Starting a Startup // Makers Inc. Explained

I walk through the Makers Inc. minimum viable product (MVP), and discuss my past experiences as well as my goal for the new business. I'll be sending around regular updates as the project progresses.

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The Makers List


January 28, 2022

Starting a Startup // Makers Inc. Explained

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Video Transcript

Okay. So yeah, we're going to dig into the Makers Inc website. I'm going to do a quick review, a preview of the sort of marketing experience here and explanation of what, uh, the new project is.

And then we'll dig into the actual product experience, which I'm going to get a little meta. We're going to go through the beginnings of a project that makers Inc will help you define and walk through the stages and next steps for, for Makers, Inc, because this is a new project that I've just started working on.

So what we see here is the, um, the landing page, the homepage of the site, the URL is I'm going under the name of Makers, Inc. And so as you can see here, what I'll be working to do is teach people the skills they need, uh, to do a startup.

So build an app, launch a business, and become a maker themselves, um, through the tools of product design and entrepreneurship, uh, with step-by-step instructions, example projects of things that I'm currently working on.

And hopefully, by showing the process of product design and entrepreneurship, and will inspire other people to create their own projects and build their own tools and solve their own problems.

So, as I scroll down here, you can see, there's a little bit of an overview of what I'd been up to professionally.

So about 10 years ago, co-founded a company called Gradible, which was a, we were focused on the student loan problem, working to help people evaluate their options for, federal programs to reduce the burden of their student loan debt, as well as considerations in the private market and refinancing.

So I worked on that business for, for about a little over three years and participated in angel pad, which is an incubator accelerator program.
We were in class seven, raised about a million dollars, and were ultimately acquired by Commonbond where I worked as the director of product design for about four years.Until about a year ago, started working at orchard, which is an up and coming real estate technology company where I'm a lead product designer and just recently founded Maker's Inc.

All right. Yeah. So this, ultimately the product experience for Makers Inc, will be all about what I'm thinking of as guided entrepreneurship.
So I'm thinking about when we started Gradible, what are the things that would have been helpful, prevent us from making all the mistakes that we made, save us as much time, what are the resources we would have and how can the product experience that Maker's inc, um, sort of guide people through the steps.

Like what are the questions you need to be asking and answering, and having the product sort of take you through that, defining the sort of purpose of your project, working through defining your ideal customer and in leveraging user research to deeply understand them, and provide problems or solutions to their problems, and then thinking about product.

So specifically around digital products, how can we think about quickly and cheaply creating a minimum viable product, or, you know, something that you can put out into the market and get feedback on and then iterate towards product market fit.

So how can you ensure that the solution you have your product or service is meeting the needs of the customers so much so that they're willing to pay for it or sign up for it, or share with their friends, whatever, whatever your metric for product market fit is, we'll work towards defining it and measuring it. You're making progress towards it. And then similarly scaling the business. So do you want to go the venture backed fundraising route? Do you want to run a profitable business? We'll work through some resources and tools to define that and make progress towards your goals.

We have a couple of different, sort of packages of resources and content available. So you can see, we have the startup starter kit, which goes through some content around, leading user research sessions, setting up a basic business model to understand unit economics and how your business is actually going to work. You know, time, month over month based on a variety of different variables, you can get access to a template that we have and then edit it as much as you want to, to fit your needs.

We go into building products, connecting and leveraging a variety of different tools for marketing. And as you can see also have a premium kit, which I'm currently in the process of compiling the resources here, but we're going to dig in a bit more and hopefully provide even more value to people who are taking this project really seriously.

So thinking about advanced business modeling, how can you ensure that the project that you're undertaking is at least mathematically possible to turn into a business.

If you're interested in going down the route of you know, applying to an accelerator or incubator program like angel pad, like we participated in for Gradible or a Y Combinator, we pulled together a guide here for how to prepare for those interviews. If fundraising is in your future, specifically angel and seed fundraising. We're going to provide some resources here, hopefully to help people out.

