption was correct. There is not a one size fits all approach when it comes to task management. These people had tried a host of other tools but were yet to find the one that works for them. Perhaps there is a market here worth exploring? Perhaps there is a gap for a simple tool that can manage the tasks that currently fall through the gaps of the other solutions out there? More feedback (and validation was needed) but these “nuggets” were pleasing to come across.
In addition to that a couple of other pieces of feedback stuck out to me:
- I must say, when I read your blurb I instantly thought of trello. Then I looked at your landing page and saw it is similar though the layout is much nicer. I can see how this would be helpful for especially an online team.
- the simple clean design is very appealing to me. It’s easy to follow, understand and quite nice to look at.
- I think overall the execution is very close
- The UI is much simpler than most task management tools I’ve worked with.
- Overall I like the UX design and the mock-ups.
- (it looks like a) Simple uncluttered application
- My initial impressions are really good. I like the design, and it got me intrigued.
- The flow is good, not too much text to make it read like a sales pitch and I really like the example dashboards at the end.
I didn’t want to create Task Pigeon to be another bland and boring task management tool. It had to stand out.
I’m a big believer in the fact that design can be a differentiator and an advantage. But I also know that our name (Task Pigeon) and bold colors (Blue and Purple) may not be for everyone. This was an intentional choice. I didn’t want to create Task Pigeon to be another bland and boring task management tool. It had to stand out. It had to speak out. As a result it was pleasing to see that the design and the UI/UX was resonating with people. This gave me some confidence that the decisions I made on the design was at least hitting on some level of interest with these people. More work was to be done. But there wasn’t anyone saying they absolutely hated the design or layout, so that was a major plus.
Startup Feedback – The Good
Finally, more confirmation flowed through that the name and the colors were actually a benefit, not a negative. Some key pieces of feedback here were:
- Firstly, I love the name and the idea.
- I love the bright colours, particularly as I haven’t seen purple and blue used together in that way.
- Firstly I like the name, and secondly having worked in a few studios and large advertising agencies, this could be a simple solution to managing large or even small projects.
- My first thought is that I like the layout and design.
- I’m not really across Project Management software, however, the interface certainly looking inviting. I’d be keen to try it out with our onboarding team when you go-live.
What I really used all this feedback for was to refine my messaging on the landing page and to also go back to my designer and re-work, add in or create new mock ups to further explain what Task Pigeon is and will be. After this I eventually reached a point where it was time to take the feedback beyond my own network. This is part of the reason why I posted Task Pigeon on BetaList.
In addition to getting some pre-launch subscribers this also allowed me to solicit feedback from more users. And when I put this together with the earlier feedback I had received it was pleasing to see that Task Pigeon was resonating with people. Again, I don’t expect that everyone will like Task Pigeon, nor will Task Pigeon be for everyone. But getting to this pointed showed that at least part of the market liked what we were doing and also recognised that there was not one tool that suited everybody. Some of the feedback I received during this phase included:
- I signed up for the beta as Task Pigeon seems to have all of the features I am looking for in a task management program with an interface that should make training easy.
- I especially like the focus on dashboards, as the visibility of open tasks is a challenge for us at present.
- I also like the fact that tasks can be worked from email or the app since we are coming from an environment where tasks are currently handled in Gmail.
- The UI is much simpler than most task management tools I’ve worked with.
- I honestly haven’t seen anything I don’t like.
- I like your design very much, because I guess it gives a real good overview about the open task and who is responsible for them.
Startup Feedback – More To Be Done
That said, I’m certainly not letting these positive remarks get to my head. It is still very early days and there is a lot more to do, to build out the product vision, to acquire users and to generate revenue. If anything reviewing all of the feedback I received highlights this. And just to show it’s that I wasn’t selective with the feedback I included in this post, and didn’t purposely finish on a positive note, here is some more feedback highlighting the challenges we have to overcome.
- My overall impression was curiosity. I’m interested in learning more, but I don’t know if I’d actually sign up
- you need to know (and to who) how you are better than both Asana and Trello because at the 5-15 mark in the market you are in, everyone has something.
- While Task Pigeon integrates all of this into one – is this enough of an edge? How could you best articulate your advantages over the existing “low tech” solution?
- Interestingly, the more I read, the more it sounded like it was Asana, and my thought jumped to whether it would be worth trying out, or just sticking with Asana
- Re Task Pigeon – The question in my mind would be – so what makes this different to these other task management tools?
- The key differentiator from what I can tell is its addressing everyday tasks rather than specific projects so you might want to really highlight that on the home page.
- I would try and have a think about how you can be seen at 10X better than your competitors, at the moment I don’t see enough differentiation
To close out this post, what I think this shows is I have to do a better job of selling our vision (to show more differentiation), work more effectively to highlight how we are already different and really sell the features that people tell us they love already (email integration).
These are just a few areas I will be considering and working on in the coming weeks. Shortly I will also be releasing a new blog post detailing where we are at exactly with Task Pigeon. While I have spoken about creating a transparent startup, testing out ideas and now sharing our feedback I realised the other day that I haven’t provided a general and all encompassing update. So stay tuned for that.
In the meantime if you think that Task Pigeon could be a fit for your business don’t forget to subscribe to the beta. You pay also want to send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to share your own feedback on Task Pigeon. I would love to hear from you.