Courtyard, early access lessons and validation

Back in October I announced a project I have been working on: Courtyard. Its not that it was secret by any means, I just haven’t been talking about it and I really wanted to start doing that.

Since then I’ve worked with interested customers and had them all use the product in some capacity. This early phase of product validation was huge and I am so glad I spent the time. So, I thought I’d recap a few general lessons I had as I got focused on getting feedback and validation on Courtyard.

Early Access Early Validation

I got a head of myself here. When I wanted to have people start using and talking about Courtyard, I didn’t want to call it “beta”. The word beta has lost its meaning and everyone was calling it “early access”. Cool, I stuck with it. Since it wasn’t a huge release, calling it early access or even beta was getting too far ahead. At this phase, I wanted to know that I was on the right track with Courtyard. I didn’t want to get too far down the road building features no one really cared about. That was it.

In the future, I’ll (re)label Courtyard in an early access when it’ll have be more of a public release with several daily active users relying on it day to day and working out the bugs.

Scheduling is real hard.

Bugs, new features? Meetings? Followup emails? Website updates? And juggle all of that with a another job. Doing this sort of thing on the side, takes more intention to a schedule and timing than I even imagined. This whole process showed me just how much better I need to get at managing time, scope while all at the same time embracing the chaos of building some new new

This year I’ve already started to micromanage my time with Courtyard and my own personal freetime. I’m no longer working on weekly schedules but they are daily as things change so fast; meeting times change, features, bugs come up, I get sick, who knows etc. Allowing myself to be nimble, change and not be mad about it has made a huge difference. Frankly, I could write an entire blog-series-think-peice about how I’m trying to get better at this. Maybe I will…

Continue building the customer list.

I regularly talked with customers using the early access. I should have continued to make more connections with them for future customers. Each interaction was very one on one. This was a miss opportunity.

Stopping and just working with a few people you’ve been talking with not the about the product is limiting. When talking to them, ask for 5 more people that would be interested. My problem was that in my head, they would be part of an unfinished product and I wasn’t ready to talk about it. Looking back, that was wrong. I screwed up not asking for more people to add to the list for a future release.

For every new customer I talk with in the future, I’m going to ask them to connect me with five more possible customers.

Solo Founder is hard.

This was just a validation release and yet, all those scheduling issues could have been better with another person on board. Bundle that with a number of huge product releases for me at my day job, vacations being sick at least once and a surgery. So much going on and I all I really wanted to do was get a product in the hands of people to test. This was hard to do, but I’m already getting better and I hope to talk about that more in the future.

Next steps

The month of March and April will be spent catching the app up to everything I learned working with people. I left out details about the product specificially in this post. There is a lot for me still digest on the missing features, the possible improved workflows and just the better way to solve programs around communication for property management. I’ll be doing a real early access after that is all done.