And then some more of the nuts and bolts of business building, setting up an entity bank account, um, getting into, uh, options, grants, investing, and then ultimately setting up payments in your website.

So that's a work in progress and I'll share out more as that's ready to people who are subscribed to the channel or members on the site.

And another sort of interesting piece of what I'll be working on is I have a variety of other side projects, things that I like to just build and work on, and as I work on them, I'm going to share updates about them. So here are a few of them.

I have a site called Argufi, you can find it at, where I'm really working to refine sort of discourse and find a way for the best arguments to rise to the top. It's a work in progress, but it's been an exciting thing to work on.

I also have a project called Winning the Morning. It's about building habits and committing to them publicly. So, I've been doing that for the last five months or so and have a bunch of ideas about how to make that product experience better and hopefully help other people commit to, you know, healthy, productive habits in their morning so they can, kick off their day right. I have some interesting marketing ideas specifically for Winning the Morning that I'll be sharing in the channel.

And then at the beginning of the pandemic, like I created a quick poker flashcard site. I got back into playing some no limit hold 'em online when I was stuck indoors for the first couple months and I read a few books and decided to turn them into a more interactive sort of flashcard-like experience, you can check that out If you're interested in poker, it might be an interesting resource.

I have one blog post right now it's sort of recommended reading and listening. These are the sort of resources that were most influential for me specifically during the Gradible days when we were doing startups and things I've learned from a product design and entrepreneurship perspective.

But the goal is to create a bunch of content like this, where I walk through projects that I'm working on and that are in progress, the things that I'm testing and trying, and just creating a ton of resources for people who are digital product designers. If you're a designer and you want to learn how to build things with without code, if you're a marketer that wants to get into entrepreneurship, if you're a business person that doesn't have a technical co-founder, hopefully we can create a bunch of resources that help you, you know, become independent self-sufficient and put you in a position to build the thing that you want to bring to life.

And if turning it into a business is in the cards for you. Hopefully we can provide you with some resources to do that as well.

So that's sort of the overview of the homepage right now. I'll continue to iterate on this as I get more feedback about, you know, what people are interested in and you know, what's resonating, what's not clear.

All of these projects are a work in progress as is every businesses. But it may make sense to walk through sort of where I am with the V1 of the product experience right now, which will actually provide a decent opportunity to dig in even further on Makers Inc.

So I changed tabs over here. This is in the product experience for the project of Makers Inc.  And like I said, it's getting a little meta, um, we're in the overview tab. And as you can see, I've defined some sort of project details about this endeavor. So, one exercise, which I've found very helpful in the past.

I learned this a long time ago in a life before I got into entrepreneurship. And when I worked at a marketing firm, thinking about what is the, the, Why, the, How, and the, What of your business, and one way to think about this as like concentric circles that are defining what you're doing, how you're doing it and why you're doing it in a way that communicates your product and services, and how you deliver them to the market.

And then, what is your purpose? What is your why? So maybe I'll tackle these in reverse order. So ultimately what we're working to do is build a digital self-serve startup incubator available to everyone.

So that's the, what, then how makers Inc teaches the skills of entrepreneurship and product design through step-by-step instructions and sample in progress projects.

And then ultimately why I think this is important and why it's been something that I want to spend time doing is because I think becoming a maker, being someone who knows these skills is the best path to self-sufficiency and ultimately economic freedom. I think these are the skills that kids should be learning in school, that people who you know, are worried about their job being automated away. These are the skills that people should be learning, and that's why I want to teach as many people as possible.

So you can see there are some resources here. So the basic business modeling template is available. You can click out to setting up the Google workspace for your email. And I've got some work in progress stuff. So as I scroll up here, you can see, I have a to-do list, uh, of next steps and things that I'm going to be working on.

We can get into that in a second. I'm going to click over to the customers tab. So what we see here are a couple of customer personas. These are pretty early and are, are defined pretty significantly based on a couple of specific people I have in mind. My feeling on personas is that they should really focus on less on the demographics and more on the goals and motivations as you see called out here, and they should be a work in progress.

