Startup 2: Week 2–Crap Idea equals Pivot

Note: 4 Weeks to Launch is an ongoing series about building passive income across multiple startups — a new startup every 4 weeks. Read the first post on 4 Weeks to Launch to get started, or subscribe for weekly updates.

I was excited last week to start building the Impulse Savings app. This week I’m scrapping it. This is how I tested my idea rapidly and realized I needed to pivot.

What is a pivot? Pivoting is a term used when changing an idea in a dramatic way–a 180. The lean startup methodology teaches that you need to recalibrate your idea based on continuous feedback. The feedback I got said Impulse Savings needed drastic change, so I changed it.

Vet your ideas

I vet my ideas with friends before starting them. I’ve been getting feedback on impulse savings for a few weeks and while it’s interesting it didn’t excite. No one wishes they had a savings app in their life, right? It wasn’t until I had a call with Andy (the marketing guru/genius/ninja) that my eyes truly opened to the uphill battle we were facing. The biggest issue, “why will anyone download this app?”

It doesn’t matter if you have the best, coolest, sexiest product if no one uses it.

Unfortunately for the app, people don’t spend their time looking for saving apps. It’s not a thing. The goal of this month is to build a tool that encourages savings. That’s it. Because we had clarity in our goal we were able to pivot without heartache. Often people get too attached to their ideas. To be a successful business, you need to listen to feedback and be adaptable.

Make the best decision with the information available that gets you closer to your goal. Don’t get distracted by the mile markers along the way.

The Pivot

People love games. People love celebrities. We wrapped the two together while helping people do the right thing aka saving money.


The game goes like this:
Given two celebrities pictures, you pick who you think has a higher net worth. If you’re right, you save $.25. The game get harder as you progress and 3 strikes and you’re maxed out!

We adapted the game structure from Free Rice, the hottest social-justice-game-website of 2007.

The concept is simple; correctly answer a vocab question and 10 grains of rice are donated to a charity. As you progress the questions get more and more difficult. Doing good makes you feel good, and the game still taps into the our competitive nature (I never got past my high score of level 42 but damn it if I tried!).

No users = losers

Why is this idea better than before the pivot? What makes an idea good? Andy helped me focus on solving marketing first which highlighted the weaknesses of impulse savings.

Your product is no good without users. Period. If you spend 15 years building the best product ever and have 0 users, your product sucks. If you have 100,000 users but your app looks like shit–guess what?–you’re crushing it and I want to meet you. NBC’s Sharks would agree with me too. Sales and users conquer all.

The most important step to our app working was getting it in the hands of as many people as possible. For this it needs to be interesting. Something people want. The impulse savings app on it’s own wasn’t quite there.

Test your idea by answering this hypothetical situation: Would you be excited enough or text/post about your idea if you stumbled across it online? If not then your idea may need a new spin.

Thinking cap time

We brainstormed for over an hour. What makes a financial app interesting? Some ideas were to introduce taboo topics, voyeurism, free money/winning, FOMO, social network. These tropes can make a product more engaging for consumers. Ever pay for in-app purchases by transferring money to your savings account? How about a savings lottery? Is it legal to gamble with your savings against others? What if you could sneak a look into how much your friends earn?

Now things were getting interesting. Each idea had a hook–edgy, or at least unique. This edge is what we were looking for. We then worked to tie it together and quickly–again, 4 weeks time doesn’t leave room for complexity!

Guessing celebrities net worth is fun. Paying yourself your own high score is wacky. C’est fini.

Next steps

I started by putting together mockups. You can see the work in progress (WIP) prototype here. As I update the designs the link will automatically update. Next up is finalizing the game rules and then building the backend code. Still optimistic for launching in 3 weeks!

Questions