As you continue to refine your understanding of the customers that are engaging with your business, you should be updating your personas so that you have this document, this sort of design artifact that explains who your core customers are, what it is that they want, what their core problems are, so that you can ensure that you continue to meet their needs.

I have a sneaking suspicion that over time, these, these two will kind of combine into one, but fundamentally what I have here is my buddy, Jamie who's been running a business that's in a service business and recently has decided to pivot the company to be more of a technology and product based company. So he's got a tremendous amount of startup experience, but digital product design is not in his wheelhouse, and so I've been working with him to you know, define who his new customer is, think about how to bring a product to market prove product market fit. And then ultimately fundraise an equity round in half a year to three quarters of a year from now. In terms of motivation, Jamie really wants to effectively manage this transition and, you know, prove product market fit and get his company off the ground.

So Taylor is another sort of idea I have in my mind of a core potential customer segment for Makers, Inc. And it's sort of demographically this idea of someone they're in their mid to late twenties, they just wrapped up B school. They have a business idea that they want to bring to life, but maybe they don't have a technical co-founder, and they don't really know exactly how to go from zero to one without, you know, raising a bunch of money and paying someone to build a product or bringing on someone else who's going to build the product for them.

Here I have the goal of Taylor as wanting to get accepted to Y Combinator. Um, kind of in some ways is, is, um, an abstraction of fundraising as well, and ultimately he wants to build and run a large scalable business, but in the short term, he needs some help taking his sort of business savvy and knowledge and applying it to a digital product startup landscape and hopefully Makers inc. will be able to help him do that.

As I scroll down, you can see there again are additional resources in the customer section here for user research guides, how to set up full stories. So once you have a digital product, it can be incredibly valuable to see how people are engaging with it. See if it's working the way that you intended to, and sort of be able to deduce what are some of the challenges, where are people getting caught up and FullStory is a really great tool for that.

So we'll go to the product section here. So in the product section of it typically breaks down into two different things. I have my roadmap, so these are things I'm actively working on, and then I have feature ideas, sort of the backlog things that I know that I want to work on, but haven't committed to doing quite yet. And then again, we have some resources down at the bottom, and my roadmap currently sort of breaks out into two different things. Two different questions. So one is about like what do I need to build what I need to do to get a group of people or an individual to start using this tool, consistently for planning a project. And I have a set of to-dos here of things that I think I need to do to answer that question.

And then I have for April slated, a customer acquisition question around, can I acquire customers cheaply? So, a big part of my marketing strategy for macro think is creating blogs and sort of podcast content, YouTube content for the target market. And so explaining projects like this one and like the other ones that I talked about at the beginning, and how they evolve over time. And what tests am I doing? What changes in products am I building and how, what am I learning and how is it, how is it working? What are the results? And if, if the results are good, I'll share them and you can maybe steal them and use them yourself. And if it doesn't work, I'll share that too. Um, and hopefully that will help you avoid some of the pitfalls that I I fall into.

There's a little final section here on resources. So these are the kits that I talked a little bit about in the marketing experience.
So we've got the starter kit premium kit that's coming soon, and this is my first version of the product. So undoubtedly it will continue to evolve and improve over time. I've already gotten some feedback from a few different people, who've been through it. I have some next steps on the product front of ways. I want to make it more intuitive and helpful to the first batch of people who run through this, I'm going to make some of those updates and then run a small batch of advertising to get some people that I don't know to interact with it so I can get some real candid feedback about whether people will sign up, whether whether will actually use the tool. And then ultimately whether they'd be willing to pay a premium for some of the resources that I'm pulling together.

So that's the overview of Maker's Inc. Like I said, if you're interested in following, along as I make more progress, subscribe to the channel or sign up on the site and I'll be sharing updates regularly, I've got some really cool conversations scheduled as well with other startup founders and people who are in and around the space that I'm really excited about talking to, to learn from. And hopefully you guys would be interested in as well. So appreciate the time.

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